Indians’ pressure too much for Tigers
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
FARMER’S KORNER ” Summit High School boys basketball coach Mike Rathgeber won’t soon forget how he felt after the Tigers’ loss in the first round of the 4A playoffs Wednesday at SHS.
“Shell shocked,” Rathgeber said when asked to describe his reaction to No. 10 Montrose’s 49-40 upset over No. 7 Summit (14-10). “They definitely stole this game away from us. We had it won ” it was over.”
Trailing 33-27 after three quarters, the Indians (11-10) made a key adjustment to their game plan.
“One of the things we tried to do in the fourth quarter was change the tempo,” Montrose’s fourth-year coach Dwight Rawlings said. “We told our guys, ‘We’ve got to pick it up, we’ve got to fast break and press or we’re going to get beat.'”
The Indians responded to their coach’s instructions by applying a tenacious full-court press that forced the Tigers to commit 11 fourth-quarter turnovers (SHS had 23 overall).
“We fell apart,” said Summit’s Tucker Shelden, who finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. “Once they started pressuring us, we couldn’t handle it, which is unusual because we’ve been handling it all year.”
“There’s two things I never worry about with this team,” Rathgeber said. “Hitting free throws and handling pressure. … A simple thing like a full-man press and we just had mental breakdowns the likes of which I’ve never seen this year.”
Shelden, who didn’t score a field goal until the fourth quarter was hassled by aggressive Indian defenders throughout the contest.
“(Shelden) is a good ball player, we knew that coming in,” Rawlings said. “He does a lot for Summit and we knew we had to key on him.”
Summit’s senior point guard, seemed to come alive in the fourth quarter when he accounted for all seven of his team’s points.
Just as Shelden was finding his groove, the Indians started to crawl their way back into contention, tying the game at the 4-minute mark before taking their first lead, 42-39, with 2:31 remaining. After that, the Tigers scored just one more point.
“I think the kids smelled a playoff win and they tightened up,” he said. “They started playing not to lose instead of to win and I didn’t have enough timeouts to help them. I would have needed a timeout for every possession.”
Montrose’s defensive emphasis on Shelden may have made things easier for Summit’s Joe Felton, who finished with 12 points to lead all scorers.
“I looked at every possession like it was our last,” Felton said. “Whenever I got the ball I did everything in my power to make the right play.”
Like Rathgeber, Felton seemed stunned by Wednesday’s loss.
“We had it,” Felton said. “I think that’s what hurts the most.”
Summit, which tends to favor a slow-paced game, made a defensive statement of its own by holding the visitors to 11 field goals.
“You have to give credit to their defense,” Rawlings said. “We couldn’t’ get our game going. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a team that only scored two field goals in the first half.”
Summit led 5-3 after Wednesday’s first quarter and 23-18 at halftime.
What the Indians were lacking in outside shooting, they made up for at the free throw line where they shot a combined 24-of-37. The Tigers finished 9-of-15 from the line.
The Indians, which will travel to No. 2 Steamboat (19-4) on Saturday, featured a balanced attack led by Josh Hansen (11 points), Patrick Stevens (10) and Sean Maloney (nine).
Rathgeber, a sixth-year head coach, who is 0-3 in the playoffs, put a positive spin on Summit’s season-ending loss, despite his obvious disappointment.
“Regardless of the sting we feel today, we’re still the winningest team in 20 years,” he said. “We’re still the standard by which future teams will be measured and no one can take that away from us.”
Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-4634, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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