Eagles win home finale in style

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By Brian Forbes

Who wears short shorts? The Dakota Ridge Eagles basketball team does.

Ahem, that’s the Dakota Ridge Eagles’ boys team.

“We definitely came out with a little more fun,” senior guard Lenny Canny said.

And a lot more leg.

Perhaps it was the increased flexibility of the retro shorts, or just the vibe of getting back to the old-school when fundamentals were not only coached but embraced, but the Eagles were feeling vintage Feb. 18 against Bear Creek.

In a game they had to win to keep their Class 5A playoff hopes alive, the Eagles twice rallied before holding on for a 67-64 Jefferson County League victory on a night they honored their seniors. Their playoff hopes were dashed two days later, as they fell to Columbine in what turned out to be a playoff elimination game. The Rebels earned one of the final four spots in the state tourney by virtue of the victory.

“We were playing for the seniors tonight, and we haven’t won a seniors game in a while,” sophomore Danny DiFolco said. “So that meant a lot.”

DiFolco came off the bench and drained five 3-pointers to score a game-high 17 points, while Canny was constant trouble for the Bears, as the senior added 13 points. Derek VanderVelde had 15 points, Brian VanderVelde blocked three shots, grabbed five rebounds and scored eight points, and senior Cameron Pritchett had eight points for the Eagles (3-10 Jeffco, 8-15 overall).

They started slow, but the Eagles turned a seven-point deficit into a nine-point advantage late in the third quarter on DiFolco’s 3-pointer. The Bears (7-5, 11-11) would come back to take the lead briefly before the Eagles went up for good 63-61 on Pritchett’s free throws with 1:20 remaining.

Dakota Ridge played well in transition and collapsed inside to defend the Bears on the blocks. The Eagles were accurate from downtown, but also sharp from mid-range.

“We finally put it all together. We know what can happen now,” DiFolco said.

It almost slipped away.

The Eagles were up 48-39 with 2:50 left in the third quarter, only to be reeled in and passed at 57-56 in the fourth quarter.

The Eagles would tie the game at 58, 59 and again at 61 when Brian VanderVelde scored off a sweet dish from Canny.

Bear Creek’s Dajuan Mack was whistled for an offensive foul on the next possession and the Eagles would send Pritchett to the charity stripe to take the lead for good.

Chaos erupted on Bear Creek’s next possession with the Eagles finally stealing the ball and finding Derek VanderVelde for an easy bucket and 65-61 lead.

That would come in handy as the Bears got a 3-pointer from Jaron Price with 18.6 seconds left to cut the Eagles lead to 1, before Derek VanderVelde salted the win with a basket with 11 seconds remaining.

“Fun game,” Canny said.