Soroco’s AJ Anderson, left, and Nic Paxton fight with Gilpin County sophomore Morgan Foelsch for a rebound Saturday. The Rams were up big, then fell behind, but they ended up winning the game in overtime, 78-70.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Soroco’s AJ Anderson, left, and Nic Paxton fight with Gilpin County sophomore Morgan Foelsch for a rebound Saturday. The Rams were up big, then fell behind, but they ended up winning the game in overtime, 78-70.

Soroco boys hoops hangs on for overtime win

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Soroco's Charley Fitzhugh slips the ball around a pair of Gilpin County defenders on Saturday.

— It was a day of discovery for the Soroco High School boys basketball team.

The Rams realized that they can play defense and shoot well enough to rack up a 20-point lead on a quality opponent and that they are capable of giving back all those points.

The prevailing message, however, was that this is a group that can come out on top in a rollercoaster game against a good team. Soroco weathered the bad and discovered the good, outlasting Gilpin County to win, 78-70, in overtime Saturday in Oak Creek.

“We can play a whole game. We never give up, and we never get down,” sophomore Ryan Jeep said. “We wanted to play our game. We had that in our heads throughout the whole game, and we did a good job with that.”

None of Saturday’s positive revelations qualify as old news — not for a team that won just four times a year ago. But the Rams (2-0) showed they could shoot in their season-opening win against North Park, and they re-enforced it early against Gilpin County. Senior Nic Paxton and sophomore Matt Regan reigned supreme early, bombing in shots to help lift the Rams to a 26-6 lead midway through the second quarter.

Paxton led Soroco with 28 points, 12 coming on four 3-point shots. Regan, meanwhile, scored 18.

It was Jeep who helped tilt things for the Rams down the stretch, however. The forward took control in the paint and put up 15 rebounds and, spinning through an array of post moves and putting back every missed shot he could get his hands on, finished with 23 points.

Gilpin County rallied from that early deficit and took control in the second half, but Jeep scored an easy lay-in on a pass from AJ Anderson with one minute to go in regulation to tie the game. Then Jeep scored four points in overtime to help put it away.

“He had a big double-double,” Soroco coach Sam McLeod said about Jeep. “He needed a big game. We need to establish a post presence to go along with our shooters. If we can have an inside and outside game, that’s something we can build on.”

The Eagles got back in the game early by deciphering Soroco’s defense and on the strength of big minutes from Jon Adams, who scored 23 but fouled out in the fourth, and Chris Randall, who poured in 30 to lead all scorers.

The Eagles erased most of the huge deficit with an 18-3 run through most of the second quarter. Overall, a 32-9 run gave Gilpin County a lead midway through the third quarter.

“We switched to a 1-3-1 defense, and that woke our kids up,” Eagles coach Paul Hanson said. “Both teams could have won. There was great effort by both teams, and it was a great battle.”

The Eagles stayed in command, taking advantage of increasingly regular Soroco turnovers but never put the game away. Jeep led the rally, scoring 13 points in the third quarter and overtime. Regan added a trey on an assist from Paxton late in the fourth quarter, and Paxton had one of his own in overtime to secure the win.

“I was impressed that when we did get into overtime we did take care of the ball better,” McLeod said. “That’s important for a young team like we have.

“I’m pleased. We still have plenty to work on, but I like the strides we’ve made.”

— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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