COLORADO SPRINGS — The Chatfield Chargers’ Sweet 16 turned out to be a surprise party. Just not the kind of surprise they had hoped for.
Facing second-seeded Doherty on March 5 for the right to advance to the Class 5A Elite 8, the third-seeded Chargers got a whiff of their fate on the opening tip-off at the World Arena.
The Spartans tipped the ball to guard Bryse Velasquez, who took a few dribbles before nailing a fadeaway 3-pointer from the right wing. The Chargers would chase Velasquez and the Spartans for the next 32 minutes.
“To be honest, we didn’t know their guards were that quick. At least I didn’t,” Chatfield sophomore guard Dean Wright said. “It was kind of a surprise when we got out there.”
The Chargers, like they had all season, battled from start to finish. The pace, however, was just too fast and frantic, as their season came to an end with a 77-58 defeat.
The Chargers (18-7) tied the game briefly at 10, but were down by 15 in the second quarter and 16 in the third as the Spartans (22-3) rolled to the final of the John Casey Region.
Velasquez scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the first quarter and turned everything in favor of the local Spartans.
The Chargers first tried to crowd him on the perimeter, only for the senior to blow past them for easy layups. The Chargers then tried to collapse on him if he dribbled in the paint, so he just dished to his post players waiting on the wings for one-step layups.
And to create the perfect storm: The Chargers turned the ball over more than 20 times as they struggled to match Doherty’s frantic pace.
Wright, who was Chatfield’s only hot hand early on, finished with a team-best 17 points. Landon Vermeer scored 14 and sophomore Trevor Wages had 11 points, nine rebounds and blocked five shots.
For a team that finished third in the 5A Jefferson County League, the Chargers were the last Jeffco team standing – albeit briefly.
Green Mountain was eliminated earlier in the day and Jeffco champion Ralston Valley was sent home after being upset by Arapahoe. The Chargers were sent home hours later, but they left knowing there has been anticipation all season about what they can do next year with a core of Vermeer, Wages, Wright, Jordan Carter and Kyle Slavin.
Not that it was on their mind against Doherty.
“We weren’t really thinking about next year or any of that kind of stuff. We just wanted to go out and give it all we had,” Carter said. “I thought we played really hard, but their big men and their size, they just overwhelmed us.”
Wages and Carter took a little to adapt to the tempo, which was fast, furious and very physical. With the officials letting the big men play, the two had moments of wrecking shop in the paint against the Spartans, who were tall but not as strong.
Vermeer gave the Chargers brief hope in the second half. His scooping layup with 2:43 left in the third quarter cut the Spartans’ lead to 48-38. He tried to spark a final rally when his 3-pointer pulled the Chargers within nine points with 3:31 left in the fourth quarter.
But the Spartans, who would be eliminated March 7 by undefeated Fairview, always had an answer.
“We were pressing them and their guards were really quick. We couldn’t keep up with them,” Wright said. “I give our team credit, though, we gave it everything we got.”
Chatfield: Wright 5 2-4 17, Haidaris 1 0-1 2, Vermeer 5 2-2 14, Wages 4 3-8 11, Carter 3 0-2 6, Slavin 1 1-2 3, Ty. Rogers 1 0-0 3, Garcia 0 2-2 2.