GOLDEN — Pueblo East continues to have success against familiar foes during the Class 4A boys basketball state tournament. “When we saw them (Golden) on the bracket we knew it was revenge …
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GOLDEN — Pueblo East continues to have success against familiar foes during the Class 4A boys basketball state tournament.
“When we saw them (Golden) on the bracket we knew it was revenge time,” said Pueblo East senior Darnell Kindred, who poured in 20 points for the Eagles on March 4 in the Sweet 16 game at Golden High School.
The No. 13-seeded Eagles upset No. 4 Golden Demons 65-62 in what was a rematch from earlier this season. Golden got the better against Pueblo East the first time around with a 62-59 win Dec. 7 during the Golden/D’Evelyn Preview Classic.
Pueblo East (18-8 record) flipped the script to come out on the winning end during the round of 16 state playoff game.
“We knew it was going to be tough. It was a very similar game from the first time,” Pueblo East coach Mike Massaro said of the second go-around against Golden. “I think we got the breaks this time. The things that hurt us last time were turnovers, shot selection and rebounding. We really tried to focus on those three things.”
Golden (18-7) and Pueblo East were tied 33-33 at halftime, but senior Ben McLaughlin buried back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Demons a 6-point lead early in the third quarter.
The Eagles did answer with a 9-0 run to take the lead. Junior Kyle Miller hit a big 3-pointer and Kindred had a pair of buckets in the paint during the run.
“If would could have gotten a few stops and opened up (the lead) a little bit, but they just pushed the basketball,” Golden coach Lou Vullo said of Pueblo East’s 9-0 run midway through the third quarter. “Everyone for them rebounds the ball and push up the ball. I thought we played pretty good defense on them. They are just really athletic.”
Pueblo East dominated inside the paint after halftime.
“We knew we had the size,” Kindred said of the Eagles pounding the ball inside for the majority of the second half. “We knew if we could get in the paint we would have a good opportunity to win this game.”
Junior Brenden Harding had a solid fourth quarter pouring in eight of his 14 points in the final eight minutes before fouling out late. The Eagles closed the game making nine free throws in the final minute.
However, a missed free throw by Pueblo East junior Jaxson Herring gave Golden the ball and one final chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer. With 11.5 seconds left the Demons had the ball. However, they never got off a shot as a pass to senior Kevin Mulligan was low and went out of bounds.
“We were looking to put a shooter in the corner, have a little dribble penetration and get the kick out,” Vullo said of the play drawn up in an attempt to tie the game in the final seconds. “I think it was a bit of a bad pass, but those things happen.”
For the second year in a row, Golden bowed out of the state tournament in the Sweet 16.
“Back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances and a league title this year, this team exceeded expectations,” said Vullo, who had guided the Demons to a 32-19 record over two seasons.
Golden and Green Mountain both lost their round of 16 games to eliminate 4A Jeffco League teams from the state tournament.
“When I first got the job our backs were against the wall,” said Vullo, who finished his second year at the helm of the Demons’ basketball program. “I don’t think a lot of people thought we would succeed. The credit goes to the kids. There are no great coaches without great kids. That room is full of great kids and great players.”
Dennis Pleuss is a media specialist for Jeffco Public Schools with a focus on athletics and activities. For more Jeffco coverage, go online at CHSAANow.com
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