Yuma boys survive district, host regional

Yuma High School’s boys basketball team is two wins away from advancing to the Class 3A Great 8 for the second consecutive season.

This time the Outlaws get to try to do it at home, after having to go to Leadville last year for regional.

“Playing two games in The Pit versus playing down at (eighth-seed) Peyton is much more preferable,” head coach Dave Sheffield said.

His basketball band of Outlaws nearly missed out on hosting a regional during a highly-entertaining district last weekend at Manual High School. They fell behind by 17 in the district semifinal against Manual, rallied to take a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but still ended up losing 73-69. They then blew most of a 24-point lead in Saturday’s third-place game against Stargate but held on for a 57-56 win.

A Manual win in the district final would have sent the Outlaws packing for regional, but the Thunderbolts inexplicably never showed up as top-seed Forge Christian cruised to a 77-32 win.

Yuma, 17-4, ended up the fourth seed in the 32-team regional, getting to host a trio of charter schools this weekend in The Pit.

The Outlaws will play 29th-seed Liberty Common at approximately 6 p.m. Friday. The other two boys team in Region 4, 13th-seed Windsor Charter Academy, 16-5, and 20th-seed Thomas MacLaren,

9-11, will tip things off in The Pit at 3 p.m.

Friday’s winners will meet in the Sweet 16 Saturday at 2:30 p.m. with a chance to advance to the Great 8 next week in Hamilton Gymnasium on the Denver University campus.

“Everyone’s playing their last game if they don’t win,” Sheffield said. “It’s the old cliché that you have to take care of the one in front of you first before you worry about the next one.”

Liberty Common is 9-13 and lost two games in its district tournament last weekend, but Sheffield warned of staying in the moment.

Windsor Charter Academy has had a strong season and could be formidable if the Firebirds get by Friday.

“Windsor Charter would be a nice game,” Sheffield said, “if we get there.”

The coach said it seemed as if his team never got off the bus at the start of last Friday’s semifinal against Manual in the Thunderdome.

Yuma trailed 5-4 early, but the Thunderbolts closed the first on a 19-3 run for a 24-7 lead.

However, the Outlaws then got down to business, starting the second on a 14-5 spurt to force a Manual timeout. Manual’s Deshawn Fox threw down a beautiful alley-oop dunk, but it was negated by an offensive foul.

The Outlaws still trailed by as much as 12 early in the third but just kept coming, closing the quarter on a 13-4 run capped by Jonathan Thomson’s end-to-end layup at the buzzer.

Yuma led 54-52, having outscored Manual 47-28 in the middle two quarters.

Manual, though, opened the fourth with a 9-2 run. Yuma came back with a 9-0 spurt for a 65-63 lead, but Manual kept having answers. The Outlaws trailed 72-69 with a chance to tie with the ball with 18 seconds left, but could not get off a good look on a 3-pointer. Manual rebounded and made one more free throw to secure the win.

While a highly-entertaining game, “from a coaching perspective it took years off of my life,” Sheffield said.

The Thunderbolts were hot all game, shooting 57.7 percent, including 53.3 percent on 3-pointers (eight-for-15). Yuma still had a chance to win despite making only two of 12 from deep.

Cristian Duarte had a great game offensively, scoring 24 points as he kept the Outlaws in the game early. Thomson overcame some early struggles to finish with 23 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, while Brody Sheffield had 17 points, three rebounds and two assists, Cesar Gamboa five points, six rebounds and five assists, Edwin Munoz three rebounds and three steals, and Reyli Trejo one rebound.

Manual’s Fox had set Colorado’s single-game scoring record earlier in the week with a 76 points against William Smith, breaking Manual’s Chucky Sproiling’s record of 74 set in 1989. The Outlaws held him to 16, but at total of four players scored in double figures.

The script was completely flipped Saturday in the third-place game against Stargate School, which barely lost to Forge Christian the night before.

It was the Outlaws who raced out to a 16-6 lead, and were up 19-8 after the first quarter. They kept it up in the second quarter, ripping off a 10-0 run, and led by as much as 23 points, 37-14, before halftime.

However, it was then Stargate’s turn to battle back. The Eagles pulled to within 46-37 by the end of the third quarter. They continued in the final stanza, going on a 12-0 run to take a 49-48 lead.

Yuma would not go away either, though, as the teams traded leads until Gamboa’s two free throws with under 20 seconds left. Stargate missed a 3-pointer, and Sheffield made two more at the charity stripe for a 57-54 lead, then held on in the final seconds for the 57-56 win.

“They showed resiliency (last weekend) which is great,” Sheffield said of his players, “but they just need to put together a full game, which is what we need at this time of year.”

Both teams show under 40 percent, but Stargate was hot behind the arc by making 11 of 29. Yuma made five of 20 from deep.

Sheffield made four of Yuma’s treys, finishing with 25 points and seven rebounds, while Thomson had another double-double with 15 pints and 11 rebounds, along with five steals, Duarte eight points and two steals, Gamboa four points, eight rebounds and two steals, Edwin Munoz three points, and Alex Pensado two points, two rebounds and two steals.