Filling big shoes, Coal Ridge girls basketball cooks through preseason
The Titans lost a huge piece of their basketball rotation when Taylor Wiescamp graduated in the spring.
The engine for Coal Ridge’s offense for the past three seasons was gone, off to play volleyball at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado. Into thin air went 17 points a game and eight rebounds. No new piece fit the void perfectly, meaning the Titans had to replace Wiescamp’s production by committee.
They were more than successful doing so in the preseason, carrying a 6-1 record into the holiday break.
“We knew it was going to be a big gap to fill in the upcoming season, and instead of one individual person taking on that role, I think we took that role on as a team,” Titan senior Railey Largent said. “We all put effort in to make sure that gap is filled, and we each contribute not just points, but each person contributes steals, assists. It doesn’t come from one person.”
The Titans started the 2021-22 season on a four-game win streak before falling to 5A Vista Peak Prep out of Aurora on Dec. 9. They rebounded by trouncing Faith Christian 52-17 and toppling 3A Western Slope contender Moffat County 51-37 in a Dec. 11 nonleague contest.
Before the beginning of league play, the Titans are halfway to their win total from the spring season, which was a program best since 2013-14.
“This start is huge for us,” Coal Ridge head coach Clyde Morgan said. “We’re a little different team from last year after losing (Wiescamp). Just the way we’re starting out I think built a lot of confidence with the girls.”
No player made an impact on the spring 2021 Titans like Wiescamp. No other player averaged double digits in scoring — though sophomore Jackie Camunez’s 9.9 came as close as possible — and her 8.8 boards per game more than doubled second place Mikayla Cheney, then a sophomore.
Coal Ridge cruised to a 12-4 record, though their 3-3 in league play held them down in fourth place in the WSL when the pandemic season was said and done.
Yet, minus Wiescamp, the majority of contributors are returning. Wiescamp and Kallie Bumgardner were the only graduates, and four of the eight players to play in all 16 games were sophomores.
Camunez, Cheney, Largent, Clara Carranza and Aceleigh Porter all have varsity experience. Danica Bagett, the fifth member of the starting lineup, played four games as a freshman.
Largent, who transferred from De Beque ahead of last season, was relegated to junior varsity in the spring season due to transfer rules, but was a starting point guard as a freshman on De Beque’s team that went to the 1A state playoffs in 2019.
“I think a big thing is assists,” Largent said. “You have to give people the opportunity to score, and I feel like I do a pretty good job of being able to find people that are open.”
Largent said each of the team’s players finds a role to complete the package — Carranza holds down the post, Camunez finds the net, Cheney controls the backcourt and provides secondary scoring and Bagett flexes between wing and post to fill in the gaps.
Through seven games, the pieces have come together to form an interwoven, winning formula.
“This is the kind of system that we’re going to have to be able to run in order to compete,” Morgan said. “We don’t have that dominant inside presence like we had before, so we’ve had to change a little bit of things. This is the kind of direction that we’re going to need to be in for the next few years.”
The Titans return to action on Jan. 4 with a nonleague game against Grand Junction Central. The WSL season begins for them on Jan. 8 against North Fork.
Reporter Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or email@example.com.
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