Emotion on the court can be a double-edged sword — the catalyst to defeat a tough opponent or the key to a team’s undoing. For the Littleton Lions’ boys basketball team on Jan. 4, it was the key to their undoing.
The Lions let their emotions get the better of them in the fourth quarter, giving up their third-period lead in allowing the Evergreen Cougars to score a 68-57 win.
“(We had) a good second half,” Evergreen head coach Scott Haebe said. “Our defense in the first half was awful. We just gave layup after layup. But it seemed like we got going in the second half.”
Haebe was pleased with the Cougars’ fourth-quarter recovery. noting that fourth-quarter meltdowns seemed to have been the team’s crux this season. Evergreen (5-4) was coming off a loss to Heritage thanks to fourth-quarter turnovers. The loss dropped Littleton to 5-5.
Perhaps Littleton knew about Evergreen’s tendency to unravel in the fourth, but the Lions let themselves get carried away with excitement at the prospect of winning and started to play sloppy.
“In the third quarter I thought that we had (the game) on lock,” Littleton senior power forward Ashton Malmstrom said. “Our defense was running, our offense was scoring, everything was happening. And then in the fourth, we played amazing defense, but they were hitting amazing shots.”
But the fourth quarter wasn’t the end-all-be-all period. Late in the second, Littleton started to show cracks. The Lions were called for a technical foul, allowing EHS senior Andre Lane to hit two free throws.
Evergreen’s lead in the first two periods was only a couple of points, so when Littleton racked up 21 points in the third it appeared to have the game in the bag. It didn’t.
“If we had played more conservatively, like we did in the first three quarters, then we would have definitely had the ‘W.’ But that last quarter we were rushing things,” Malmstrom said.
That might have been a pipe dream considering Evergreen senior point guard Colin Elmgreen, a master of the pick and roll, scored a game-high 30 points.
“Both teams played hard. Our guys had a couple bombs there in the second and fourth quarter,” Littleton head coach Dan Ellis said. “We had 15 fouls to (their) four in the second half. That’s pretty bad.
“We gave them some backdoors and we left their two shooters open and they banged two (field goals) in from NBA 3’s.”