DENVER | No matter the venue or size of the matchup, TaRea Fulcher continues to come through in the clutch for the Regis Jesuit boys basketball team.
A week after a buzzer-beating 3-pointer lifted the Raiders over Highlands Ranch and earned them a trip to the Denver Coliseum, the senior guard — ailing from a hard fall earlier — raced up the floor and finished a layup with an and-one free throw that held up for a dramatic 47-46 win over Continental League rival Rock Canyon.
Fulcher finished with 16 points as coach Ken Shaw’s seventh-seeded Regis Jesuit rallied from a double-digit deficit to defeat the Jaguars — who had won the first matchup on a buzzer-beater — and get into the Final Four for the first time since 2011, when it won the third of a trio of consecutive state championships.
“It was a long game with a lot of adversity,” Fulcher said. “We lost to them on a buzzer-beater earlier this year (59-57 on Jan. 20) and we were able to beat them this time on pretty much a game-winning shot. It felt good.”
Junior Damarius Taylor joined Fulcher in double figures with 13 for Regis Jesuit, which is set for a 12:45 p.m. March 10 Final Four contest against No. 3 Fossil Ridge (24-2), which defeated No. 6 Fort Collins 71-58. The winner moves into the March 11 state championship game against the winner of the 4 p.m. semifinal between No. 1 Mountain Vista (24-2) and No. 4 Denver East (24-2).
Things started out well for the Raiders in their rematch with Rock Canyon (23-3), as they scored the last nine points of the opening quarter to build a six-point lead. The Jaguars caught fire in the second quarter, however, and had a 20-6 advantage in the period to take a 25-17 lead at the break.
The third quarter proved pivotal for Regis Jesuit as it got back into the game.
Sophomore Alec Roumph came off the bench and nailed consecutive 3-pointers that incited the Raiders’ deafening faithful — who had been cheering since the fourth quarter of the previous game — and gave the team a lift.
Freshman Eric Fiedler added more fuel to the fire when he batted an errant shot into the hoop at the horn to cut Regis Jesuit’s deficit to just three points with eight minutes left.
“Teams are aware of the top guys, we have three top scorers (himself, Taylor and senior Joe Dorais) and teams do a good job trying to stop us,” Fulcher said. “They give us a lot of attention, so when guys are able to get putbacks and Alec can hit some spot-up 3s — which he’s great at — that’s what we really need in big games like this.”
The Raiders’ top scorers came through in the final quarter, as Fulcher tallied three points from the free throw line and Taylor came through with a pair of baskets and three free throws to make it a two-point game with 1:32 left.
Rock Canyon responded with two free throws from Gavin Hershberger — who had a game-high 22 points — but Taylor drew the defense and dished to senior Nick Frontz for an open layup to again make it a two-point game. Taylor then stole a pass from Hershberger and fed a streaking Dorais — who came in averaging 15 points per game, but had scored just one to that point — and while his layup was off the mark, the referees counted the basket due to goaltending.
Hershberger sank two free throws to again put the Jaguars in the lead and the Raiders followed the plan laid out by Shaw in a time out: get the ball to Fulcher and let him make something happen.
That’s just what he did, jetting up the sideline, turning the corner when Rock Canyon’s Aidan Peck came out to cut him off and then finishing an uncontested layup that drew a whistle when the official underneath deemed that Peck had grazed Fulcher’s head on his way to the basket. He nailed the subsequent free throw to give his team the lead.
“I knew if I pushed hard, I was going to get a good look,” Fulcher said. “I didn’t think it was going to be that good of a look because it was a wide-open layup and they helped out by fouling. As soon as I made the layup, I knew it was game time. I was going to send us to the next round. …We shoot hundreds, thousands of free throws at this point, so it’s just knock down one more.”
Rock Canyon had 3.2 seconds left for a last gasp effort, but Hershberger’s heave from past half court ricocheted harmlessly off the backboard.
While Regis Jesuit’s crowd couldn’t storm the court like it had the week earlier in the win over Highlands Ranch, the Raiders did plenty of jumping around themselves.
“I still can’t believe it, it’s just amazing,” Frontz said. “We just kept playing hard and didn’t give up. That’s all there is to it.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
2023 CLASS 6A BOYS STATE BASKETBALL GREAT 8
March 4 at Denver Coliseum
(7) REGIS JESUIT 47, (2) ROCK CANYON 46
Score by quarters:
Regis Jesuit 11 6 13 17 — 47
Rock Canyon 5 20 8 13 — 46
REGIS JESUIT (47)
Nick Frontz 2 1-2 5, TaRea Fulcher 6 4-7 16, Joe Dorais 1 1-2 3, Damarius Taylor 4 4-8 13, Zach Poland 1 0-0 2, Alec Roumph 2 0-0 6, Eric Fiedler 1 0-0 2, Ridley Soro 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 10-19 47.
ROCK CANYON (46)
Kevin Fuchs 0 0-0 0, Reid Finch 1 3-4 5, Mac Terry 0 0-0 0, Aidan Peck 4 0-0 9, Gavin Hershberger 6 8-9 22, Graham Arnold 2 1-2 6, Hudson Elwood 2 0-0 4, Nolan Kliewer 0 0-0 0, Kasen Lehman 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 12-15 46.
3-point field goals — Regis Jesuit (3): Alec Roumph 2, Damarius Taylor. Rock Canyon (4): Gavin Hershberger 2, Graham Arnold, Aiden Peck. Total fouls — Regis Jesuit 16, Rock Canyon 17. Fouled out — None. Technical fouls — Rock Canyon: Peck.