Watch: Summit High boys basketball fights, falls at Golden to end season
Tigers lose 77-60 in final game for nine seniors
GOLDEN — The emotion was just too much for Summit High School varsity basketball head coach Jordan Buller to stomach.
“I can’t stay in there and cry, anyway,” Buller said to a reporter after he spoke to his team, which just lost 77-60 to Golden.
The loss to the No. 11 seed Demons (13-2) meant not only the end of the season for the No. 22 seed Tigers (9-6), it also meant the end of the basketball road — the journey together on the hardwood — for the Tigers’ special group of nine seniors.
With three family members or friends for each player in attendance, Summit scraped and clawed from behind their face masks as best they could, fighting against a Golden side that outmatched and out-skilled them. In the end, the 20 points from Golden sophomore stud point guard Aliou Diallo and the 21 points from fellow sophomore ace Alan Acevedo proved too much for Summit to battle against.
While reflecting on the journey of these nine seniors — Hector Diaz, Tyler Nakos, Cam Kalaf, Kobe Cortright, Andrew Duxbury, Banta Sylla, Ian Connors, Marcus Popoff and Naz Poliuk — Buller said this was exactly the special senior group he thought he had heading into the season, long before Summit qualified for the 32-team 4A state tournament.
“I told them, ‘Life is a cycle, and everything has to come to an end at some point,’” Buller said. “We’re all kind of disappointed with the way this one ended, but they all have a bright future. I’m excited to hear about their life as they get older. They’ll come back and play in open gym and be a part of what we’re doing as a basketball community.”
Buller said these seniors — who were led in scoring Tuesday by Nakos’ 27 points — will be remembered as one of the first winning teams in recent memory who played hard on defense, looked to share the basketball and had a number of guys who could really shoot it.
“I felt like it was a group that cared about playing together,” Buller said. “… You know, a lot of times in basketball, you use the term ’brotherhood.’ This was a family this year for sure.”
Summit started well early as the underdog, within 17-12 of Golden after the first quarter. Buller said the Tigers did well guarding Acevedo and Diallo early and that Diaz did a good job keeping his head up dribbling in transition and finding scorers up ahead.
But in the second quarter, it unraveled for Summit, with Golden going on a 23-12 run as it seized control of the game. And it was all spark-plugged by Diallo, who was the most valuable two-way player on the night.
“He’s a special kid,” Buller said. “As a sophomore, he’s got a lot of composure about him. He handles the ball well, is a hard-working defender and is crafty in the lane.”
With Summit unable to prevent Diallo from getting to dangerous spots on the court, the Tigers struggled on the glass, giving up 14 offensive rebounds to the Demons in the first half. Summit also committed nine turnovers in the fateful second quarter, something Buller said they just can’t do against a tough team, resulting in a 40-24 halftime deficit.
In the second half, the Tigers clawed back to play a relatively 50-50 game versus the Demons, who advance to play undefeated 4A Western Slope League champion and Summit rival Steamboat Springs in the round of 16.
Reflecting on everything, Buller is proud of the effort Summit put forth.
“I’m totally proud of the way we played,” he said.
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