Tiger boys to face rival Golden at Pepsi Center
Summit County, CO ColoradoFARMER’S KORNER – Even at the expense of a late-season home game against arguably its biggest rival, the opportunity was too great to pass up for the Summit High School basketball team.Playing at the Pepsi Center, this state’s basketball cathedral and the home to the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, is a rare occasion. That’s why SHS head coach Mike Rathgeber in September applied for the chance – knowing it would mean he’d lose the right to host rival Golden in February if his application was accepted.It was, and so the Tigers will face off against the Demons in Denver on Monday, Feb. 12, in a game that could prove crucial to each team’s state tournament standing. The schools’ JV teams will kick off the day’s action at 1 p.m., followed by the varsity game at 3. Then at 7, the big dogs take the court as the Nuggets host Golden State to wrap up a marathon day of hoops.”You have to catch it early,” Rathgeber said, describing the process in which arena officials request all interested high school coaches submit an application on why their squad should be chosen to play there.
“I just said, ‘Let me jump on this and see where it gets me,'” Rathgeber recalled.In his application he detailed the rivalry between Golden and Summit, calling it one of the Jeffco League’s best and outlining the history between the two teams.Arena officials liked Rathgeber’s letter and told him that Summit and Golden could play one of the six high school games at the Pepsi Center this season (complete with the Jumbotron alive overhead). Rathgeber thought he was as happy as can be – until he spoke with Golden coach John Anderson and realized Anderson’s glee may have trumped his.”Instead of coming to Summit County? Of course!” Anderson exulted to Rathgeber, almost in disbelief that he was trading in a dreaded road trip for a coveted opportunity only a few miles from his home gym. “You’re out of your mind for giving up this game!”
“I know,” Rathgeber conceded Tuesday. “But I thought it would be a lot of fun.”The Feb. 12 game is slated to be the penultimate regular-season contest for both teams, meaning it could make or break their state tournament hopes if they’re on the bubble; or, if they’re already a lock to make it – as both figure to be, based on their early season success – it could affect their seeding in the tournament.Either way, Rathgeber said, it will be worth it.”People have commented to me that this may not be the best strategic thing to do, but the tradeoff is we’re giving these kids a memory they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. There’s bigger things at work here,” he said.
In addition, he said of the state tournament implications, “By then, if we’re in, playing a game like that only gets us ready for a state tournament audience, and if we’re out, then we’ve got nothing to lose.”Summit, which is off to its best pre-holidays start (6-2) in six years, and Golden (4-3 entering Tuesday’s game against Green Mountain) must combine to sell $9,000 worth of tickets to the Nuggets-Warriors game as part of their agreement with the Pepsi Center. The tickets ($34 for upper-balcony seats, $58 for corner floor seats) basically get their holders into the building for the entire day; they can watch the high school games from center court, but they must move to their assigned seats for the NBA game.According to Rathgeber, Summit has already sold about half of its $4,500 share. (One parent alone has sold 37 floor tickets, the coach said.) Anyone interested in buying a ticket can call Summit High School at (970) 547-9311 and ask for Rathgeber, or go through an SHS player.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-4633, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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