Watch: Summit boys basketball rallies to win thriller over rival Battle Mountain
Tigers girls lose in near-record-breaking performance by Huskies shooter
In a poetic, back-and-forth game, the Summit High School varsity boys basketball team rallied to defeat rival Battle Mountain, 65-59.
The Tigers kept their hopes alive to qualify for the 32-team 4A state tournament thanks to a 24-11 fourth-quarter surge when the Tigers erased a deficit versus the winless Huskies to improve their record to 6-4 on the season and 6-3 in 4A Western Slope League play.
Summit tied the game and took the lead in the first two minutes of the quarter after senior captain Cam Kalaf (12 points) broke the huddle with the phrase “together” to begin the final frame.
“None of the games would go the way they do without him,” Tigers head coach Jordan Buller said. “Cam is a leader who has a natural desire to compete and win. His whole mantra is, ‘Let’s win.’”
The Tigers roared back for the victory against a Battle Mountain side (0-9, 0-7) that brought their energetic A-game in what was the equivalent to their Super Bowl. Scraping and clawing, playing like rats in a cage desperate for a season-salvaging victory over their rival, Battle Mountain was led by the moxie of junior captain Elijah Morales, who drained three 3-pointers, including two in a pivotal third quarter, to give his team a chance.
It was in the second and third quarters when the Huskies hustled everywhere on the hardwood to take a somewhat commanding lead. And on a night when Tigers parents were admitted to cheer on their children for the first time this season — albeit encouraged not to yell from behind their face masks to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 — it was the Huskies JV players, loud as can be, who made the high school feel like a Huskies home game.
But that all changed in the fourth quarter when Kalaf’s fellow senior captain Tyler Nakos reentered the game after picking up his fourth foul early in the third. Before he fouled out late in the fourth quarter, Nakos bottled up his skill, strength and will to finish with 10 points, including four big buckets in a carefully played yet passionate fourth quarter.
“He’s really found kind of an edge this year,” Buller said about Nakos. “Part of our success this year is coming out of the fact our three captains are competitive guys. And Tyler is a hard player to guard one-on-one, so it was nice to see him stay aggressive getting to the paint.”
The Tigers point guard Hector Diaz finished the game with 10 points but, more importantly, won the mano-a-mano showdown with Huskies junior Jose Hernandez in a battle of pink-sneaker-wearing point guards. Diaz was active on ball-pressure defense, forced steals and fueled Tigers transitions in the stronger parts of the team’s game Thursday night.
“I felt like I needed to step up losing a starter who fouled out, step up on the defensive side, whether covering their best player or the point guard,” Diaz said. “They came out with more energy than us in our house, so I knew we needed to fight back.”
After a second quarter scramble to tie the game at 28-28 at halftime, Buller sent a message to the squad he started for the second half — namely senior Banta Sylla. The lengthy senior wing — maybe the team’s best perimeter defender — played the most minutes of the season in a memorable, manic game he’ll never forget. Sylla also scored seven points and dished out several assists, including five crucial points in the fourth-quarter frenzy.
“I want to reward kids playing hard, and he’s one of those guys,” Buller said. “He shows up each day to play hard.”
For Buller, the win will be one the kids remember for years for its wild yet winning nature. He was elated his team beat its rival for the second time for a season sweep — an accomplishment the program has rarely achieved in recent years. And heading into the season’s homestretch, with their eyes on a state tournament berth despite the bracket dipping to 32 teams instead of 38 due to the shortened season, Buller knows Thursday’s win went a long way to making this crazy campaign last as long as possible.
“We’re sitting at a point right now, on the bubble, where every game is a must win for us,” Buller said.
Huskies girls nearly set record in win over Tigers
Battle Mountain’s (7-3, 5-2) Gabriela Caballero fell just one 3-point field goal short of tying a state record in the Huskies 70-34 win Thursday night versus the Tigers (2-7, 1-6).
Caballero — a Division II talent — put forth the most dominant performance in the Summit High gym in recent memory, connecting on 10 3-pointers to score 36 points in a follow-up effort to a recent 41-point campaign.
Caballero might be the hottest player in the state as she’s building on her 16-points-per-game average. The torrid scoring display Thursday came after her father built a basketball court in her backyard in Gypsum this summer when COVID-19 forced her to not be able to play in her typical spots. Caballero — who has four older brothers she grew up playing with (including one who’s an assistant for the Huskies) and a younger sister coming up — said she shoots hundreds of shots a day to perfect her craft.
“I just played my game and didn’t really care how many points I had,” she said.
Summit was led in scoring by Emily Koetteritz (12 points).
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