Published: February 26, 2014
Monument - The Cave at Palmer Ridge became eerily quiet on Wednesday night as the Mitchell boys' basketball team cut the Palmer Ridge lead to three with five minutes to go in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
The strong continent of passionate Marauders fans began to stand and cheer, while the Palmer Ridge student section looked on uneasily.
Thirty-five seconds later the Palmer Ridge hibernation was over when junior Matt Cameron slipped past the Mitchell press, received a deep inbounds pass from Matt Kostenbauer and the 6-foot-4 forward threw down an emphatic two-handed dunk to give the ninth-seeded Bears (14-10) a seven-point lead and propel them to a 56-44 victory over No. 8 Mitchell (12-12).
"It was wild," Cameron said. "Our fans went crazy. They pumped us up and we went on from there to win the game. "
Palmer Ridge coach Nick Mayer drew up the play, hoping it would spring Cameron free for a dunk opportunity and swing the momentum back in Palmer Ridge's favor.
"I knew we were losing the momentum, and I knew if he could find a way to get the dunk it would get the crowd going and that would help propel us to the win," Mayer said.
The only thing that went wrong on the play was Cameron had to leave the game as both his calves cramped up on him on the dunk.
"That was a breakdown," first-year Mitchell coach Jarris Krapcha said. "We never want to get beat deep. If you want to say that's the straw that broke the camel's back you could say that, sure."
It was a crushing blow to the Marauders after valiantly scratching and crawling their way back thanks to a 7-0 run in the fourth quarter courtesy of four points from Devinn Glover and a Keven Rovnan 3-pointer.
Marcus Phillips had a strong effort for the Marauders with 10 points and seven rebounds. He couldn't be prouder of where Mitchell got to after going 10-36 the past two seasons.
"I'm proud of every single one of them in there," Phillips said as he pointed toward the locker room. "They're going to be great and are going to go pretty far next year. They battled hard all year."
Cameron, who was scoreless in the first quarter, finished with a game-high 21 points and eight rebounds by being a force inside the paint. The junior capped off a 10-point second-quarter performance with a tip-in at the buzzer to give the Bears a 29-19 halftime lead.
Palmer Ridge never trailed after Nick Vitwar (eight points) started the game with back-to-back baskets in the paint.
The Bears' interior game was too much for Phillips and the Marauders, who could not get their 3-point game going consistently, despite receiving 14 points from sophomore shooter David Perea.
Palmer Ridge faces No. 1 Pueblo South (21-2) Friday night at the Colorado State Fair Event Center.
"They are a No. 1 seed for a reason," Mayer said. "We are going to have to do all the little things perfect and everything to the best of our abilities and not beat ourselves."