Tiger boys expect close game vs. Montrose in first round
FARMER’S KORNER When the Summit High School boys basketball team hosts Montrose in a first-round state playoff game tonight, fans will see perhaps the most evenly matched No. 7 vs. No. 10 seed game in the 48-team bracket.Both teams play aggressive, active defense. Both teams sputter offensively at times. And both teams know little about each other, except that they play on opposite sides of the Colorado Rockies.”Teams that have played us both see us as being very equal,” SHS coach Mike Rathgeber said Tuesday. “We know it’s going to be a close game.”If you’re a Summit rooter, however, there are reasons to be optimistic going into the 7 p.m. contest at the Summit High gym. The seventh-seeded Tigers (14-9) finished the year with an 8-2 mark at home. The 10th-seeded Indians, meanwhile, went 2-8 on the road while compiling a 10-10 overall record as one of just two 4A teams in the predominantly 5A Southwestern League.
“We threw away the records two days ago,” Rathgeber said in reference to his opponent’s mediocre mark against superior competition. “They mean nothing.”The sixth-year Summit coach, who has lost both of his state tournament games during his tenure at Farmer’s Korner, secured game film from three of Montrose’s contests this season. In viewing those tapes he noticed that the Indians struggle at times against a trapping defense, preferring to run and gun when they’re on offense.Summit, however, specializes on defense with a 1-2-2 halfcourt zone trap, which is designed to slow down a fast-paced offensive attack. “That was lucky in that what we need to do is what we like to do,” Rathgeber said.”We’re going to need to make them make passes,” he added.
The Tigers have proven that while their offense runs best when senior guards Tucker Shelden and Sean Linfield, the team’s two leading scorers, are playing well, there are plenty of supporting cast members capable of picking up the slack on any given night.Joe Felton, a versatile, inside-out swing man, as well as guard Ryan George and center Ryan Eberhart, all have shown they’re good enough to score when needed.Rathgeber acknowledges his team drew a difficult 10 seed, owing to the quality of opponents the Indians have faced night in and night out since December. However, after defying steep odds just to get the Tigers to where they are – their record is the best for a Summit team in years, even though the Tigers were picked to finish last in the 10-team Jeffco League – he’s not worried about the matchup.”Why not go the hard road?” he said. “If you truly belong, the hard road shouldn’t make a difference.”
Montrose enters the game having lost three straight games and five of its last six, including a perplexing 5-point loss in the regular season finale to Grand Junction Central, a team the Indians beat by 32 earlier in the season.Summit lost its final two games as well, to Golden and Evergreen, but the Tigers were fully prepared to go on the road for their state tournament run, so Rathgeber believes they’ll respond well to an unexpected treat at home.The winner of tonight’s game travels to Steamboat Springs on Saturday for a date with the No. 2-seeded Sailors (19-4).Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-4633, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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