After making a run to last year’s Sweet 16, Golden High School basketball coach Lou Vullo had high hopes for this year’s team. But when three of the team’s most experienced seniors decided to …
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After making a run to last year’s Sweet 16, Golden High School basketball coach Lou Vullo had high hopes for this year’s team.
But when three of the team’s most experienced seniors decided to opt out of the season because of COVID-19 concerns, that all went out the window.
“We as coaches didn’t really know what we were going to expect, we just knew that we were going to inherit a bunch of very coachable kids that work hard and are dedicated,” he said. “We knew it might take a while to get going but I thought once we got going we had potential to have a pretty good group for sure.”
However, Vullo said the team ended up becoming that and more as it compiled a 13-3 record and winning a first-round playoff game against Summit on March 9.
The team’s playoff run came to an end once again in the Sweet 16 two days later when the Demons lost to the undefeated Steamboat Sailors 73-58 in Steamboat Springs.
The young Demons gave the Sailors more than they could handle early as they jumped out to a 21-12 first quarter lead behind 11 points from Golden sophomore Aliou Diallo, who was the fastest man on the floor to start the game.
But the Sailors high-powered attack started to heat up in the second quarter, making 9 of 18 threes to eventually outscore the Demons.
The Sailors took the lead midway through the third quarter and never looked back. Diallo, meanwhile, picked up a third foul near the end of the second quarter and would score only six more points in the contest.
“I think we expended a lot of our energy and emotion in the first half,” said Vullo “And then come second half I think we were kind of in foul trouble and we were trying to get some guys in there to fill spots.”
Vullo said his team also struggled with Steamboat’s size advantage.
“They had four to five guys that could really shoot the basketball,” he said. “When you’ve got a six-foot-eight guy in the post and you’ve got guys around him that can shoot the ball you are pretty dangerous.”
The Demons fared much better while playing Summit two days earlier.
In that game Golden took a 16-point lead into halftime and would go on to win 77-60. Diallo again led the team in scoring with 21 points, although he was nearly matched by fellow sophomore Alan Acevedo, who scored 20.
While the Demons fell short of their ultimate goal this season, Vullo said the team’s youth will be an asset come next year as he expects to return every player from this year’s squad.
Vullo said he also expects Diallo, who he called the team’s most improved player this year, to get even better and, possibly, taller.
“If that happens, look out,” he said.
This season, meanwhile, will be remembered for the Demons scoring back-to-back wins against Evergreen and Green Mountain, Golden’s competition for the 4A Jeffco League title, and for going on a 10-game win streak.
For Vullo, this season was also a special one as it brought his 250th win as a Colorado high school head coach and also marked the seventeenth year he has coached a team to the state tournament.
However, he said he will ultimately remember the team as his “COVID team” and for the resilience they showed during a most unusual season.
“This is a team that definitely exceeded my expectations 100% for sure,” he said.
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