Gunnison slips past host Roaring Fork | PostIndependent.com
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Gunnison slips past host Roaring Fork

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE, Colorado – No matter who Roaring Fork’s boys basketball team is facing, the opponent’s game plan is always the same – contain the Jakes.

Gunnison did just that on Friday, escaping Carbondale with a 56-53 win after holding Ram big men Jake Strack-Loertscher and Jake Hawkins to a combined 22 points. Considering the damage the Roaring Fork frontcourt mates – both a bulky 6-foot-3 – have leveled on teams this year, keeping them to 22 is nothing to scoff at.

“We knew their big guys were the heart and soul of their team,” Gunnison junior Bryce Johnston said. “They still scored a lot tonight. You’ve got to hand it to them. We have to work on that for the next game.”



Strack-Loertscher, who led the Rams with 16 points and 12 rebounds, fouled out late in the fourth quarter. With the goal of forcing the bigs into foul trouble in mind, the Cowboys attacked the basket with their speedy guards all night.

“We’ve got to drive,” Johnston said. “We needed to get them fouls and get them on the bench, so we can attack it and take it strong.”



Gunnison led much of the night, though never by a wide margin. The first quarter ended in a 16-all tie and the Cowboys took a 32-28 advantage into intermission.

The visitors augmented that lead in the third quarter, outscoring the Rams 16-11 to go up by nine.

Roaring Fork made a game of it in the fourth, with big 3-pointers by Dalton Handy and Clay Gross keeping the host squad afloat.

The Rams sliced the deficit to as little as five points in the final two minutes, but never could close the gap. A Handy basket with 0.1 seconds left cut it to down to three, rounding out the final score.

Gunnison broke out a clock-control offense in the final minutes to drain the clock.

“Unfortunately, we just had too many mistakes throughout the game – a bad pass in the first quarter, a rushed shot in the fourth,” Roaring Fork head coach Larry Williams said. “The defense was not Roaring Fork defense tonight and that hurt us.”

Handy scored 14 points for the Rams, who dropped to 4-7 overall and to 4-4 in the 3A Western Slope League.

Johnston led the Cowboys (7-4, 5-3) with 13 points. Nicanor Garcia had 12 and Emmet Guy 11.

The Nelson sisters proved too much for Roaring Fork to overcome on Friday. Gunnison’s 1-2 sibling punch combined for 34 points as the visiting Cowboys scored a 53-38 win in Carbondale.

Kjirsten, a junior, finished with a game-high 20 points on an economical 8-of-12 shooting line. Alyssa, a freshman, poured in 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting. The younger Nelson also grabbed 10 rebounds.

“They’re a pretty good 1-2 punch,” Gunnison head coach Kevin Mickelson said. “That’s been our M.O. all year. We need the other girls to step up a little more offensively.”

Mickelson’s Cowboys kicked off the game on a 7-0 run, the first four coming courtesy of Kjirsten Nelson.

After falling behind 20-9 at the 3:54 mark in the second, Roaring Fork rallied to within 20-14 on an Alli Zeigel 3-pointer and a basket by Nayeli Alfaro.

Quickly recapturing the momentum, the Cowboys closed out the half with six unanswered points to take a 26-14 lead into the break.

The Rams scored the third quarter’s first five points – three points from Sharlene Salinas and two from Alfaro – to close to within seven. That’s as close as the hosts would get.

Zeigel led Roaring Fork (0-11, 0-8) with 18 points, draining five 3-pointers in the process.

Though her team’s still searching for its first win, Rams coach Nancy Zeigel found no fault in her players’ effort.

“They always play to the end,” the second-year head coach said. “They hustled. They have heart. The work ethic is there.”

Roaring Fork is off until Thursday, when it’ll host Coal Ridge. Gunnison (4-7, 2-6) is at home against Basalt today.

jcaspersen@postindependent.com


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