By Van Williams
Media Classic Director
Even though their superstar had a quiet night, the ThunderRidge Grizzlies made lots of noise with a resounding 63-44 victory over the Colony Knights on Day 1 of the Alaska Airlines Classic at West High.
The state of Colorado’s top player Zach Keller scored eight points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a solid performance. He could have forced things to improve his stats, but he didn’t.
He didn’t need to.
Andrew Crawford stepped up with 16 points, six rebounds and made a living at the free-throw line. Jackson Brennan (10) and Mike Karnisovas (10) chipped in with double figures and Joe Bilello (9) just missed double digits.
The win moved ThunderRidge to 12-0 on the season and pushed the team’s winning streak to 20 games dating back to last season.
Keller, the 6-foot-9 rim rattler, made his presence felt in the opening minutes when he threw down a two-handed monster mash slam as part of ThunderRidge’s 17-2 run to open the game.
Credit Colony for settling in and fighting back against a much taller team that pressured, altered and changed seemingly every shot attempt.
Kash Luce provided the bookend buckets on a 16-6 run, scoring on a drive to get it started and finishing it off with a 3-pointer to help the Knights climb back within 23-18 early in the second quarter.
Joey Belello, a 6-foot-7 small forward, scored all nine of his points in the third quarter. His steal-and-slam pushed ThunderRidge’s lead to 42-24 near the end of the third quarter.
Crawford put in a complete performance. He made 5-of-10 field goals, including a 3-pointer. He was 9-of-11 from the foul line, including a 6-for-6 stretch in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter after Colony showed signs of making a run.
Colony (8-2) was led by Harvey Pullen’s 15 points. He made 7-of-12 shots after a slow start, showing patience and persistence.
Jayce Underwood recorded 10 points and five assists. His two free throws and driving layup pulled the Knights within 45-32 at the end of the third quarter.
ThunderRidge moved into Friday’s semifinals and will face St. Joseph (CA) at 6 p.m. AST at West High.
ThunderRidge Grizzlies 17 13 15 18 – 63
Dimond Lynx 8 10 14 12 – 44
ThunderRidge – Binu 4, Wight 0, Bilello 9, Karnisovas 10, Brennan 10, Walkowiak 0, Cremeen 2, Allen 2, Franquemont 2, Crawford 16, Spann 0, Keller 8.
Colony – K.Dinkel 2, Morgan 2, B.Dinkel 8, Underwood 10, Peterson 0, Wakaliuk 0, Luce 7, White 0, Pullen 15, 0.