MEEKER — The Meeker Cowboys boys’ basketball team returned from the Colorado State Tournament last Sunday with the third-place trophy.
Meeker’s third-place finish at the state marks the highest finish a boys’ basketball team from Meeker has been able to garner at the prestigious tournament. Meeker achieved the trophy by way of a 2-1 record over the three days in Pueblo. The Cowboys’ lone blemish in the tournament came in the semifinal game against the Colorado Springs School Kodiaks, the eventual state champions. Meeker picked up victories against Sanford in the first round, and Ignacio in the third-place game.
Last Thursday, the number two-seeded Cowboys were able to win against the number seven-seeded Sanford Indians 47-43. Both teams had trouble finding the basket in the first game. Meeker was able to gain a slim advantage at the end of the first quarter 9-7 on Tyrel Gerloff’s four points and Brian Crowe’s 3-point shot.
Whether a case of tournament nerves or lack of familiarity with the surroundings, Meeker’s scoring production went down in the second stanza as only Crowe was able to find the basket for Meeker, accounting for all of the Cowboy’s five second quarter points. Sanford though was able to put together a 10-point effort in the period and took a 17-14 lead over the ‘Pokes into the halftime break. The third quarter for Meeker has been a productive offensive quarter for the Cowboys over the season. Mitch Jacob was able to pick up six points for the Cowboys in the quarter, Dakota Rowlett picked up four, and Crowe continued his long-range attack as Meeker regained the lead with eight minutes left to play 30-29.
Meeker was only able to gather two baskets in the fourth quarter, one by Jacob, and one by Rowlett; however, Sanford sent the Cowboys to the free-throw line 25 times in the fourth quarter alone. Meeker was only able to convert on 13 of the free opportunities, but it proved to be enough. In the period, Crowe went to the charity stripe 10 times, converting five that helped seal the victory for the Cowboys 47-43. Crowe led all scorers in the game with 16, while Jacob added 11.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well against Sanford,” said Cowboy Coach Klark Kindler.
“And, we didn’t shoot free throws well either,” said the coach of the team’s 15-33 effort at the line. “We just gutted it out and found a way to win.”
With the win, Meeker advanced to play against the Colorado Springs School Kodiaks in the semifinal game.
Meeker’s game against the number three-seeded Kodiaks ended the Cowboys hopes for the coveted Gold Ball. Meeker wasn’t able to get their high-powered offense in gear against the Colorado Springs School.
“Their speed and quickness hurt us,” Kindler said.
The Kodiaks’ tournament MVP DeLovell Earls, a 6-4 junior, was the main weapon for CSS. Earls scored nine points in the first frame alone; the Cowboys were only able to counter with eight as a team, four of which came from Jacob.
In the second period, the Kodiaks lengthened their lead to 33-19 over the ‘Pokes. The second half proved to be more of the same; Meeker just could not get into a rhythm.
“We couldn”t protect the ball the way we really needed to,” Kindler said. Colorado Springs School came away with a 66-41 victory over the Cowboys to send them into the third-place game against the Ignacio Bobcats. Earls ended the game scoring 30 points for the opponents. Meeker was led by Mitch Jacobs’ 17, while Crowe added 10 more.
Saturday against Ignacio, Crowe was there to prove the Cowboys belonged in the state tournament. Shaking off the after-effects of the loss the night before, Crowe came out “on fire” for the Cowboys.
The senior point guard, playing in his last game for the Cowboys, opened up the game hitting his first 3-point attempt, Crowe scored on the ‘Pokes next possession with a layup. Jacob then tipped in a missed shot, before Crowe went on a tirade of treys, hitting the next five out of seven shots he put up from 3-point land.
Not to be outdone, Jacob added to the triple pounding of the Bobcats with three long-range bombs of his own. When the smoke had cleared at the end of the first half, Crowe had counted 22 Cowboy points, and Jacob had 12 in staking their Cowboy teammates to a 38-22 halftime lead.
Meeker’s sharpshooters cooled off in the second half, but the inside trio of Rowlett, Gerloff and Colton Brown kept Meeker scoring, while their defense against the Bobcat’s 6-8 Alex Herrera stifled the Bobcat offensive threat. Ignacio put together a couple of runs against the Cowboys, but Meeker was well up to the task and ended the game with a 56-41 victory claiming the third-place trophy.
“We don’t play a lot of zone (defense) but, the kids executed it very well,” said Kindler of the Cowboy defense that gave the Bobcats fits all afternoon.
For the tournament, Crowe led the ‘Pokes scoring with 48 points (including 10 3-pointers), Jacob counted 42 (6 3-pointers), Rowlett 19, Gerloff 18, Brown 8, Campbell 5, Nieslanik 2, Kilduff 2.
Meeker concluded the season with a 25-2 record.
“I think the people enjoyed our season, the community support has been outstanding throughout the entire year,” Kindler said.
The post-season honors began almost immediately for the Cowboys. Jacob was named to the 2A all-tournament team along with Austin Tharp, Holyoke; Kyle Carper, Holyoke; Jonathan McGinley, Heritage Christian; and MVP Earls, Colorado Springs School.
On Sunday, Crowe was selected to play in the annual all-state games in June. Also, Kindler was chosen to coach one of the teams.
Meeker 9 5 16 17 – 47
Sanford 7 10 12 14 – 43
Jacob 2-1-4-7-11, Rowlett 4-0-1-4-9, Brown 0-0-2-4-2, Nieslanik 0-0-2-0-0, Gerloff 3-0-1-4-7, Campbell 0-0-2-2-2, Crowe 1-3-5-10-16. Totals 10-4-15-33-47
Meeker 8 11 13 9 – 41
C.S.S. 16 17 16 17 – 66
Jacob 5-2-1-1-17, Rowlett 2-0-0-0-4, Brown 1-0-2-2-4, Gerloff 2-0-0-2-4, Campbell 0-0-0-2-0, Crowe 2-1-3-4-10, Kilduff 1-0-0-0-2. Totals 13-3-6-11-41.
Meeker 16 22 12 6 – 56
Ignacio 9 13 8 13 – 41
Jacob 1-3-3-4-14, Rowlett 1-0-4-4-6, Brown 1-0-0-1-2, Nieslanik 1-0-0-0-2, Gerloff 2-0-3-4-7, Steiner 0-0-2-0, Campbell 0-0-3-4-3, Crowe 1-6-2-4-22. Totals 7-9-15-23-56.