DENVER | CJ Thomas has another favorite big shot he hit during the season, but in magnitude they don’t get much larger than his crunch time 3-pointer Saturday.
With two minutes left in a tie game at the Denver Coliseum, the Grandview senior forward cooly stepped back at the top of the key and drained a go-ahead 3-pointer that would stand up in a 48-41 win over Regis Jesuit that sent the Wolves into the Class 5A Final Four for the second time in three seasons.
Senior Cade Coles had 10 points and Thomas nine in support of Grandview’s top offensive duo — seniors Caleb McGill and Lian Ramiro — a big reason why the fifth-seeded Wolves prevailed over the 29th-seeded Raiders, who were hungry for another upset.
“That was one was probably second, I liked my Creek one better,” said Thomas, referring to his 3-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation in a Centennial League game at Cherry Creek that sent the game to overtime. “It was more clutch than this one, but my teammates just keep me locked in and help me get the shots I need.”
Coach Michael Rogers’ Grandview team — which moved into a 7 p.m. semifinal against No. 1 Rangeview March 13 back at the Coliseum — got its usual impact from Ramiro (who had a team-high 15 points) and McGill (who had 14), but it got a boost from the surrounding players and needed very bit of them to stop coach legend Ken Shaw and Regis Jesuit (13-14).
The Wolves (20-6) twice found themselves in holes against the Raiders — who had upset No. 4 Cherry Creek, the team that bested Grandview for the Centennial League championship, in the second round — but dug themselves out of both with defense.
“I just told them, get back to our rules of how we do things, get a stop and we’ll make shots,” Rogers said. “Don’t worry about that, we have to stop them. They figured it out.”
The Wolves fell behind 31-25 midway through the third quarter, but buckled down defensively and kept the Raiders off the scoreboard the remainder of the period.
Meanwhile, Grandview poured in 11 straight points, including two inside baskets (plus a foul shot) for McGill and a 3-pointer to close the period by Ramiro, who also beat the buzzer before halftime with a triple.
The Wolves’ five-point advantage going into the final period disappeared on consecutive 3-pointers by Regis Jesuit’s Alonzo Paul and Michael Wolf and it began a rash of lead changes (including a go-ahead 3-pointer for Grandview by Coles, who scored in double figures for the second straight postseason contest) that eventually brought it to a 41-41 deadlock with 2 minutes remaining.
Then came the big shot by Thomas, who benefited from the open space created by a drive to the middle by McGill, who kicked it out for the open look.
“I knew as soon as I passed it to him at the top of key it was going in,” McGill said. “CJ’s just being a leader right now, that’s all we need from him.”
Added Rogers: “(Thomas) always hits that timely three when we need one. He’ll drive you crazy, then next you know, you love him.”
Jacob Burr, Ramiro and Thomas all left the door open for Regis Jesuit by missing the front end of 1-and-1 free throw opportunities and the Raiders tried to close, but couldn’t get a pair of tying 3-point tries to fall.
McGill had the clinching defensive play inside 20 seconds remaining when he swatted away a drive by the Raiders’ Will Barbera and Ramiro came away with the ball and was fouled. He hit both free throws and two more with 4.3 seconds remaining to seal the win.
“All credit to my coaches, they just teach us discipline and how to finish games,” McGill said. “That’s our mantra and how we always come out of a time out, finish. We made big plays down the stretch, that’s it.”
Now, Grandview can spend close to a full week of practice in preparation for a rematch with a 26-0 Rangeview team that won a one-point decision between the teams early in the season and also knocked off the Wolves in the Great 8 last season.
The winner in the battle of the last two 5A championship winners (Grandview in 2018 and Rangeview in 2019) gets to play on March 14 for the 5A state title against the winner of the other semifinal between No. 2 Fairview (23-3) and No. 6 Valor Christian (19-7).
“I think our confidence is through the roof right now after that win,” Ramiro said. “We got that win under our belts and now we want more. …This is not what we came here for. We came here for the big one.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-75555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
(5) GRANDVIEW 48, (29) REGIS JESUIT 41
Score by quarters:
Regis Jesuit 13 6 12 10 — 41
Grandview 13 8 15 12 — 48
REGIS JESUIT (41)
Blakeley Stoughton 5 3-6 15, Alonzo Paul 5 1-2 13, Will Barbera 2 0-0 4, Ty Bergman 0 2-2 2, Kyle Sandler 0 0-0 0, Michael Wolf 2 1-2 7, Clay Nanke 0 0-2 0. Totals 14 7-14 41.
Caleb McGill 5 3-3 14, Tanner Holtman 0 0-0 0, Cade Coles 4 0-0 10, Lian Ramiro 4 4-5 15, CJ Thomas 3 1-3 9, Jacob Burr 0 0-1 0, Jericho Gutierrez 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 8-12 48.
3-point field goals — Regis Jesuit (6): Alonzo Paul 2, Blakeley Stoughton 2, Michael Wolf 2. Grandview (8): Lian Ramiro 3, Cade Coles 2, CJ Thomas 2, Caleb McGill. Total fouls — Regis Jesuit 17, Grandview 13. Fouled out — Regis Jesuit: Paul. Technical fouls — None.