CENTENNIAL — One by one, Chatfield boys basketball coach Steve Schimpeler embraced his players in the locker room.
“It’s a special group of guys. It’s real emotional. This team will always have a special place in my heart,” Schimpeler said.
The finality of a 77-62 defeat by host Eaglecrest was setting in, but, truthfully, this wasn’t about this one loss. The Chargers realized that the defending 5A state champion Raptors were the better team, at least in this one. But more than that, the Sweet 16 defeat March 5 at Eaglecrest High School represented the end of a two-year run.
Chatfield (20-5), the No. 3 seed in the Ray Ball Region, graduates 10 seniors and is expected to lose its lone underclassmen — sophomore Riley Welch — to a transfer in the offseason. But the end result can’t take away from the fact that the Chargers, for a second straight year, won the 5A Jeffco League championship and reached the Sweet 16.
“It can’t,” Schimpeler said. “Eaglecrest was better than us tonight. They deserved to win. It wasn’t like we lost the game. They were the better team tonight. We’re keeping our heads high.”
The game’s breakneck pace in the first quarter wasn’t too much for Chatfield, either. Even though the Raptors went on a 13-0 run, the Chargers chipped their way back and were within a point at 23-22 early in the second quarter. Then Eaglecrest was off and running again, hitting four consecutive 3-pointers to take a 35-22 advantage with 5 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first half.
Chatfield pulled to within six points in the third quarter and eight early in the fourth, but every time second-seeded Eaglecrest answered. The final time was a 14-4 run, with eight of those points coming from the charity stripe, to go ahead by 18 points — 70-52 — with 3:39 left. The Chargers never got any closer than 11 points after that.
“We had our opportunities to keep it close. It just changes. When you get a big early lead, it changes,” Schimpeler said, noting how the flow of the game altered. “It’s hard to come back from that, and yet we did. We never gave up. We didn’t shoot it as well as we normally do, and they shot really well. I think that might be the best game they’ve played all year.”
Jaisean Jackson and Blend Avdili led four players in double figures for the Raptors, with 16 points apiece. Peter Anderson added 11, and LaDerian King 10, while Elijah Ross, Colby Ross and Marquel Murphy pitched in eight points each.
“You have to give them credit. They played well. They definitely won the game. They were the better team,” said Chatfield’s Andrew St. Germain, who scored a game-high 21 points, including four 3-pointers. Alec Wray added 15 points, and Darius Reiter scored 14 for the Chargers.
Chatfield had won 10 of its previous 11 games.
The realization that this was their final game together hit home afterward, but, for these players, they wouldn’t have wanted to go out with any other group.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. We’ve all been playing together since elementary school. We’ve always had good chemistry,” Wray said. “We’ve been fortunate to come together. To win another league championship is special. The Sweet 16 is not as far as we would’ve wanted to go, but I wouldn’t have rather played with anyone else.”
Contact Michael Hicks at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.