The final score will read: Chatfield 80, Columbine 63, but in actuality, the boys basketball game between the two rival schools was much closer.
The underdog Rebels played inspired basketball Jan. 14 at Chatfield Senior High School, and the first quarter, in particular, was a thing of beauty – something their coach, Jeff Wennberg, hopes becomes the norm as the team enters the meat of the Class 5A Jefferson County League schedule.
“It was definitely an eye-opener for us that even without Connor (Osborne, the team’s 6-foot-8 senior center who missed the Chatfield game due to a one-game suspension and missed the first month of the season while recovering from a broken wrist) we can play with anyone in the state,” Wennberg said.
In that opening eight minutes Columbine could seemingly do no wrong against the talented Chargers.
Whether it was guards Beau Smith and Neil Meyer slashing their way into the paint for consecutive three-point plays or forwards Garrett Hurlbut and Matt Huntington attacking the offensive and defensive glass with reckless abandon in the absence of Osborne, the Rebels (1-2 Jeffco, 2-11 overall) were leaving every ounce of themselves out on the floor.
Their hard work was rewarded as they took a 24-21 lead into the second quarter. Chatfield, though, began to slowly chip away at Columbine and a three-point play by Landon Vermeer early in the second quarter gave the Chargers a lead they would never relinquish.
The Rebels were down, but managed to do just enough to stay within striking distance as they entered the fourth quarter down seven. In the fourth quarter, Columbine’s legs appeared to tire and Chatfield, always willing to run, took advantage by routinely pushing the ball up the floor. As a result of the fast pace, Chatfield found itself either making layups or going to the free-throw line, where they made 11-of-15 attempts.
Tyler Haidaris led the Chargers (2-1, 9-3) on what proved to be the game-clinching 13-1 run. The senior scored eight of his 14 points during the stretch, including a nice three-point play on a driving layup that pushed the Chatfield lead to 69-52 with 3 minutes, 54 seconds to play.
“We got them in foul trouble late in the game and just tried to take advantage of it,” Haidaris said.
Columbine made nine shots from the floor in the opening quarter, but in the second, the basket became a lot smaller for the Rebels, who only managed two field goals and eight points. A 9-0 run by the Chargers midway through the quarter gave them a four-point lead and the margin grew to seven by halftime as Landon Vermeer scored on a layup and hit 1-of-2 foul shots.
Columbine’s Tyler Trader opened the second half with a three-point play but Chatfield answered with seven straight points to bring their lead to 46-35. Every time it appeared the Chargers were ready to blow the doors open, Columbine came up with a shot to keep the temporarily closed. Hurlbut scored the final points of the third quarter to again draw the Rebels within seven and a three-point play by Nick Isenburg early in the fourth quarter cut the deficit to a half-dozen before the Chargers took the game over for good.
“It’s a rivalry game and you throw the records out the window because everyone is playing with emotion and pride,” Chatfield coach Steve Schimpeler said. “You throw those two elements in and you never know what you’re going to get. The people of Columbine should be very proud of their team and the effort they gave.”
Thanks to the home-and-home scheduling implemented by Jeffco this season, the Rebels and Chargers will meet again, this time on Columbine’s home floor.
“We can return the favor at our place,” Wennberg said. “That’s the beauty of the schedule this year is that nothing is decided yet. If we take care of our business in our other games, we still have a good shot to do well in league and (qualify for) state. If we get into state and start playing up to our potential, anything can happen for us.”
Columbine: Smith 6 5-6 17, Myer 3 3-3 9, Varney 1 0-0 3, Robinson 1 0-0 3, Trader 4 2-3 10, Tanner 1 3-4 5, Isenburg 1 1-1 3, Baumgarten 0 2-2 2, Hurlbut 3 2-4 8, Huntington 2 0-0 4.
Chatfield: Ty. Rogers 3 5-6 12, Ta. Russell 2 5-6 9, Haidaris 3 8-11 14, Vermeer 5 4-5 14, Wages 4 1-3 9, Carter 2 4-5 8.
3-pt. goals: Varney, Robinson; Ty. Rogers.