By Jonathan Maness
Special to Colorado Community Media
BRIGHTON – The No. 4-seeded Eagle Ridge Academy Warriors held off a feisty Riverdale Ridge squad Feb. 25 to advance to the Great Eight of the Class 4A state basketball tournament.
In front of a standing-room only crowd, the Warriors used their length and athleticism to roll to a 66-51 victory over the 13th-seeded Ravens.
“(Riverdale) is a very scrappy team,” Eagle Ridge Academy’s coach, Jay Powell, said. “We had to cut out their offensive rebounds, and our boys dug deep and played hard to get the win. I’m proud of them.”
The Warriors will face the winner of No. 5 Pagosa Springs and No. 12 Pueblo County at the Denver Coliseum at 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 3.
ERA (20-5 overall) led from the opening tip, but it wasn’t easy as the cross-town rivals battled until the final whistle.
“We know each other well,” Eagle Ridge’s captain Hunter Hill said. “It’s a huge win for us. They played hard, but we wanted it more.”
The Warriors’ length gave Riverdale issues, especially with Christian Seifert (6-foot-8), Cameron (CJ) Seifert (6 -6) and James ‘Kyen’ Allen (6-7) patrolling in the paint.
“Length is a big strength for us,” Powell said. “it’s hard to get a shot off when they are flying at you.”
Christian Seifert made his presence known early in the game. He started the game with three points the old-fashioned way and had back-to-back blocks that led to a pair of baskets by Hill to give ERA an early 9-3 advantage.
Ryan Leopold helped Riverdale rally back. The senior hit a trey and scored on a fast-break basket to tie the game at 14. The Warriors ended the quarter on a seven-point run as Hill closed the quarter with a pair of baskets to give ERA a 21-14 advantage.
The Warriors kept the momentum in the second quarter as Christian Seifert pushed the lead to 13 with a pair of 3-pointers.
Riverdale (17-8) remained scoreless in the second until Marcus Hinh scored five consecutive points to cut into the deficit for the Ravens. Baskets by Allen and Peyton Torres pushed the lead to 40-29 at the half.
Riverdale made defensive adjustments at the half and used a pressure defense to force early turnovers by the Warriors and cut into ERA’s lead.
The Ravens opened the half on a nine-point run with Leopold leading the way. The senior hit a trey and then made a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 40-38 with four minutes left in the quarter.
CJ Seifert ended the drought with a basket, and Hill scored three baskets in a row to push the lead to 48-40 going into the fourth.
Torres hit a dagger late in the fourth to push the lead to double digits and seal the victory.
“We have a great senior class,” Powell said. “From our point guard to our bigs, they play hard and play well together. They are starting to play to their strength.”