By Craig Harper
For the Courier
AURORA — It took a decade for Dakota Ridge to return to the Sweet 16 of the 5A state boys basketball tournament. So getting there was an accomplishment in itself. Unfortunately, the Eagles couldn’t match their 2004 counterparts, who made it one step further.
Overland, led by its impressive inside-outside duo of De’Ron Davis and Austin Conway, showed why it was granted No. 1 seed in in the Bill Weimer Region. The Trailblazers withstood a furious late charge by fourth-seeded Dakota Ridge for a 67-59 home victory on March 5 that ended the Eagles’ season but earned their coach’s respect.
“I don’t know a team out there that isn’t going to struggle matching up with that team,” Dakota Ridge coach Curi Yutzy said. “Our guys fought, our guys competed. I’m so proud of the way they reacted the right way when they hit adversity. So I’m pretty darn happy with that group of guys and the young men that they’re becoming.”
The Eagles (18-7) couldn’t quite overcome a seven-minute-plus stretch beginning late in the third quarter during which they shot 1-of-10 from the floor as Overland turned a 36-all tie into a 59-45 advantage.
Sparked by a trio of 3-pointers — two by Cambrian Antrillo and one by Cody Pittman, who hit four for the game as part of a season-high 19 points — Dakota Ridge twice pulled within five points, the final time with 19.8 seconds left. But Overland, which had struggled from the foul line, denied the Eagles by going 7-of-10 from the stripe in the final 53.8 seconds.
“I thought we could win because we came back a lot this season and we always fight back,” Pittman said. “But it was just too much. We played hard. Everybody helped out and put the team first.”
The Eagles played solid defense against Davis, Overland’s 6-foot-9 sophomore and leading scorer. The trio of Ian MacDonald, an ailing Alden Erickson (groin) and Devante Jones limited Davis to three field goals and only one until the final seconds of the third quarter. But Davis was a force on defense, where he blocked nine shots and disrupted Dakota Ridge’s offense.
Conway, a junior point guard, hurt the Eagles with his quickness and driving ability. He finished with 17 points, 10 of those in the first nine minutes of the second half. “He’s as quick a player as we’ve faced all year,” Yutzy said. “And he made plays when they started running that on-ball screen up there.”
It was a tough ending for the careers of Dakota Ridge’s five seniors.
“I hate to see them leave like this,” said Pittman, a junior. “But I know that everybody on the team left it all out there for them, trying to let them go out with a win. But I guess it just didn’t happen this year.”