Final Four sounds super fine for five Glenwood Lady Demons seniors
Three straight years of tough losses in the second round of the state playoffs served as motivation enough for this year’s Glenwood Springs High School girls basketball senior players to take it to the next level.
Level up, they did, and in a fashion impressive enough to draw a wary eye from the rest of the Class 5A Final Four teams who will join them at the Denver Coliseum Thursday night seeking a shot at a state championship.
Leading the way this season has been a quintet of seniors who’ve been playing basketball together since grade school — Tori Taylor, Joslyn Spires, Ruby Patch, Breauna Sorensen and Mattea Enewold
Last week, the eighth-seeded Demons pulled off a major upset over the classification’s top seed — a thrilling 48-41 come-from-behind quarterfinal win over Denver Prep League champion George Washington at the Coliseum.
It was George Washington that ousted the Lady Demons from the 2020-21 playoffs in the former 4A classification, 55-27 — a season that almost didn’t happen due to the pandemic, as the Demons concluded a shortened slate of games at 9-5 overall.
The year before that, when this year’s seniors were freshmen, the Demons bowed out with an 86-54 loss to Erie, finishing at 18-7.
Last year it was Skyview that sent the Demons packing with a stinging 65-59 loss — another 18-7 campaign.
Now, after leaping into the Final Four, the 2022-23 version of the Lady Demons take on No. 4 Windsor in Thursday’s semifinal at the Coliseum for the chance at what would be Glenwood’s first-ever girls state basketball title. Both teams boast a 19-7 record.
“It’s super awesome, because we’ve been playing since we were like in third grade,” Taylor said. “We’ve put a lot of work into this, and it’s just all paying off.”
Added Sorensen, “It’s a little surreal that we get to share this big moment together. And it’s so cool that we capitalize on these big games and get to keep playing.”
The playoff run started on the home court in the early rounds, including a 46-32 win over Golden on Feb. 21 and another commanding 51-35 win over Green Mountain on Feb. 24.
But the campaign began back in November when the Demons, faced with a new classification and a revamped 5A Western Slope League with just three opponents — Eagle Valley, Battle Mountain and Palisade.
Glenwood would easily win the league later in the season, running the slate twice to go 6-0. But it was those early games against top-tier Front Range opponents — Chatfield (a 53-46 win), Peak to Peak (a 63-36 win), Cheyenne Wyoming East (a 60-37 loss), Resurrection Christian (a 60-49 win), Campbell County Wyoming (a 50-42 loss), Erie (a 46-39 win), Berthoud (a 55-51 overtime win), and that same Green Mountain team they would beat in the state playoffs (a 61-31 loss the first time around).
“Something my dad always said when he was coaching us was to just play our game, because you have to go over to the Front Range and it’s different competition,” Sorensen said. “It’s just a different level of play. So, we just gotta go over there now and play how we know how to play.”
At the end of the George Washington game, Enewold said the Demons were the more composed team. That made all the difference, even though the Demons were down by five points with the clock ticking inside two minutes to play.
“Playing our game is probably our biggest strength compared to some of these other teams,” Enewold said.
Stats add up to wins
Spires leads the team in scoring with 13.6 points per game, followed by Enwold with 9.3 and Taylor with 8.3. Sorensen works the point, averaging 3.3 assists per game, and Enewold is a force under the basket, pulling down 6.8 rebounds per game and blocking shots. Spires is also good for four steals per game.
“I think the tournaments early in the season and everything else we did at that time really prepared us,” Spires said.
Practice sessions often involved graduated Demon players, both girls and boys, who helped the squad rise to the competition, including Natalia Taylor, Gracie Dietrich and Eric Cordero.
“A lot of them are really good and play at the collegiate level, and they’re all a lot better than the girls that we usually play in our league,” Spires said. “That really pushed us.”
Summers weren’t all R and R, either.
“We’ve all been to summer basketball camps, and did a lot of training in the off season,” Patch said. “Just having those opportunities where we can learn from people and they can help us improve, that makes a difference.”
Added Spires, “Our coaches also do a really good job of creating a family atmosphere with this team. So, even in the summers, we’re still hanging out together, playing ball and getting better. I think that’s where our biggest growth comes from.”
Veteran Lady Demons head coach Rhonda Moser said it makes a difference when players get a taste of state playoff level competition when they’re young, as this group did.
“I just think every year when you get a little bit farther, and they get a greater taste of what it’s like to be at the state tournament, that just brings them back the next year even more inspired,” Moser said. “They’ve been able to set a goal each year to win the league title, and so that has kind of kept them focused.”
Glenwood Springs has been the league champion all four years of this group’s high school career.
“We’ve talked a lot about just continuing to play hard even when you’re down, and you know that the game’s not over,” Moser said.
Off the bench support
In the end, the cooler heads tend to prevail, she said. And that’s been a major recipe for the Demons’ success this season.
Not to mention a cast of very supportive juniors and underclassmen who’ve contributed to the cause.
“They’ve been unbelievable,” Moser said of her cast of junior and sophomore players who see ample minutes, including Maddie Stewart, Taia Nykerk and Bailey Winder.
“Honestly, I have to give total credit to my staff,” Moser said of assistant coaches Deanna Spracher, Jordan DeCrow and Garrett Peters. “They’re completely involved with the development of the younger girls, and just the progress from the very beginning of the season to now with their increased confidence level. I couldn’t ask more from them.”
And, what will it take to win a state championship?
“We all definitely need to be locked in,” Taylor said. “I think that if we go out there and do our jobs, and play how we can play with the team chemistry that we have, and just capitalize on the little things, I genuinely think that we can do it.”
Game time Thursday for Glenwood Springs vs. Windsor is 5:45 p.m. The winner advances to play the winner of the No. 2 Roosevelt vs. No. 3 Durango semifinal for the 5A state championship at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday, all at the Denver Coliseum.
Also playing Thursday in the girls 3A Great 8 at Hamilton Gym at the University of Denver is Grand Valley High. The 13th-seeded Lady Cardinals face No. 5 The Vanguard School at 4 p.m. for the right to advance to Friday’s Final Four and then Saturday’s championship and consolation games.
Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 970-384-9160.
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