Widefield boys claim rivalry win over Mesa Ridge basketball despite a few Grizzly comebacks

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Photo - Mesa Ridge Grizzlies senior DJ King (23) and Widefield Gladiators sophomore Randall Days (30) battle for the ball in the third quarter.  The Gladiators defeated the Grizzlies 65-58 in boys' basketball on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at Widefield High School. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing

Mesa Ridge Grizzlies senior DJ King (23) and Widefield Gladiators sophomore Randall Days (30) battle for the ball in the third quarter. The Gladiators defeated the Grizzlies 65-58 in boys' basketball on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at Widefield High School. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing

The Widefield-Mesa Ridge rivalry is an intense matchup regardless of the sport. But Wednesday the boys’ basketball teams took it one step further.

Mesa Ridge stormed back after trailing Widefield three times in the back-and-forth 4A Colorado Springs Metro duel, but Widefield, which hasn’t lost since the last matchup against Mesa Ridge in early January, was not giving up that easily.

Twelve free throws in the last four minutes of play gave Widefield the edge over Mesa Ridge for a 65-58 win.

Widefield held a 14-9 lead after the first quarter thanks to its physical defense and work on the boards. The Gladiators put up a 8-0 run midway through the quarter thanks to a number of Mesa Ridge missed shots and rebounds.

“I think more than anything we had to settle down and realize that when the shot goes up we can’t stand, we have to do what we practiced,” Mesa Ridge coach Yantz Robinson said. “We have a couple things that we work on to get around being boxed out, and we just really needed to settle down and let the game come to us.”

But Mesa Ridge eliminated a nine-point deficit before halftime to lead 27-24 at the break.

From there it was a back-and-forth affair.

Widefield senior Tre Pierre said the team used the energy of the rivalry to feed off each other, despite Mesa Ridge forging a comeback.

“Last time against them we got beat on the help side a lot, so the emphasis this week was helping the helper,” Pierre said. “We went really hard in practice and we knew what we wanted to do, and that helped us tonight.”

Pierre finished with 19 points for the Gladiators (14-4, 9-2), followed by TJ Davis with 18. Davis entered Wednesday’s game needing 21 points to reach 1,000 on his career, but fell three short. His next chance to hit the millennium club will be on Friday at home against Elizabeth. Randall Days also scored in double figures for the Gladiators with 10 points.

Mesa Ridge (12-7, 9-3) was led by Deven Nelson with 20 points. DJ King also reached double figures for the Grizzlies with 10 points, followed by Daevion Kinnard who came off the bench to score nine.

Mesa Ridge entered Widefield’s gym fresh off the team’s first loss in 11 games thanks to a five-point defeat by The Classical Academy.

“You come in here in a big rivalry game, the guys are hyped up for it on both sides and getting after it,” Robinson said. “There are a few things that didn’t go our way and a few things that we didn’t do as a team but we’re still together, and hopefully we can do some things, learn from this and get back to the drawing board.”

Widefield, on the other hand, was ready to extend its winning streak and find redemption versus the Grizzlies after a 10-point loss on Jan. 9.

“All season we knew what we were capable of, we just needed to get things going and get rolling, and now we’re on our way up,” Pierre said.