PARACHUTE - Grand Valley High School's girls basketball team is right where it figured it would be. At the same time, however, it's not.
A similar thought can be echoed about the Rifle girls who, like Grand Valley, head into the weekend in third place in their respective league standings.
And both teams, as it turns out, have big weekends ahead of them. The Rifle girls play host to Delta, the first-place team in the Class 4A Western Slope League standings. Grand Valley hits the road Saturday to play Moffat County, which currently sits in first place in the 3A WSL standings.
Consistency needed for Cards
Grand Valley coach Mike Johnson likes where his team is so far. At 8-3 overall and 6-2 in the 3A WSL, the Cardinals trail Moffat County (7-3, 6-1) and Olathe (8-2, 6-1) in the league standings with eight games left to play.
Johnson, however, is "disappointed by our lack of consistency. There will be times when we're lights out, and other games, or even halfs, where we were lacking. We have to become more consistent."
Will that come around against the Bulldogs in Craig on Saturday?
"We'd better," the coach said. "They're such a good team, and we've already lost to them once this year. We've got to be able to put together a full game on Saturday."
Haley Johnson leads Grand Valley in scoring at 10.4 points per game, but the Cardinals have several players who can contribute offensively. Ashlynn Speakman, who last season led Grand Valley in scoring, has a team-high 17 3-pointers this season and is shooting 38 percent (17 for 45) from beyond the arc. And while Johnson also leads Grand Valley in rebounding at 6.2 per game, Lauren Paskett (6.2 points, 4.8 rebounds), Speakman (7.8 points, 2.9 steals per game) and point guard Rocio Roman (just 19 turnovers in 13 games) have all contributed greatly.
"I think diversity is one of the greatest assets we have," Johnson said.
Defense starting to step up for Bears
The Rifle girls had a four-game winning streak snapped this past Friday with a 47-41 loss at Delta. They won their previous four games against Palisade (twice), Battle Mountain and Summit by an average score of 55-27. In each of their four losses, however, the Bears have allowed 40 or more points.
What's starting to come around, Rifle coach Rick Schmitz said, is the defensive mindset that the coach has always preached about, which uses defense and rebounding to create an offensive transition game.
"We're starting to get that defensive mentality that I'd like to see," Schmitz said. "We can have a great offensive game, but if we can't get stops on defense it doesn't matter. We're not where I'd like for us to be, but we're getting there."
Chante Church and Joey Kuheim are doing the bulk of the scoring for Rifle. Church, a junior, is averaging 15.8 points per game and is ranked second in the 4A Western Slope League in scoring average behind Skylyn Webb of Delta (21.1 PPG). Kuheim, who averages 11.1 points per game, is ranked seventh in the league in scoring.
Jazmine Figuera is next in line in scoring for Rifle at 5.8 points per game. There's a severe drop off from there, however, as Church, Figuera and Kuheim account for and average of 32.7 of the Bears' 42.9 points per game.
"We need to be able to have three or four more people step up and score the ball," Schmitz said. "If we're going to be a threat offensively, we can't have people who are going to delay or defer to someone else."
Boys face key games, too
Rifle's boys (3-8 overall, 1-6 4A WSL) are still trying to find their groove through the first seven games of the WSL season. The Bears have lost five of their past six games, with their last setback coming in a 57-50 loss to Delta this past Friday. They, like the Rifle girls, will play at Delta on Friday night.
Grand Valley's boys basketball team, which earned its first victory of the season with a win over Coal Ridge Jan. 15, dropped a heartbreaker to Gunnison on Jan. 18. The Cardinals have been led by Tyler Scott, who has averaged 10.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. The Grand Valley boys will also play at Moffat County on Saturday.