Widefield senior Tre Pierre and his Gladiators boys’ basketball teammates learned a harsh lesson in the toughest of ways in Saturday’s Class 4A quarterfinal against second-seeded Lewis-Palmer.
A combination of talent, dedication and desire does not guarantee a happy ending in sport, especially at a point when every team has skilled players working to prevent the next game from being their last.
That message was delivered when Matthew Ragsdale buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the Rangers to Denver for the semifinals, leaving the Gladiators to walk back to their bench through a crowd of Lewis-Palmer students who rushed the court.
With the Gladiators facing an 11-point halftime deficit, any late-game drama seemed unlikely. Pierre made sure his team wouldn’t go down meekly, scoring 22 of his 24 points in the second half to earn Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week.
“I just didn’t want it to be my last game,” Pierre said. “We knew we had to fight hard the whole game. It wasn’t going to come easy.”
Earlier in the week, Pierre put up 17 points on 7 of 11 shooting with five rebounds as the 10th-seeded Gladiators downed Silver Creek, the seven seed, 54-51 to extend their winning streak to 15 games. The 6-foot-5 senior was at his best in the second half against Lewis-Palmer, however.
He scored eight of Widefield’s 22 third-quarter points to pull within four. In the fourth quarter, he scored 14 of the team’s 23 points, including a double-clutch shot in the lane that rolled around and down with about five seconds left to pull the Gladiators even.
After a Lewis-Palmer timeout, Pierre guarded the inbounds man and was rendered helpless as Ragsdale came off a screen, raced down the court and pulled up just in front of the Rangers student section.
“I’ve watched the video 1,000 times. I’ve reevaluated what we could’ve done, what we should’ve done, but I guess that’s how it worked,” Pierre said. “That’s how it came out, so we can’t do anything about it.”
Luckily for Pierre, there's hope Saturday’s ending was just the close to one chapter, as he starts to sift through his options to play at the next level.
“I think he’s got the right mentality,” Widefield coach Mark Munoz said. “I think that his passion for the game will be the deciding factor. He loves this game, and whenever you love something I think sometimes it’s like you’re not going to work.”
Pierre’s game may require some work before the next level, as many teams now want their forwards to come with an ability to stretch defenses from beyond the arc. While he made 32 percent of his 3-pointers this season, most of his buckets came on the interior.
“Our philosophy is a little bit different from most teams these days. Everybody else is chucking that 3(-pointer). We’re a look inside-out first team,” Munoz said.
“He was able to do whatever we asked him to do.”
He finished the season as Widefield’s leading scorer, averaging 19.8 points and 8.3 rebounds for a team that won the 4A Colorado Springs Metro League.
“I told the kids, I said ‘You know what, when you look at this and reflect, it may not be tomorrow and it may not be next week, but certainly when you reflect on this season, we won 21 games. We won 15 in a row, we were league champs and you got the Great 8,’” Munoz said. “That’s a pretty good season.”
Pierre seems to already have digested his coach’s message.
“We conquered a huge milestone by winning league this year. That was really good for us,” Pierre said.
“There’s only a few guys that can say that they’re league champions. We’re going to have a banner.”
Other Peak Performers
Matthew Ragsdale, Lewis-Palmer
The Ranger junior not only hit the game-winning 3-pointer for the Rangers, he hit three others and finished with 19 points and two rebounds in the quarterfinal win. Earlier in the week, he hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored 15 points in a Round of 16 win over rival Palmer Ridge.
Aaliyah Ricketts, Widefield
While the Gladiator boys saw their season end at the buzzer, Ricketts, a junior, extended the Widefield girls' season with the game-winning jumper against Golden on Friday. She finished with a team-high 18 points after scoring 11 in a 6-point win over Holy Family on Tuesday.