By Michael Hicks
GREELEY –– Jeff Shields just wanted another chance to make up for the first opportunity he had that he wasn’t able to capitalize on. And when Ryan Barron drove the lane, collapsing the defense on him, he pushed the ball out to the left wing giving Shields the opportunity he longed for.
He wasn’t about to let a second chance go by the wayside.
The junior guard drained a 3-pointer with one second left in overtime as the Berthoud Spartans opened the 2008-09 boys’ basketball season with a thrilling 51-49 victory on Nov. 2 at Greeley Central.
The win marked the first time in eight games, dating back to Feb. 28, 2003, that the Spartans have beaten the Wildcats. It also matched Berthoud’s win total from a season ago when the Spartans went 1-22.
“It’s a huge win. We already tied as many wins as we had last year and this is the first game. So we can only build from here,” Shields said.
Berthoud led by 15 points early in the third quarter before foul trouble and the play of the Wildcats’ Gilbert Vasquez rallied Greeley Central. Down 31-16, the Wildcats scored 20 of the game’s next 25 points to tie the game at 36 with four minutes left in regulation.
The game was tied three more times before Shields missed a potential game-winning shot at the end of regulation to send the game into an extra session. Given a second chance in overtime, Shields didn’t miss again.
“I wasn’t shooting too hot today, but I knew if I got the ball with that shot I was going to hit it,” Shields said. “I already had one game-winner that I missed at the end of the fourth quarter. I figured I might as well hit it again from the corner.”
Joel Maly led Berthoud with 16 points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Maly’s absence, combined with the loss of Graham Shaw late in the second quarter due to a left knee injury, could have spelled doom for a Berthoud team playing with only eight varsity players. But Shields, Barron (who played the game’s final 12 minutes with four fouls) and company held things together long enough for Shields to give Berthoud a season-opening victory.
“It’s pretty big for us. They worked so hard in the off-season they’ve got to be rewarded for that,” Berthoud head coach Pete Scheck said. “If they didn’t get the win it would’ve been a hard pill to swallow.”
Shields added 10 points for Berthoud. Vasquez scored a game-high 17 points to lead Greeley Central. Xzaivier James added 13 for the Wildcats.
The only damper was Shaw’s injury. He initially injured the leg during football season, and now he’s dislocated the knee again. Scheck is hopeful to have one of his starters back before Christmas, but it’s more likely that Shaw will be out until after the holiday break.
With Shaw sidelined, Scheck expects Greg Hutchins, who was previously brought up from the junior varsity squad, to get more playing time and probably add one more player to the bench for depth purposes.