GOLDEN — Senior Matt Krage became an instant folk hero at Ponderosa High School with a last-second heave Feb. 28. With 2 seconds on the clock and the Mustangs tied 41-41 with No. 2-seeded Golden, …
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GOLDEN — Senior Matt Krage became an instant folk hero at Ponderosa High School with a last-second heave Feb. 28.
With 2 seconds on the clock and the Mustangs tied 41-41 with No. 2-seeded Golden, Krage made a shot every basketball player dreams of sinking.
“I really didn’t think I would be open,” Krage said after being mobbed by Ponderosa students after his last-second 3-pointer gave the No. 14 Mustangs a 44-41 victory on the Demons’ home court. “I turned around and saw that I’d have a good shot. I’ve been practicing those all these years. I was ready to make it.”
Senior Braden Bradshaw inbounded the ball from under the Mustangs’ basket. Krage caught the ball near mid-court, took two dribbles and then launched a shot from behind the 3-point line.
The victory advanced Ponderosa (16-10 record) into the Class 4A boys basketball state tournament quarterfinals. The Mustangs hit the road again to face No. 6 Pueblo West on March 3, but Ponderosa ran out of magic with a 57-48 loss to the Cyclones.
The Mustangs actually never trailed against Golden (21-4). The Demons came in with a 12-game winning streak, but could never find their offensive rhythm while being held to a season-low 41 points.
“We just couldn’t make enough shots,” Golden senior Adam Thistlewood said. “That first quarter was not good for us and it came back to bite us in the butt.”
Ponderosa jumped out to a surprising 19-10 lead after the first quarter. The Demons trailed by double-digits for much of the second quarter before Thistlewood poured in seven points in the matter of 90 seconds to close out the first half.
Thistlewood finished with a game-high 22 points, but a base-line jumper on the possession before Krage’s game-winning shot didn’t fall for the future Drake University product.
“I have no words right now,” an emotional Thistlewood said after his final prep game. “Senior year, losing on a buzzer-beater knowing you are capable of going farther. It’s really tough.”
Bradshaw had the task of slowing down Thistlewood as much as possible.
“He (Thistlewood) is a great player. I was just trying to stay in front of him and keep my feet moving,” Bradshaw said of guarding Thistlewood most of the game. “It took me back to fundamentals of playing defense.”
Senior Joe Madsen (11 points) was the only other Demon to reach double-digit points. On the other hand, the Mustangs had a balance scoring attack with seniors Connor Hawk (12 points), Krage (9 points) and Bradshaw (8 points) leading the way.
Ponderosa’s great start included six different players scoring in the opening quarter.
“A lot of us coming in here were a little nervous,” Bradshaw admitted. “We got off to a great start and that boosted us for the entire game.”
Ponderosa had a bit of a deceiving record. The Mustangs play in the deep 5A/4A Continental League that featured the likes of Rock Canyon, ThunderRidge, Chaparral, Regis Jesuit and Mountain Vista — all teams in action in the Sweet 16 of the 5A state tournament Wednesday night.
“Playing in the Continental League prepares us so well,” Krage said. “They are the hardest teams in 5A. When we play down in 4A we feel like we can play with anybody.”
There was no mistaking where Golden wanted to end its season after coming in as the preseason No. 1 in the CHSAANow.com 4A boys basketball poll.
After weaving their way to the Final 4 of the Class 4A state tournament last season as the No. 12 seed, the Demons have been zeroed in on getting back to the Denver Coliseum and atoning for a rough 30-point loss to eventual state champion Valor Christian in the semifinals.
Despite falling short of their goal, Thistlewood was positive looking back at the season and Golden’s run to three 4A Jeffco League title over the past four years.
“It’s been a ride,” Thistlewood said of his time at Golden. “I think we accomplished more than what people expected. I’m proud of all my guys and excited about the future.”
Dennis Pleuss is a communications specialist for Jeffco Public Schools with a focus on athletics and activities. For more Jeffco coverage go to CHSAANow.com/Jeffco.
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