Young Demons looking to surprise this season | PostIndependent.com

Young Demons looking to surprise this season

Glenwood Springs freshman Ximena Gutierrez(32) goes for the layup during Thursday night's game against the Summit Tigers defense.

Glenwood Springs freshman Ximena Gutierrez(32) goes for the layup during Thursday night's game against the Summit Tigers defense.

It’s always tough when you lose a generational player from your program. That’s what current St. Mary’s guard Cameron Horning was to the Glenwood Springs Demons last season, but now a core group of young shooters is poised to lead the Demons back to the state playoffs under head coach Cory Hitchcock, hoping to surprise the rest of the valley that might be overlooking the young Glenwood group.

Although the current Demon team might be young in terms of school standing, they’re a veteran group on the court, led by junior guards Aaron Smith and AJ Crowley, along with sophomore guards Chano Gonzales and Angel Garcia, as well as sophomore forward Luke Gair. Add into the mix senior forward Carlos Nolasco-Montez and Nic Isgrig and it becomes clear that this current Glenwood group could do more than just compete during the 2016-17 season.

Crowley and Smith are poised for major breakout seasons, which should help to replace the nightly scoring from Horning last season. Gonzales will likely come off the bench to provide a spark once again for the Demons, while Garcia adds a shooting threat to the starting five from beyond the arc.

“We’re really excited about this season,” Hitchcock said. “This is one of the youngest teams I’ve ever had in my time here at Glenwood, so there’s going to be growing pains. We have a tough schedule because of the new RPI system, so we’re going to play teams that are going to force us to get better and challenge us every night.”

That tough schedule includes seven of 11 nonconference teams that made at least the Sweet Sixteen last season in their respective classes, highlighted by Faith Christian and Canon City coming to Glenwood for the Demon Invitational before Christmas.

“I’m not really worried about wins and losses early in the season,” Hitchcock said. “I’m all about competing in those games and positioning ourselves to win the game. I’m not looking at this season as a rebuilding year at all, especially with the talent that we have this year. We want to compete all year and finish top three in our league. Doing that will send us back to the state playoffs for the 15th straight year, so these boys don’t want to be the group that comes up short and end that streak.”

The Demons will start the season on the road at the Vista Peak Bison Basketball Bash, where they’ll take on Cheyenne Mountain.

Girls team

As the boys teams looks to rely heavily on young players, the girls will welcome back a group heavy on experience from last season. Under second-year head coach Rhonda Moser, the Demons lost four seniors from last season (Megan Uren, McKenna Warren, Maddie Hert, Vanessa Davila) from a team that went 4-16 (3-11 4A WSL).

While last year was trying at times for a young Glenwood group, the 2016-17 season looks very promising across the board for this version of the Lady Demons, starting with returning All-Conference center Tatum Peterson and lone senior, Lauren Howell.

“The returning players spent a lot of time in the gym this summer and worked hard,” Moser said. “So they’re pretty focused as a group and ready to improve. Our goal this year isn’t just to improve every game, but every practice.

“So far we seem to be accomplishing that.”

Although last season didn’t go as well as they hoped, the returning players and coaching staff sensed a change last season when the Demons put up their best game of the season on the road at Steamboat, beating the Sailors by 19 points. That win seemed to push the Demons throughout the summer, which now has them poised to make drastic improvements as a team from one year ago.

“We’re really a team this year,” Moser said. “We have scorers all over the place this year, and it’s not like we need to rely on one player every game to get it done for us. We feel comfortable as a staff knowing that anyone on the floor can score and lead the way.”

Inside, Peterson will look to dominate the paint once again this season at both ends, while Ellie Moser, Maddie Bolitho, Dani DeCrow, Saylor Warren and Ximena Gutierrez will provide scoring off the bench from all over the floor. Howell is the top shooter for Glenwood from beyond the arc, allowing the Demons to really space the floor much better this season under Moser and her staff.

Glenwood will start the season on the road against Cheyenne Mountain in the Vista Peak Bison Basketball Bash Thursday at Vista Peak High School.