Showing Valor at state: Former Rifle coach part of state championship coaching staff
Citizen Telegram Sports Editor
RIFLE — None of the girls basketball coaching staff at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch ever dreamed of the kind of success the Eagles had this year. Especially Chris Lowther.
“All of the coaches knew that we had a lot of potential,” said Lowther, a former boys and girls basketball coach at Rifle High School who was an assistant coach for the Eagles this past season after spending more than a decade coaching at Rifle. “This is everything that we could have hoped for to happen.”
Valor Christian couldn’t have done any better this season, as the Eagles’ 73-47 victory against Sand Creek came on March 14 in the Class 4A state championship game in Boulder. And the first girls basketball state title in school history came with an all-new coaching staff, which Lowther just felt fortunate enough to be a part of.
“When I first took the job over there, I thought I was only going to be teaching,” he said. “As it turned out, they had to fill their entire coaching staff.”
In essence, Lowther was in the right place at the right time, especially with the kind of coaching background he had from his time in Rifle.
Lowther, a math teacher at Valor who had the same role at Rifle, spent 10 years as the head coach basketball coach of the Bears, compiling a 106-123 overall record during that time. Rifle, during that time, qualified for the postseason in eight of the 10 seasons he was at the helm.
He stepped back following the 2011-12 season, opting to serve as an assistant girls basketball coach under then coach Rick Schmitz. He stayed on as an assistant and continued to coach the junior varsity team when current Rifle girls coach Kristy Wallner came on in time for the 2013-14 season.
All of that experience proved to be of huge value to the Eagles during their state championship run.
“First off, working with Kristy and getting her perspective on things, I realized that she’s an excellent coach,” Lowther said of Wallner, a former standout at Xavier. “She has some invaluable perspective as a former Division I college player.
“Secondly, Rick [Schmitz] has so much experience and is so open to the ideas and opinions of his coaching staff,” he continued.
Lowther, when asked about his favorite memories from Rifle, said there were too many to name. He did say that one of his favorite recent memories was when Rifle overcame an early 18-point deficit to beat Aspen, 59-48, when one of Rifle’s team members, Austin Booth, was in the intensive-care unit at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction. The team dedicated their play to him after the game. Booth died of influenza days later.
All of that experience was a huge contributing factor in his role with Valor, where Lowther was part of a full first-year coaching staff following the departure of Sherryl Klosterman. Heading up that coaching staff was Jessika Caldwell, who played college ball at Baylor, played professionally in Europe and, prior to this job, was the head coach of the women’s basketball program at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
Valor, of course, had a potent lineup for the new coaching staff to work with — one that finished 26-3 overall and averaged 63.9 points per game. One of those players was Kendall Bradbury, a senior who averaged 22.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
Bradbury is one of five seniors listed on Valor’s MaxPreps roster that will be lost to graduation next season. Lowther said he and the coaching staff feel good about the returners who will be on next year’s team.
And he wouldn’t have that opportunity without his time at Rifle, he said.
“There’s a lot of great memories from a lot of great teams I’ve had over the years in Rifle,” he said. “I can’t begin to express how thankful I am for that.”
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Students from Rifle and Coal Ridge high schools were asked Friday to transition to online learning and quarantine for 10 days, Garfield County District Re-2 announced.