DENVER — The RPI numbers don’t lie and Golden’s boys basketball coach Lou Vullo knows it.
“We talked before the game that from this game forward every game is a playoff game,” Vullo said as his Demons started the day No. 40 in the Class 5A boys basketball RPI rankings. “This was a must-win game for us.”
With league champions and the RPI determining the 32-team field for the 5A state tournament, the Demons (7-11, 4-3 in 5A/4A Jeffco League) know winning their final five regular-season games in almost a necessity to make the postseason.
Golden responded with a 62-49 road victory Feb. 4 against D’Evelyn (11-7, 7-1). The Demons handed the Jaguars their first conference loss of the season and put an end to D’Evelyn’s 6-game winning streak.
“For sure,” Golden junior Shad Garnett said when asked if this was the Demons’ biggest win of the season. “It was nice.”
It was nice for the Demons to have its full line-up available for the first time this season. Starting point-guard Luc Chevalier and post Laif Palmer have both missed the majority of the season coming off injuries that occurred right before the season.
Both were back in the starting line-up Saturday. Chevalier played solid defense guarding the Jaguars’ premier shooters, while Palmer helped close out the win scoring all 8 points in the fourth quarter.
“It has helped a ton,” Garnett said having both Chevalier and Palmer back. “Chevy creates a lot of shots for us. Laif is big and strong. Grabbing boards for us. It is awesome to have them both back.”
Junior Slade Pike led the Demons with 14 points off the bench. Garnett poured in 13 points. Golden had nine 3-pointers and were stellar from the free-throw line going 15-for-16 from the charity stripe.
On the other hand, the Jaguars didn’t make a 3-pointer the entire game and were 15-for-32 from the free-throw line.
“We had to do three things to win this game: defend, rebound and value the basketball,” Vullo said. “We did all three of those things.”
D’Evelyn was No. 21 in the RPI standings for 4A and shouldn’t have any problem making the tournament field. The Jaguars have had injury issues of their own with senior and leading scorer Elijah Gusmus sidelined while recovering from a knee injury. Gusmus has been out since the injury occurred Dec. 20 against Kent Denver.
The Jaguars have a tough week ahead on the road against league-leading Dakota Ridge on Wednesday, Feb. 8, followed up with a home date against Green Mountain on Friday, Feb. 10.
Golden plays three games in five days with hosting rival Wheat Ridge (Monday), at Standley Lake (Wednesday) and home against Conifer (Friday).
“We just want to get in. Especially with all the adversity we’ve faced,” Vullo said of the postseason. “These kids come to work (practice) every single day with a smile on their faces. They just want to get better. It’s a great group to coach.”
Dennis Pleuss is the sports information director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.