AURORA | In the midst of a tough stretch of Continental League games, the Regis Jesuit boys basketball team picked up a gritty win Tuesday night.
For the second straight contest, the Raiders knocked of a team previously unbeaten in the league standings with a 63-54 victory against visiting Highlands Ranch.
Five players scored in double figures for Regis Jesuit — ranked No. 6 in the most recent Class 5A Associated Press media poll — and coach Ken Shaw’s team reasserted itself in the Continental League by cooling off the Falcons after taking down previous league unbeaten Legend three days earlier.
“That was just a gut level win; we had to dig that one out,” said Shaw, whose team improved to 15-3 overall and 4-2 in the Continental League. “I knew it would be. …I thought our guys scrapped and clawed and found a way to get it done.”
Senior Zach Smith led the Raiders’ balanced attack with 15 points, followed by junior Taylor Kallsen, who scored 13 points, while juniors Bryan Staerkel and Kip Boryla added 11 each and senior Devin Kadillak chipped in with 10.
Hot shooting helped Regis Jesuit get off to a huge start against Highlands Ranch (12-6, 5-1), which rolled in on a seven-game winning streak.
The Raiders didn’t waste much time jumping on the Falcons, as they drained five of the nine 3-pointers they made in the entire game in the opening quarter — including two from Kallsen and one each from Smith, Staerkel and Geoff Kelly — plus a shot by Boryla just inside the arc.
The hot shooting, coupled with a team defensive effort on 6-foot-9 Highlands Ranch post player Zach Braxton, helped Regis Jesuit get out ahead by a 19-3 count late in the first quarter. An 8-0 Falcons run to open the second quarter tightened the game and the Raiders’ lead was just seven at halftime.
“We got off to a good start, shot the ball well early; we knew we weren’t going to shoot like that the whole game, but our guys got some good looks and they buried them,” Shaw said. “We knew they’d come back. They are a tough cover with the big guy (Braxton), then they can space it with Motlong and Stewart and you can’t leave those guys.”
Those Highlands Ranch weapons heated up in the second half, when Braxton became extremely active on both ends of the floor, Motlong (17 points) cashed in three of his five 3-pointers and Stewart (13 points) heated up with his midrange game.
It was a lot of strain on the defense of Regis Jesuit, which saw its lead whittled down to three points midway through the third quarter.
“That team was very tough; they had shooters all over and a huge dude inside,” Smith said. “Everybody gets distracted by the big guy and Motlong just would not miss.”
Kadillak finished the third quarter with a flourish for the Raiders, helping to keep the momentum from swinging too far onto the Falcons’ side.
The senior reserve made back-to-back 3-pointers and finished the period with a heads-up steal and layup to put his team ahead by six points going into the final quarter.
Regis Jesuit kept coming up with key baskets, then finished 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter — including a 4-for-4 performance from Smith — to keep Highlands Ranch at bay. The lead never got smaller than four points.
“Not only do the free throws add to our lead, it takes their want-to away,” Smith said. “It makes them lose their hope. …This was a much-needed win for us in league.”
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel
(6) REGIS JESUIT 63, HIGHLANDS RANCH 54
Score by quarters:
High. Ranch 9 10 19 16 — 54
Regis Jesuit 19 7 18 19 — 63
HIGHLANDS RANCH (54)
Evan Motlong 6 0-0 17, Ryley Stewart 6 0-1 13, Keith Coleman 0 0-0 0, Eric Dynes 2 5-8 9, Zach Braxton 3 5-7 11, Cole Sundlof 1 0-0 3. Totals 18 10-16 54.
REGIS JESUIT (63)
Taylor Kallsen 3 4-6 13, Zach Smith 5 4-4 15, Bryan Staerkel 5 0-0 11, Geoff Kelly 1 0-0 3, Kip Boryla 3 4-4 11, Devin Kadillak 4 0-0 10, Cam Beards 0 0-0 0, Jared Small 0 0-0 0, Vaughn Samson 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 12-14 63.
3-point field goals — Highlands Ranch (7): Evan Motlong 5, Ryley Stewart, Cole Sundlof; Regis Jesuit (9): Taylor Kallsen 3, Devin Kadillak 2, Kip Boryla, Geoff Kelly, Zach Smith, Bryan Staerkel. Total fouls — Highlands Ranch 14, Regis Jesuit 13. Fouled out — None. Technical fouls — None.