AURORA | Taylor Kallsen very nearly ended up outside the gym Tuesday night after his late-game heroics, but he was glad he didn’t.
There were still just under a second left for the Regis Jesuit senior and teammates to defend against dangerous Denver East in front of a packed house at Regis Jesuit High School and in a game like this, that was plenty.
The crowd that mobbed Kallsen after his go-ahead baseline jumper with 0.9 seconds left eventually cleared the court and the top-ranked Raiders survived a final shot by Angels’ star Brian Carey to remain unbeaten with a thrilling 61-59 victory over the defending Class 5A state champions.
“I’m glad I didn’t end up outside,” Kallsen said with a smile afterwards. “The clock was running, I could hear my teammates counting it down, so I just tried to get the best shot I could.
“I just shot the gap and they played off pretty well, so I knew I had to step back and get it off.”
In a season in which the Raiders’ average margin of victory is 24 points, there haven’t been many chances for game-winning type shots, but Regis Jesuit players universally endorse Kallsen to take shots in crunch time.
Especially after he hit nothing but net against Denver East, even if it was unconventional.
“We always want Taylor to shoot because he’s a great shooter,” said senior Tony Caseria, who made four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points, two behind Kallsen for tops on the team.
“It’s probably not how we drew it up exactly, but it went in,” he chuckled.
Senior Bryan Staerkel chipped in 10 for coach Ken Shaw’s team improved to 14-0 with a win in its final game before fully entering into Continental League play.
The dangerous Carey paced Denver East (6-7) with a game-high 22 points — which actually matched his season low — while Jack Buckmelter poured in 15 and Jordan Willis added 14 in addition to snatching double-digit rebounds, several of the spectacular variety.
There was plenty of heroics to go around for Regis Jesuit, which rallied for the second straight game after coming back from a huge deficit to win at Fossil Ridge Saturday night.
The Raiders found themselves down by as many as seven points late in the third quarter as Willis’ tireless work on the offensive glass allowed Denver East plentiful second chances, which Carey and Buckmelter began to convert with 3-pointers.
It was exactly the spot Shaw had hoped to avoid.
“I didn’t feel like we played as well as we could have in the second half, but to dig out from a seven-point deficit is big,” Shaw said. “We knew they would be very patient and with the ball in Carey’s hands, he’s a tough guy to collar, so we knew if we got behind it was going to be tough.”
Kallsen’s jumper with 25 seconds left in the third quarter cut the Angels’ lead to 50-45 going into the final quarter and Caseria cut the deficit to two points with an early 3-pointer.
A Kallsen 3-pointer — one of nine for the Raiders on the night — tied the game at 53-53 with just over five minutes left.
Caseria and Staerkel each hit 3-pointers to give Regis Jesuit leads inside the last two minutes, but Carey answered each time to bring the game to another deadlock at 59-59 with 25 seconds remaining.
After a time out, Regis Jesuit milked down the clock and got the ball to Kallsen at the top of the key. With time running down, Kallsen penetrated to the left, took a jab step in to freeze defenders Buckmelter and Ben Potts and stepped back to hit his jump shot from an odd angle.
As the shot went in, Kallsen fell to the floor and was rushed by teammates and fans as time had expired, but officials decided the Angels had called for a time out with 0.9 seconds left after Kallsen’s shot went through the net. Carey’s desperation heave was well wide.
“Taylor manufactured something there at the end; I don’t know what you could call that, but we’ll take the result,” Shaw said. “These are the types of games that are exhilarating when you win, but we feel fortunate. We knew their record was misleading and they gave us everything we wanted.”
With an absolutely brutal non-league schedule behind them, the Raiders now enter the Continental League, which won’t provide much relief.
In the coming weeks, Regis Jesuit will have to deal with four teams ranked in the most recent 5A Associated Press media poll — No. 2 ThunderRidge, No. 6 Chaparral, No. 7 Mountain Vista and No. 10 Rock Canyon — plus others such as Legend, and all these experiences should serve them well.
“Coach said ‘this is one of the hardest schedules I’ve ever put together,’ and our goals are greater than the regular season,” Kallsen said. “Now we’re going into one of the best leagues in the state and we’re excited to play against them. We know we’re going to be fire-tested going into the playoffs.”
Note: The Regis Jesuit victory pushed Shaw’s career coaching win total to 683, the second-best among active coaches in Colorado behind only Denver East’s Rudy Carey.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
(1) REGIS JESUIT 61, DENVER EAST 59
Score by quarters:
Denver East 17 12 21 19 — 59
Regis Jesuit 22 16 7 16 — 61
DENVER EAST (59)
Jordan Willis 5 4-5 14, Jack Buckmelter 4 6-6 15, Deron Harrell 3 0-0 6, Brian Carey 7 5-9 22, Ben Potts 0 0-0 0, Wes Ogsbury 0 0-0 0, Ian Osburn 1 0-1 2, Edmond Myers 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 15-20 59.
REGIS JESUIT (61)
Taylor Kallsen 6 2-2 16, Geoff Kelly 3 0-0 7, Bryan Staerkel 4 0-0 10, Elijah Sanford 3 1-1 7, Kip Boryla 2 1-2 5, Tony Caseria 4 2-2 14, Nolan Ebel 1 0-0 2, Vaughn Samson 0 0-0 0, Marc Reininger 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 6-8 61.
3-point field goals — Denver East (4): Brian Carey 3, Jack Buckmelter; Regis Jesuit (9): Tony Caseria 4, Taylor Kallsen 2, Bryan Staerkel 2, Geoff Kelly. Total fouls — Denver East 11, Regis Jesuit 17. Fouled out — None. Technical fouls — None.