Paonia Eagles put early end to Del Norte boys' title chase

LOVELAND—Back under the season’s brightest lights for the first time in over a decade, the Del Norte boys’ hopes of playing for the Class 2A State Championship unfortunately failed to take flight Thursday evening against the Paonia Eagles, who prevailed 45-37.

A seldom-seen goose egg during the second quarter certainly did not help matters.

Seeded third in the tell-all tournament’s ‘Great Eight’ phase, the Tigers stormed out to a near-ideal 12-4 advantage during the first quarter, getting three-pointers from senior Charlie Hayes and sophomore Kade Glover, but PHS stormed back during the second quarter—getting eight points from senior Triston Mautz—to take a 16-12 lead back into their Budweiser Events Center locker room at halftime.

Senior big Dagan Rienks finally managed his first field goal beginning the third quarter, only to see DNHS counterpart Jeff Stevenson connect with a jumper from just inside the three-point arc.  But shortly thereafter, Rienks canned a free throw after Stevenson picked up his third personal with 6:26 left, and Del Norte’s problems putting the ball into the net only multiplied until Glover somehow ratted in a trey off the backboard’s top side.

Coming off the bench in Stevenson’s absence, senior Hafen Campbell clanged in a triple from the near corner, cutting Paonia’s lead to 27-22 with fewer than three minutes left in the frame, and a sweet Glover scoop then followed as the Tigers began flashing some of their earlier form.

But Eagle senior Colby Simpson converted a lay-in at the buzzer, giving the designated ‘visitors’ an inspired 32-25 lead with only a quarter remaining—which Rienks began crashing to the rim for a bucket as well as drawing Stevenson’s fourth personal.

Junior Carlos Parra answered with the team’s most confident shot of the night from three feet behind the arc, and then answered Simpson’s long-range response with a straightaway three off the window, bringing DNHS back to 39-31.  Parra cashed yet another three off the left wing, shrinking the gap to 41-35 before Stevenson fouled out with 3:29 left, and two Hayes freebies soon cut the deficit down to five, 42-37.

But in the end, desperate three after desperate three refused to fall for Del Norte, and the Tigers were left wanting to add another trophy next to that of the 2006 State Runner-up (defeated 58-47 in the grand finale by Broomfield Jefferson Academy) squad.

Rienks finished with a game-best 21 points, and went 9-of-15 from the stripe.  Mautz booked ten and Simpson finished with six as PHS (22-2) advanced to Friday’s semifinals to meet 2-seed Holyoke (20-4) at 5:30 p.m.  Del Norte (20-5), meanwhile, will face #7 Fowler (20-4) in the consolation semis at 10:15 a.m., after getting 12 points from Parra, nine from Hayes and eight from Glover.

Class 2A Boys’ “Great Eight”—No. 6 Paonia 45, at No. 3 DEL NORTE 37:

DEL NORTE (12-0-13-12) 37: K.Glover 3 0-0 8, C.Parra 4 1-4 12, J.Stevenson 2 1-2 5, Z.Leckler 0 0-0 0, C.Hayes 2 4-6 9, N.Rodriguez 0 0-0 0, A.Diaz 0 0-1 0, I.Petersen 0 0-0 0, H.Campbell 1 0-3 3, D.Stephenson 0 0-0 0, N.Cisneros 0 0-0 0, J.Archuleta 0 0-0 0.  TOTALS: 12 6-16 37.  3-POINTERS: Glover 2, Parra 3, Hayes, Campbell.  FOULED OUT: Stevenson (3:29 left, Q4).  RECORD: 20-5.  UP NEXT: Fri., 3/10, vs. Fowler in Loveland.