As the Wolverines continually move up the ranks and advance through the rounds on their way to the state championship, the level of competition becomes lofty. Mullen demonstrated this early on Wednesday night, but in the second half, Chap played some of their best basketball all year and pulled out the 82-57 victory. Now advancing to the Elite 8, they find themselves just inches away from the title they’ve been chasing for four years, but the journey shouldn’t be easy.
When the Mullen Mustangs took the gym against Colorado’s number one team, they faced their opponent with poise, focus, and most important of all, confidence. Their size and athleticism nerved the cocky Chap crowd early, and when they brought it within five after the first quarter, the Wolverines had to make quick adjustments.
In order for Chaparral to keep their eyes on the prize, they’ll need their bench to be the spark plug that drives the momentum on both ends. It happened in the second round game against Fossil Ridge, and it happened again on Wednesday. Each of the Wolverine players that saw the floor scored at least one point, but it was their defensive intensity that made the difference.
The defensive attack was led by a senior that has been dominating the paint in his four years of varsity basketball. Bryce Matthews, who recently surpassed 1000 points in his Chaparral career, recorded 17 points (many of which were layups, dunks, and free throws), 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks, while only turning the ball over twice. The inside dominance was an aspect of Matthews’s game that fans can always expect, but the efficiency and strong fundamentals put himself over the top. Ever since Chap’s previous star big man Ronnie Degray left for Connecticut in the Fall, the question has been who would fill that void on both ends, and in his latest stretch, Matthews has been able to assume that star role.
With the paint secured and the defense intact, all the Wolverines needed to put together a virtually perfect performance was their shooting, and it didn’t take long to get that going as well. They shot an astounding 54 percent from the field and 44 percent from the three-point line, and the success was contagious. Senior Joseph Dalton set the tone early and finished with 11 points, 9 of those coming from deep. Senior Tanner Giles balanced his elite finishing inside with his shooting threat and contributed with 9 points. Another unsung hero was Junior Maverick Patten, hitting shots when the team needed it and shutting Mullen’s offense down. As head coach Tellus Truesdale said following the game, it was really “a full team effort.”
Eight teams left, and after Saturday night, that number will be cut in half. The Wolverines will meet the Cinderella team of the year Cherry Creek at 6:30 with the hopes of reaching their first final four in seven years. Chaparral know that there’s still Unfinished Business, but with a win on Saturday at Denver Coliseum, their chances to finish it will only get that much closer.
Story by Carson Frost
Photo by Reagan Taylor