AURORA | The Regis Jesuit boys basketball team didn’t have its undefeated season dashed by a last-second shot or a miracle.
The Raiders flat out lost to a team that was better in all phases, falling 59-36 to visiting ThunderRidge in front of a packed house at Regis Jesuit keen to witness a Continental League battle between the top two teams in the latest Associated Press Class 5A media poll.
Regis Jesuit (19-1 overall, 6-1 in the Continental League) — which suffered its first loss since a last-second playoff defeat to Smoky Hill last season — lost control with a two-point second quarter and managed just five in the final quarter as the Grizzlies (19-1, 7-0) methodically pulled away with timely shooting, stifling defense and confident ballhandling.
“The final difference doesn’t really concern me, we had to make contact and stay in contact, but we let them slip away in the second quarter,” said coach Ken Shaw, whose team suffered its most lopsided loss since the early portion of the 2008-09 season, when it fell to Fairview by 24 points.
“That’s the best we team that we’ve played,” he added. “We’ll move on, there’s a lot basketball left to play. They got that one and deserved it, no question, but we’ll come to work tomorrow and get ready for Chaparral (Friday).”
Regis Jesuit has had 12 different players score in double figures this season, but nobody reached the 10-point mark against ThunderRidge in its lowest offensive output of the season by 22 points. Senior Taylor Kallsen led the Raiders with nine points, followed by senior Tony Caseria with eight and senior Elijah Sanford tallied six.
The Grizzlies hurt Regis Jesuit inside with 6-foot-10 senior Zach Pirog, who poured in 16 points to go with double-digit rebounds and a handful of blocked shots, and also knocked down seven 3-pointers — four by Noah Szilagyi — when Regis Jesuit’s defense sagged in.
Szilagyi finished with 14 points, while Elias Tiedgen added 10.
The game began with a fast pace and looked like it would live up to the hype coming in, as Regis Jesuit led 13-12 after a see-saw first quarter.
The tide began to turn in ThunderRidge’s favor, however, as the Grizzlies use their size and tough defense to completely stifle the Raiders in the second quarter. Regis Jesuit didn’t have a single point until Kallsen’s baseline layup with 1:35 left in the half. That’s all they would get for the eight-minute period and it left them reeling a bit at the break.
“They held us to just two points in the second period and to beat a good team, you have to score more than two,” Sanford said matter-of-factly.
Shaw also saw that as the key stretch of the game when the Raiders missed shot after shot and the Grizzlies began to gain steam with Pirog drawing attention inside and Szilagyi starting to hit from the outside.
“For that 5 or 6-minute period in the second quarter, we got down and it was too much to overcome,” Shaw said. “That kind of dictated the rest of the game.”
ThunderRidge built a lead as large as 12 points in the third quarter, but saw it cut to seven at 38-31 on a Kip Boryla 3-pointer, only to push the advantage back to double figures at 42-31 going to the fourth.
Another disastrous offensive quarter doomed Regis Jesuit, as the Grizzlies scored the first 13 points of the period to go up by as many as 23 on Pirog’s rousing dunk. Though Caseria gave the Raiders a spark off the bench, none of the Raiders were hitting from the perimeter as usual and the size and length of Pirog and 6-6 Austin Mueller and Clay Verk made second-chance points non-existent.
“Zach’s an incredible player, he’s talented and big and strong with good footwork,” Sanford said. “All their bigs played well, him and Mueller and the other guy.”
Next up for Regis Jesuit is another big one against sixth-ranked Chaparral, which pays a visit at 7 p.m. Friday. The Wolverines won last season’s meeting by 15 points.
Though ThunderRidge took pole position in the Continental League chase, there’s still much left to be decided. The Grizzlies still must face Chaparral and rival Mountain Vista in their final two games.
In any case, both teams could meet again in the 5A state playoffs and it would happen very deep in the postseason, as they are virtual locks for two of the four No. 1 seeds in the tournament.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
(2) THUNDERRIDGE 59, (1) REGIS JESUIT 36
Score by quarters:
ThunderRidge 12 11 19 17 — 59
Regis Jesuit 13 2 16 5 — 36
Noah Szilagyi 4 2-2 14, Austin Mueller 2 0-0 6, Zach Pirog 7 2-5 16, Elias Tiedgen 5 0-2 10, Nick Varto 0 6-9 6, Troy Brady 2 0-0 5, Clay Verk 1 0-0 2, Erik Engel 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 10-18 59.
REGIS JESUIT (36)
Taylor Kallsen 4 0-0 9, Geoff Kelly 1 2-2 4, Bryan Staerkel 1 0-0 2, Elijah Sanford 3 0-1 6, Kip Boryla 2 0-0 5, Tony Caseria 3 1-1 8, Nolan Ebel 0 0-0 0, Vaughn Samson 0 2-2 2, Colton Ksiazek 0 0-0 0, Marc Reininger 0 0-0 0, Connor Hobbs 0 0-0 0, Kyle Carrington 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 5-6 36.
3-point field goals — ThunderRidge (7): Noah Szilagyi 4, Austin Mueller 2, Troy Brady; Regis Jesuit (3): Kip Boryla, Tony Caseria, Taylor Kallsen. Total fouls — ThunderRidge 15, Regis Jesuit 16. Fouled out — None. Technical fouls — None.