Peter­son has Lake­wood Tigers try­ing to get their claws on ti­tle

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Kyle New­man

get a lot of e-mails, but none as awe­some as the ones I’ve been re­ceiv­ing this win­ter from Bill Peter­son, a 91-year-old vet­eran with a long­time love of bas­ket­ball.

Bill’s five sons in­clude Chris Peter­son, who was an all-state bas­ket­ball player at Jef­fer­son High School in the early 1980s and went on to play at Creighton Univer­sity. Bill has been keep­ing me up to date on all things Jef­fco bas­ket­ball — past and present — such as how in his sons’ hey­days, Bill said, he was well known for dis­ap­pear­ing be­hind the bleach­ers dur­ing tense mo­ments at the end of games.

Fast for­ward a few decades, and now Bill says he of­ten has to recharge his pace­maker bat­ter­ies af­ter watch­ing his grand­son, Kolton Peter­son, bat­tle against the top teams in the state. Kolton is the star se­nior shoot­ing guard for No. 7 Lake­wood (5-2), and he broke the Class 5A ca­reer record for 3-point­ers this sea­son.

With Kolton’s grand­fa­ther of­ten in the stands — Bill and his 88-year-old wife at­tend most home games, but night driv­ing of­ten makes it dif­fi­cult for them to catch road games — and the abil­i­ties and achieve­ments of his fa­ther wholly within him, Kolton is buoyed by his hoops lineage as he leads the ca­pa­ble Tigers on a push for league and post­sea­son suc­cess.

Add to all this the fact that Lake­wood coach Daryl John­son lives only a cou­ple of blocks from Bill’s house in Edge­wa­ter, and the re­sult is a fam­ily dy­namic in the Tigers’ pro­gram that is hard to come by in the age of trans­fers and open en­roll­ment. John­son notes that he is close with Bill and Chris, who has molded his sec­ond all-state bas­ket­ball player (Kolton’s older brother starred at Green Moun­tain from 2006-10) in large part thanks to the count­less hours put in at High Five Sports, a sports train­ing fa­cil­ity owned by Chris.

“I think back to when I was younger, when my dad coached my brother, and I’d al­ways sit on the bench with him and help out,” said Kolton Peter­son, who is com­mit­ted to play at Colorado Mesa Univer­sity. “Plus all the hours we’ve spent to­gether at (High Five Sports) has been cru­cial too, and the amount of shots we’ve put up to­gether and the things I’ve taken from his brain and his ex­pe­ri­ence has re­ally helped me.”

And while Bill ad­mits he will con­tinue to stress while watch­ing his grand­son’s Tigers — and while John­son’s groovy-pat­terned pants he dons each game day can’t hide the fact that he’s an emo­tion­ally charged coach — Kolton con­tin­ues to be a sta­bi­liz­ing force on the court for Lake­wood, which re­turned its en­tire start­ing lineup from last sea­son’s sec­ond-round play­off show­ing.

“He has this great char­ac­ter about him, an eas­i­ness about him, be­cause he puts things in God’s hands,” John­son said. “A lot of times when I’m yelling from the bench, he’s able to calm me down, and that in it­self paints a pic­ture of his ma­tu­rity and his char­ac­ter and how ef­fec­tive a leader he is for us.”

Se­niors Dal­las Bai­ley, Brandt Christy and Ja­cob Storey, in ad­di­tion to ju­nior Ezekiel Sund­berg, com­ple­ment Kolton’s sharp­shoot­ing and give the Tigers the po­ten­tial to be play­ing for a 5A state cham­pi­onship at the Den­ver Coli­seum in March.

“Ev­ery­thing we’ve gone through the last four years has molded us, and us four se­niors have played to­gether on var­sity since sopho­more year,” Kolton said. “Year by year, ev­ery­thing keeps get­ting crisper, and ev­ery­thing gets a lit­tle bit bet­ter, but now it’s about do­ing the lit­tle things right. I think we’ve been so close to be­ing that great team the last cou­ple years, and this year we have a chance to fi­nally prove our­selves to be a great team.”

For a squad that’s heavy on of­fen­sive fire­power, the “lit­tle things” Kolton speaks of in­clude com­mu­ni­ca­tion and de­fense — “If we do that right, it’s go­ing to be game over, be­cause I know we can score,” John­son said — in a sea­son in which Bill, from up in the stands, ebbs and flows as the Tigers go.

The Tigers’ two losses, to No. 4 Chero­kee Trail and No. 1 Thun­derRidge, came by a com­bined three points. Lake­wood’s sched­ule will ease up a bit come time for Jef­fco League play af­ter win­ter break, but the Tigers will surely be bat­tling down to the wire once again when the 5A state tour­na­ment starts.

Make no mis­take, Bill will be in the stands for that. And for a for­mer tail gun­ner on a B-24 bomber in World War II, it will be about as much ex­cite­ment as the old man can han­dle. Kyle New­man: 303-954-1773 knew­man@ den­ver­post.com or @KyleNew­manDP

Kolton Peter­son has Lake­wood on track to­ward the state tour­na­ment again.

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