Summit High School boys basketball proud of season of growth despite state playoff loss

Holy Family’s Garrett Green tries to break through Summit’s defense during a playoff game Wednesday, Feb. 26, at Summit High School in Breckenridge.
Liz Copan / [email protected]

BRECKENRIDGE — The moment happened for senior Dylan Huston as he hugged junior point guard Hector Diaz at center court. They emotionally embraced at the end of Wednesday night’s 56-46 state playoff loss to Holy Family.

The moment happened for Tigers senior Ben Rider a few minutes earlier, when the captain sunk into the last seat on the bench, gazing down at the hardwood.

The moment is that instance in time when a high school senior basketball player realizes he’ll never run through a layup line again. It begins to sink in that he’ll never listen to a coach in a timeout again. The hurt creeps in that he’ll never take the floor in the same uniform as his friends again.

Holy Family’s offensive execution and stout defense led to that moment — the tearful end of the basketball journey — for Huston, Rider and fellow senior leader and co-leading scorer Corbin Furrey (12) on Wednesday night at Summit High School in Breckenridge. But after a season of growth with a final 11-13 record, including hosting a state playoff game for the first time in memory, this senior Tigers trio will be remembered as the group that helped turn around basketball in Summit County, head coach Jordan Buller said.

All week in the lead-up to the state tournament opener versus Holy Family, Buller chatted with his guys about life’s cycles and about that old cliché that sports reflect life. But clichés are often true. And Buller wanted to make sure his guys knew this season was a success no matter the head-in-hands hurt they felt in the moment.

“We did a lot of things this year that I think we as a program — me as a head coach — we’ve been striving for,” Buller said.

“If you would have told me this summer that our team would have finished at 11-13 and hosted a tournament game, I would have probably laughed in your face,” the coach added. “I wasn’t convinced we had that kind of talent. But these guys showed a lot of heart. And it came a lot out of our seniors. I think those guys last year participating in a five-win season, there was a lot of motivation to get better.”

Wednesday night’s game had its own cycles. After Huston began the game with a bang and Summit’s first bucket, the Tigers trailed 11-2 near the end of an offensively weak first quarter. Then the Tigers exploded, executing a brilliant four-high set for a 3 by sharpshooter Nazarie Poliuk that kindled the outburst. Summit followed it up with a 3-pointer by co-leading scorer Cam Kalaf (12) and then an offensive rebound and follow bucket by Kalaf to cut the deficit to 11-10 after the first quarter and send the impressive home crowd, energized despite school break, into a frenzy.

But Holy Family’s point guard play from Dom Nellis and 35-point master-class offensive showing by Garrett Green proved too much. Green made a dozen shots from the field, including seven 3-pointers, to power Holy Family, which took a 29-18 lead into halftime before Summit outscored the visiting Tigers 28-27 in the second half.

With the emotion of the moment still fresh, Buller lauded this 2019-20 team for its commitment to fight hard in practice to become a team built around defense and energy. In years past, Summit wasn’t known for its ability to stop the opposition. Wednesday night was the latest example that the Tigers could guard. Before the season began, Buller said he’d been working to instill in this group that basketball, more often than not, is about imposing your will on your opponent. After Wednesday’s loss, he was candid that Summit County’s isolated location has a tendency, especially in basketball, to insulate the county’s best players from facing bigger, stronger, tougher kids from the city.

This group took a giant leap forward in the toughness department, and their aggressive defense Wednesday night, especially early, proved that.

After the pain of the moment wears off, that’s how these Tigers will remember themselves.

“You know,” Buller said, “they always just kept fighting.”

LIVE: Join Summit Daily Sports & Outdoors Editor Antonio Olivero for our first half broadcast as the Summit High School boys basketball team hosts a state tournament first round game for the first time in years versus Holy Family…

Posted by Summit Daily News on Wednesday, February 26, 2020

LIVE: Join Summit Daily Sports & Outdoors Editor Antonio Olivero for our second half broadcast of the Summit High varsity boys basketball team’s state tournament game hosting Holy Family, who leads 29-18 as the second half begins…

Posted by Summit Daily News on Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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