Lady Demons take first step in what they hope will be deep run in 4A state playoffs

The Glenwood Springs Lady Demons basketball senior players, from left, Qwynn Massie, Zeva Carruth, Hadley Yellico, Natalya Taylor, Michelle Marshall and Kate Shanahan.
Paul Cloud/courtesy photo

A perfect prelude to the Glenwood Springs High School basketball program’s success this season has been the Lady Demons.

Playing the game-night opener since the dual girls/boys conference schedule started in January, just as the boys did, the Glenwood girls amassed s 20-3 overall record and went undefeated to win the 4A Western Slope League championship.

A big test comes Friday night when Glenwood (No. 12 in the 46-team 4A state tournament field) begins its postseason journey at home against Lewis-Palmer. Game time: 7 p.m. at Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium.

The Rangers (15-9) entered as the No. 21 seed and had to get by No. 44 Widefield earlier this week in what ended up being a close 54-50 win to advance.

Glenwood coach Rhonda Moser knows there can be no slacking at any stage of the game this time of year.

Lewis-Palmer comes from the always tough 4A side of the Pikes Peak League, which also produced the tournament’s No. 1 seed, Sand Creek.

“All but one team from that conference made it into the playoffs, so we know they’ve played some good competition,” Moser said. “But I think ours is a team that will rise to the level of competition … and if we play our game, I think we can get a win and move on.”

Her confidence comes from knowing her talented mix of juniors, seniors and underclassmen can wear down just about any opponent.

A lot of that has to do with the leadership of a core group of six seniors, including Qwynn Massie, Natalya Taylor, Hadley Yellico, Kate Shanahan, Zeva Carruth and Michelle Marshall.

“They’ve done an amazing job, coming in and setting a good example for the younger kids,” Moser said — not to mention understanding their individual roles, she said.

With the team’s depth this year, it’s meant less playing time for some and more of a team approach to get the job done on a nightly basis.

“They’ve all been really supportive of that, and I’m super proud of this group,” Moser said.

Taylor, the team’s leading scorer averaging 11.1 points per game, can relate.

She was the only freshman on the varsity roster three years ago and, after a hiatus away from Glenwood Springs and playing in Utah last season, returned to play her senior year for the Demons.

“When I was a freshman, I know I felt pretty welcomed, so I just wanted to make sure the younger players who are on the team this year feel like that,” Taylor said.

Shanahan agreed, adding the team dynamic has been more about having fun, and — oh by the way — winning a lot of games along the way.

“Basketball, at the end of the day, should be fun,” she said. “I think that’s been a personal focus of mine all season, that, when we get into the gym we have to leave everything else outside those doors. This game is fun, and playing with these girls has been really fun this year.”

Marshall, who transferred to GSHS two year ago, said the transition was difficult at first, but this year’s team has a special chemistry.

“It’s just a really good dynamic,” Marshall said. “We all have a good relationship off the court, and as soon as we get on the court we know how to zone in focus on what we need to get done.”

There’s also less internal team competition when everyone knows they’re an equal, Massie added.

“We’re still competitive with each other, but that sense of teamwork and the way we motivate each other has helped us grow,” she said.

Carruth said she’s been on sports teams that give up when they’re down in a game. Not so with this cast of Lady Demons basketball players.

“Even when we’re on the bench, we work on having the loudest bench that we can because we want to elevate the team and the entire gym,” Carruth said.

As the team’s playmaker, Yellico said the team chemistry helps push the Demons through what can sometimes be a slow first-quarter start in games.

“In a way that’s kind of good for us, because we know that, soon enough, we can start to be competitive if we hold each other accountable,” Yellico said. “If we want to make it far in the tournament, we have to work for it and push each other when we know we have to.”

If Glenwood wins Friday night and No. 5 Erie hold true to its ranking against No. 37 Longmont in their Friday night game, the Lady Demons would be on the road for the Sweet 16 next Tuesday. If Longmont pulls off the upset and Glenwood wins, the Demons would get another chance to play at home.

Elsewhere Friday night, the 10-14 No. 43 Rifle Lady Bears (41-40 winners over Weld Central Wednesday night) play No. 11 Sierra (18-4) in Colorado Springs.

On the boys side, the No. 2 Glenwood Springs boys host their tournament opener at 1 p.m. on Saturday against No. 31 Weld Central, 53-25 winners over Rifle on Wednesday night.

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