DENVER - Manitou Springs senior Lucas Rodholm looked like a player determined to take over a game. Swishing jumpers. Taking on three defenders at once.
To him, though, it just felt like running in place as the No. 2 Mustangs (22-3) had their season ended by No. 10 Sterling (20-5) in the Class 3A quarterfinals on Thursday at the University of Denver, 58-50.
"It came down to getting stops," Rodholm said. "We couldn't."
Down by as many as 12 in the fourth quarter, Rodholm tried to take matters into his own hands.
The fifth foul for Cole Sienknecht with 4:18 remaining left the Mustangs without their second-leading scorer on the year. But Rodholm was still convinced he had enough offense in him to lead a comeback.
The senior put together points at ease, including 20 of his 30 in the second half. He also had his team's final eight points - but it wasn't enough.
What the Tigers lacked in defense they made up for with one of their best shooting performances of the season.
"We couldn't stop the Rodholm kid," Sterling coach Mike Holloway said. "We were fortunate that we did shoot it well. We had trouble stopping him."
Carter Keil and Isaac Harris hit 3s in the waning minutes of the second quarter to help put Sterling up 29-23 at the half.
The Mustangs got as close as four after that. Rodholm blocked a jumper and finished on the other end, and Sienknecht immediately stole a pass at midcourt and ran into the paint for an easy layup to climb within 31-27 with 6:20 left in the third.
But the Tigers countered with three more 3s in the quarter and led 48-39.
From there, the lead never dipped under eight.
"Bottom line is they had really good ball movement and shot well from the perimeter," Manitou Springs coach Ken Vecchio said. "It happens, but I'm proud of the kids. We put ourselves in a tough spot with a couple mistakes, but they had a heck of an effort."
Manitou Springs lost only twice during the season - both against Colorado Springs Christian - and then made it to its second consecutive state quarterfinal.
The latest loss will stick around for a while.
Sienknecht, who fouled out and watched the final minutes from the bench Thursday, says the team will use it as motivation going forward.
"This game is going to eat away at me," the junior said. "It's an awful feeling watching my teammates fighting and me on the bench."
The Tigers will face No. 3 CSCS in the semifinals Friday.