Mesa Ridge eliminates rival Widefield as Dylan Mileto hits 1,000-point mark

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Photo - Mesa Ridge's head coach Paul Mileto gives instruction to his team. Sierra won the game 65-64 at Sierra High School on Tuesday, January 24, 2017. JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE
Mesa Ridge's head coach Paul Mileto gives instruction to his team. Sierra won the game 65-64 at Sierra High School on Tuesday, January 24, 2017. JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE

Senior Dylan Mileto entered Saturday night's game needing 23 points to become the first boys' basketball player in Mesa Ridge history to reach 1,000 points.

With 2:05 to play and Mesa Ridge up 14 over crosstown league rival Widefield, Mileto drained his last basket of the night on a 3-pointer to finish with exactly 23 points, and the No. 16 Grizzlies (18-6) earned their first playoff win since 2014 with an 86-70 victory over the No. 17 Gladiators (17-8) in front of a packed house at Mesa Ridge.

"I knew it was there, but I was mainly focused on the win, because I know if we win then I'll definitely reach that goal," Mileto said of the 1,000-point mark. "It was just about winning.

"It's great to finally get that relief of getting past the first round."

The win was the sixth consecutive for Mesa Ridge. The last time the Grizzlies lost was Feb. 1 when they fell to Widefield 77-68 on the Grizzlies' floor. The two rivals split the regular season series and the Gladiators earned a chance to do it again after beating No. 48 Roosevelt in the first round of the playoffs, but Widefield came up short this time.

The Grizzlies had a first-round bye.

"I feel like we played hard," said Widefield junior Tre Pierre, who finished with a team-high 18 points. "We gave it our all and everything, but I guess they played harder."

Widefield was plagued by missed free throws much of the second half. Each time it had a chance to get closer to the Grizzlies, it failed to convert and finished 22 of 41 from the charity stripe.

"That was a really big factor in the game," said Mesa Ridge coach Paul Mileto. "We shot 26 free throws, made 20, so we almost made as many as they did and they shot twice as much, so that was big for us."

The game was tied three times in the first quarter before the Grizzlies took a 20-17 lead after one. The Gladiators grabbed their second lead of the night in the second and led 30-29 with 1:20 to play in the half, but 25 seconds later the Grizzlies regained the lead and never gave it up again.

"That's always a big win for us," Paul Mileto said."We have a lot of respect for (Widefield). The kids know each other and it's always going to be one of the biggest games in the city regardless of what's at stake."

The Grizzlies found a little breathing room as they pushed their lead to 15 in the third quarter. Widefield tried for the comeback, but couldn't get any closer than nine points.

Dalen Jackson, who became the all-time assists leader at Mesa Ridge on Saturday, scored 17 for the Grizzlies, while teammate Deven Nelson finished with 16. Daz Rogers and TJ Davis scored 15 and 14, respectively, for Widefield.

The Grizzlies' reward for advancing to the round of 16 is a trip to last year's 4A state runner-up, No. 1 Valor Christian on Wednesday.

"Our kids have heard it from me already," Paul Mileto said. "We're not playing just to get to the Sweet 16, we're playing to get all the way to the championship game, so we're prepared."