Regional curse continues for Basalt
As the buzzer sounded, Basalt High School boys’ coach Bill Crowley rested on one knee.
The five-year coach was petrified – gazing into space.
“I just couldn’t believe this happened again,” he said. “Three times in a row – I just couldn’t believe it.”
Hosting Burlington in the Class 3A Regionals at the Big House Friday night, the Cougars stunned Basalt with a 62-45 win.
The 12th-seeded Cougars out rebounded fifth-seeded Basalt 22-4 in the second half and held the Longhorns to just five points in the final six minutes en route to the upset.
The victory advanced Burlington (17-7) to the 3A High School Basketball State Championships beginning Thursday at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
For the Longhorns (17-7), whose season ended with the loss, the Regional nightmare continues.
In each of the past three years, the two-time defending District champions have been ousted in Regionals on the doorstep of the State Tournament.
“This was without question the one year I thought we were going to go to state,” Crowley said. “We were supposed to win that game – I don’t understand this.
“I’ve never had a better week of practice than I did the week before this game,” he continued. “There was no question in my mind that we were going to come out and play well – neither I nor the kids can explain what happened.”
It was just one week earlier that the Longhorns crushed Western Slope Conference champs and top-seeded Eagle Valley 61-48 in the 3A District Tournament.
Favored to win and finally get over the Regional hump, Basalt struggled early and couldn’t seem to find a rhythm.
`We just didn’t show up,” Crowley said. “We didn’t deserve to win.”
Along with the devastating loss was saying goodbye to four key seniors who, according to Crowley, “helped put Basalt basketball back on the map.”
For seniors Rodney Crawford, Sean Koutsakis, John Stahlman and Forrest Woolery, it was their last game at BHS.
All four were three-year starters for the Longhorns and played significant roles in the success of those three years – two-time WSC and District champions, three-time Regional qualifiers.
“The only thing that these kids truly cared about deep down inside was basketball,” Crowley said. “They worked harder than everybody else and all they ever wanted to do is win – to get beat by Burlington is just devastating.” The game In front of a standing-room only crowd at the Big House, the first quarter showed signs of what was to be a head-to-head battle.
Burlington’s 6-foot-6-inch Josh Hansen, who was an all-star at the Aspen Basketball Academy camp this summer at Aspen High School, sank a long 3-pointer on the Cougars’ first possession to spark the scoring pace for both teams.
Basalt’s seasonlong leading scorer Michael Palmer answered with a free-throw jumper to send the BHS crowd into a frenzy.
Burlington hit a short jumper in the lane to take a 5-2 lead before the real scoring began.
The Longhorns went on a 7-0 run ignited by a 3-pointer in the corner from Sean Koutsakis.
Palmer scored on a fastbreak layup and Koutsakis then scored a jumper in the lane to give Basalt a 9-5 lead.
The two teams then spent the next two minutes trading buckets as Burlington took a 17-16 lead going into the second period.
There, the Cougars began the period with an 8-0 run to take a 25-16 lead, forcing Crowley to take a timeout.
After the timeout, Basalt’s Forrest Woolery and John Stahlman both scored to cut the Burlington lead to 25-20.
During that stretch, Basalt’s Rodney Crawford picked up his third foul with just under four minutes to play, forcing him to the bench.
Stahlman and Koutsakis both scored jumpers to close the half, trailing Burlington 26-24.
Thirty-four seconds into the third period, Crawford picked up his fourth foul sending him back the to bench.
Burlington responded to the loss of Crawford and outscored the Longhorns 18-8 taking a 44-32 lead heading into the final period.
Midway through the final period, Basalt cut the Cougar lead to six, 46-40, with just under five minutes to play, but Burlington went on a 13-5 run to put the game away, and put an end to another remarkable year for the Longhorns.
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