Chatfield coach Gary Anderson admits he has a lot of questions about his boys basketball team, namely how will the third-ranked Chargers perform in a season of lofty talent and expectations?
He got one answer Dec. 4 when the Chargers rallied for a 84-79 double-overtime victory over Fairview in the final of the sixth annual Heritage/ThunderRidge Tip Off Classic.
“I will not question this team’s toughness ever again,” Anderson said at Heritage High School.
For every weakness the Chargers (3-0) showed against the Knights (2-1), it only brought out another strength.
The Chargers showed they’re vulnerability to jawing about perceived bad calls, which resulted in two technical fouls. But they ultimately circled the wagons and moved on, rather than let it destroy them.
The Chargers struggled mightily at times from the free-throw line, but that just seemed to push the inside game, which had Trevor Wages (25 points, 24 rebounds and four blocked shots) and others crashing the boards harder to get another vital possession.
Chatfield blew an 11-point lead in the third quarter but refused to fold even when trailing by eight points in the fourth quarter.
While the Chargers couldn’t stop Fairview standout Darragh O’Neill, who scored 42 points, they didn’t panic and try to match him shot for shot, but tried to stay with their game.
Turnovers threatened to kill the Chargers, yet it was the 6-foot-8 Wages diving on the floor to force a turnover in the closing seconds of regulation and junior Kyle Evans (six points) converting two floating layups to send the game into overtime.
Fouls eventually claimed Landon Vermeer, Jordan Carter and Wages, but Dean Wright (18 points), Kyle Slavin (two points), Danny Vaninger (seven points), Michael Garcia (two points) and even Nik Treece (one rebound) found ways to contribute.
“When things were going haywire, kind of, we all pulled together,” said Vermeer, who scored 15 points before fouling out and getting a technical in the fourth quarter.
The Chargers, like every team in December, have a long ways to go. But if they do legitimize their preseason hype, they will look back on this victory as the start of something very special.
“Got to give it to the (junior varsity) guys pushing us in practice,” said Slavin, who stood like a sea buoy amid the raging waters of overtime, calmly passing the ball and sinking two crucial free throws.
With another big Class 5A nonleague game Dec. 11 against second-ranked Arapahoe, the Chargers will get to answer another question: Can they do it all again against another solid team?
Chatfield: Vaninger 3 3-4 9, Wright 6 4-6 18, Vermeer 5 3-4 15, Wages 10 5-10 25, Carter 2 2-2 7, Slavin 0 2-4 2, Evans 3 0-0 6, Garcia 0 2-2 2, Treece 0 0-0 0. Totals: 29 21-32 84.
3-point goals: Wright 2, Vermeer 2, Carter.