Thirty years have passed since March of 1984 when coach Bob Chavez and his Glenwood Springs Demons made an improbable run through the state basketball tournament, defeating the top three seeded teams to capture the school’s third — and last — golden basketball trophy.
Following a 67-58 victory over Gunnison in a district playoff game in Glenwood, even the Demon coach was a bit unsure how his charges would fare on Denver’s big stage.
“We don’t have any goals set,” Chavez stated at the time. “We’re just going with the idea of playing as well as we can and see what happens.”
When Glenwood came back from a 12-point third quarter deficit to derail the second-seeded Fountain-Ft. Carson Trojans, 70-68, in the opening round, Lady Luck had made her first tap on the Demons’ shoulders. She would visit twice more before the weekend was through.
Maybe it wasn’t all good fortune that propelled the Red and White into a Friday semifinal date with the top-ranked Holy Family Tigers. There may have been a little magic involved also.
Junior point guard Rick Sorensen, dubbed by the Denver papers as the “Magic Man,” was Glenwood’s ball-handling, playmaking and scoring wizard. Sorensen, along with fellow juniors Jon Baranko, Mike Metheny and Mike Scott, and seniors Craig Amichaux and James Flohr, formed a six-man rotation for coach Chavez that relied more on team chemistry than individual talent.
“We all spent so many summer nights together at the park shooting and playing together until the lights went out,” said Sorensen, who is now a teacher at Glenwood Elementary. “We were always ready to play.”
And play they did.
After the giant-killing Demons swept away Holy Family by a 61-55 count at Denver’s old, downtown Auditorium-Arena, Tiger coach Frank Kelly sounded like he believed Glenwood might have a talisman stored somewhere in the equipment bag.
“They all shoot so well,” Kelly said in a Rocky Mountain News interview. “We couldn’t leave any of them open. And they never miss a free throw.”
Next up for Glenwood’s soldiers of fortune was a date with third-seeded Florence at McNichols Sports Arena. A victory would give Chavez his third state championship and 405th victory in his successful 25-season run in Glenwood.
With 22 seconds to go on Saturday, March 10, 1984, it appeared Glenwood would have to settle for the title of bridesmaid. The Demons trailed the Huskies from the Pikes Peak League, 48-47. Florence owned the ball and was running the clock down.
That’s when Scott and Baranko decided that a second-place trophy would not be a welcome passenger on the bus ride home.
Scott blocked a Florence pass which was scooped up by Sorensen, who then flicked the ball ahead to a streaking Baranko. Fouled on the shot attempt, tournament-MVP Baranko sank both charity tosses to put the Demons ahead to stay.
Scott was fouled after a Florence miss and he, too, made both from the foul stripe to secure the big victory.
As the final horn sounded, the Demons’ benched emptied and a charge to the mid-court celebration was led by substitutes Mike Moser and Joe McBreen, and coaches Chavez and his assistant John Courier, who ran gleefully with a teenage spring in their step.
With four starters returning for the 1985 basketball campaign, the Demons would make it all the way back to the 2A championship game again before falling to a talented Denver Lutheran team, 63-54.
The players who made up that ’84 state title team will always have the gold ball in the GSHS trophy case and the cherished memories that go along with those three days in March of 1984 when they got to live a dream.
Mike Vidakovich is a freelance writer from Glenwood Springs. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent.