Last week's regional playoffs were held throughout the state of Colorado. Delta joined Bayfield, Alamosa and Rye in a regional challenge in Bayfield. Alamosa (No. 12) and Rye (No. 21) played in the first game on Friday. Alamosa emerged the victor, 52-44, in that contest. Delta and Bayfield played in the evening's marques matchup.
The Panthers came into the game against Bayfield as the tournament's No. 28 team while host Bayfield sported a 15-6 record and carried the No. 5 seed. The Panthers sported one of the lower win-loss records in the tournament at 12-10 but had six combined losses to No. 7 Coal Ridge (the 3A WSL champion), No. 9 Basalt (second in 3A WSL play) and No. 18 Roaring Fork (third in 3A WSL).
The Panthers knew they were potential dark horses in the tournament with stiff competition from the above mentioned WSL foes.
Delta was on its way to a blowout victory over Bayfield with a 61-41 lead after three quarters. Unforseen circumstances changed the game's margin of victory with the Wolverines clawing their way to a big fourth quarter before falling 78-75.
Saturday's game was a huge letdown for Delta with much of the credit going to Alamosa's stout defensive effort in a 50-38 loss for the Panthers.
Delta 78, Bayfield 75
Delta had one of its best games of the season for three and a half quarters of play against the Wolverines.
The Panthers ran, and shot, their way to a 40-29 halftime lead. Delta senior Beau Byers orchestrated a season-best effort against the Wolverines. His leadership sparked an offensive show which featured Byers' ability to drive to the rim for easy shots or dishes to a waiting teammate for an equally easy shot. Byers was deadly from in close and hit shots ranging from 10 to 20 feet for a team-high 22 points.
Bayfield had no answers for what Byers was dishing out, except for junior Ryan Phelps, who single-handedly kept the Wolverines in the same time zone with 19 points in the first half.
Delta controlled the game with a 20-point lead just before the start of the fourth quarter. A 65-43 early in the final stanza had Delta fans giddy with anticipation of victory.
Bayfield found a burst of energy and began a furious comeback run, which was fueled by some unbelievable shooting and numerous other contributing factors, which changed the game's momentum drastically.
There were 40 fouls whistled in the game and Delta was on the wrong end of that category in each half.
The Wolverines were able to score many of their fourth-quarter points off fouls, and numerous other infractions seemingly detected by the game's officiating crew.
Delta's 22-point lead dwindled to 78-75 with the Wolverines managing to have numerous scoring opportunities from 11.6 seconds down to the final try for goal with .2 seconds left.
By the time the final buzzer had sounded, Bayfield had outscored the Panthers 34-17, making the final score 78-75.
Byers' 22 points topped Delta shooters in the game with junior Logan Freed adding 16 and sophomore Andrew Baier chipping in 11.
Phelps dumped in a game high 32 points for the Wolverines with double-digit help coming from sophomores Hayden Farmer (13) and Keyon Prior (11).
Alamosa 50, Delta 38
There was a notable contrast in Saturday's contest against Alamosa. Delta's running game was not as potent as it had been in Friday's win over Bayfield. The Mean Moose defense held Delta's offense in check and prevented the Panthers from reaching double figures in three of the four quarters played.
Delta only scored 18 first-half points, but the Panthers' defense did its job as well limiting Alamosa to 20.
Alamosa dictated game tempo with its precise offensive sets keeping the ball in the Mean Moose's end of the court for long periods of time.
Delta's failure to convert on numerous close shots cost it dearly as the game progressed. Many of the shots that spelled success on Friday were not falling with enough regularity on Saturday.
One of the biggest advantages in the game for Alamosa was the play of senior Angelo Ramirez. He was nearly impossible to keep off the boards at either end of the court. His rebounding either enabled the Mean Moose an extra shot or stopped a Delta offensive threat with just one shot in a possession.
Ramirez was the game's leading scorer with 13 points, with teammate Noah Romero finishing with 10 counters. Delta's Byers paced Delta shooters with 11 points and Freed finished with 10.
The Panthers end their season with a 13-11 record and are projected to finish in the top 20 after state tournament play concludes on Saturday in Denver at Denver Universtiy.
Alamosa (20-3) was the 12th seed coming into last week's regional play and is scheduled to face No. 13 Faith Christian (16-8) at 10:15 a.m. on Thursday, March 9.
Basalt, the lone WSL team remaining in state tournament contention, is No. 9 (21-3) and battles No. 1 Kent Denver (21-3) at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Coal Ridge (18-6), the 3A WSL champion, and seventh seed, fell to No. 10 Sterling (18-5) 61-59 last Saturday and Roaring Fork, which finished third in the 3A WSL race, finished the season at 18-6 after falling to No. 2 Manitou Springs (22-2) by a 56-54 decision on Saturday as well.
Delta coach Von Mitchell delivered a post-game message to his players following Saturday's loss. He praised his players for their growth throughout the season.
"I am so incredibly proud of you," noted Mitchell during his post-game talk. He took time to praise his seniors (Nate Sanders, Tre Johnson, Blake Reiher and Beau Byers) individually. The remaining players were given the same attention as he thanked each one for their roles on this year's squad.