It started with a 3-pointer, then a layup and then another. Before long, Evergreen junior point guard Nathan Haas was in a zone.
“I made a couple of 3s,” Haas said. “Everyone on our team can score. I just started making shots, I guess.”
Yeah, he did. By the time Evergreen finished off a 61-45 road victory Jan. 4 at Littleton High School, Haas had scored a career-high 31 points. The Cougars, who only trailed briefly early in the first quarter, took the lead for good on a Matt Hornbecker jumper midway through the second quarter.
Evergreen (4-5), which had lost five of its previous six games, was looking to get back on track with the 4A Jeffco League schedule on tap. The Cougars host Wheat Ridge on Jan. 8. But before they could worry about the Farmers, they had to take care of the Lions.
“We came into halftime and (Evergreen head coach Scott) Haebe’s like, ‘We need to pull away because teams like this, if it’s a three-, four-point game going into the fourth quarter, they think they’re in the game and start making everything they chuck up. So we had to get some points,’” Haas said.
Haas was only too happy to oblige. He scored 22 of his points in the second half, including 13 of Evergreen’s 17 points in the third quarter as the Cougars, who led 27-21 at the break, built an 18-point lead.
“Nathan’s a great player. He’s definitely our best player. He’s the type of guy who can do what he wants. He wants the ball in his hands,” Haebe said. “It’s good to see him do that. We’re going to need that at times from him this year.”
James Morrato, Jack Curtis and Lucas Weidner added six points each for the Cougars.
While Evergreen relied on Haas in this one, Littleton tends to look for 6-foot-7 senior Tim Ladwig more often than not. But the Cougars centered their defense on containing the Lions’ big man. Though he led Littleton (1-8) with 13 points, it was a quiet 13. He only made two baskets the final three quarters. His three-point play with 2 minutes, 50 seconds left in the third quarter was the only bucket the Lions made in the stanza.
“We rely on him quite a bit to score,” Littleton first-year head coach Ryan Fletcher said. “We know that most teams that we play are going to scheme on him. We need to find ways to get other guys involved but to also keep him involved.”
Littleton closed to within eight points on a Tyus Gallegos-Jones jumper with 2:31 left in regulation, but it couldn’t get any closer as Evergreen closed the game with a 10-2 run.
“It was big for us to come out of this with a win,” Haebe said. “I thought we could’ve handled the end of the third quarter a little better. We had it at 13, 14, but we should’ve got (the lead) up to 18, 19 or 20. We’re a young team. We’ll have to work through those things. But they never got it back to a two-, three- or one-possession game, which was really good. The last two, three minutes (of the game) we handled that really well.”
Austin Bieber finished with nine points, and Gallegos-Jones had eight for Littleton.
Contact Michael Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.