David Ramsey: Doherty hangs on, barely, to drop Cherry Creek in 5A basketball playoffs

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Doherty is marching into the Great Eight, but the Spartans will need to get a grip on their emotions if they want the march to continue to the final four.  

Wednesday’s 47-40 home victory over Cherry Creek was full of emotion, full of missed shots, full of ultra-physical battles in the lane and full of technicals.

Seventh-seed Doherty (21-4) collected two, including a fourth-quarter T that nearly turned the game. Cherry Creek, the 23rd seed, collected one, a last-second call on coach Kent Dertinger that buried Creek’s chances.

ThunderRidge awaits the Spartans, who will need better emotional control and better shooting to remain alive.

Doherty coach Eric Steinert explained his players’ high intensity.

“I’ll tell you that our emotions are high,” he said. “Our guys got bounced early last year.  They feel like they have a lot to prove. I’m not going to point fingers at anybody. I thought they were tough technicals. That’s what I’ll say.”

Both teams flirted with technicals all night. It was one of those games when players, on both sides, argued obvious calls.

The arguing was silly and futile, but Doherty’s character – tough and resilient – managed to keep the Spartans alive.

The game was primal. Cherry Creek’s Bruins went with a swarming man-to-man defense, and never altered their strategy. Doherty went with a zone that was suffocating inside the 3-point line, but essentially dared the Bruins to launch 3-pointers.

The dare worked superbly in the first half. The Bruins trudged into the locker room trailing 18-10, and it looked as if Cherry Creek might struggle to bust the 20-point barrier.

But Creek stars Dimitri Stanley and Darius Price warmed up in the third quarter, and the Bruins finally threatened.

Doherty’s first technical aided the revival. Doherty’s Alijah Bates was whistled for a  T with 3:05 left in the third, and Price sank two free throws that started a rally. With 5:21 left, Doherty was barely hanging on with a 35-33 lead. Two minutes later, a second technical almost pushed Creek into the lead.

With 3:24 left, Doherty guard Duke Carey said he was loudly encouraging a teammate. He used, he said, a profanity during the encouragement. Refs responded with a technical.

The technical call, which came after a foul call, gave Creek four free throws and possession, but the Bruins only produced two points from the gift.

Then, the final technical.

The Bruins' Julian Hammond hit a 3-pointer with a little under 11 seconds left to chop the lead to 42-40. Creek coach Dertinger immediately called a timeout and campaigned for additional time on the clock. Officials said 10.4 seconds remained, but Dertinger wanted more.

After Creek fouled Carey, Dertinger escalated his protests and was whistled for a technical. Carey sank four three throws to clinch the win.

“I got so much confidence for our team,” Carey said. “We worked so hard for this, so many hours in the gym. I’m really confident.”

That confidence has weight, if the Spartans can keep their emotions under wraps.