Strength without numbers: Grand Valley girls still competing despite small roster
Citizen Telegram Sports Editor
PARACHUTE — Grand Valley High School’s girls basketball team has lost five games this season and, to some, would have a legitimate excuse for losing each of those five games. The Cardinals, however, have never made that excuse.
“If we lost to someone, it would be very easy for us to fall back on the excuse that we only have six full-time players,” Grand Valley junior Allie Dovey said. “But we don’t want to go there because we have high expectations for ourselves and never want to use that as an excuse.”
For sure, there’s not a whole lot of depth on the Cardinals’ roster. It’s made up of only six full-time varsity players, with the remaining two serving as swing players between the varsity and junior varsity teams.
That lack of depth, however, hasn’t kept the Cardinals from being competitive or, for that matter, being aggressive and running an up-tempo, fast-break offense. And it’s worked so far, as Grand Valley (8-5 overall, 5-3 Class 3A Western Slope League play), through this past weekend’s games, was in fourth place in the eight-team WSL.
“I sure can’t fault the effort of these girls,” first-year Grand Valley coach Jake Higuera said. “If it was an issue with effort, then we’d have a problem. And so far, we’ve been able to keep our legs, and they haven’t been a problem.”
Grand Valley’s full time varsity consists of seniors Kyra Chenoweth, Jordan Scott and Giulia Hock, junior Allie Dovey and sophomores Kylyn Rigsby and Bailey Rowe. Sophomore Kayla Holbrook and freshman Keyha Hurley make up the team’s players who swing from junior varsity to varsity.
The circumstances didn’t come as a result of ineligible players or injuries. Rather, it’s simply been a matter of not a lot of people coming out for the team, the players said.
“I think it’s just a case of people saying they were going to come out, then backing out when they figure out how hard we work,” Hock said.
That said, Higuera never considered slowing down the pace of the Cardinals’ offensive attack in an effort to conserve energy. Instead, he kept the Cardinals’ traditional fast-break approach going, implementing conditioning drills that ensure his team won’t run out of energy during any in-game situation.
It’s something the Cardinals take pride in.
“One place I noticed it was against Aspen,” Rowe said, referring to the Cardinals’ 72-17 home victory over the Skiers on Jan. 17. “By the second quarter, we were all fine, but they didn’t even have enough energy to box out anymore.”
When the Cardinals can get their running game going, they’re tough to beat. During a two-week stretch from Jan. 10-23, Grand Valley averaged 60.5 points per game and went 4-0. That, however, came prior to their meetings with league-title contenders Moffat County and Olathe, who held the Cardinals to 41 and 29 points, respectively.
Still, the Cardinals have some legitimate scoring threats. Chenoweth is averaging 18.2 points per game, good for fourth best among Class 3A players. Arguably, her best performance of the season wasn’t her 32-point, nine-rebound outing against Aspen, but her 28-point effort against Coal Ridge Jan. 10 when she scored 20 of those points after she’d dislocated the middle finger on her right hand.
Injuries, along with staying out of foul trouble, are always a constant concern for Higuera and the Cardinals. That’s prompted Grand Valley to pick and choose its spots to get into tussles and how to approach opposing players, especially with Colorado’s new hand-check rule which limits contact between players.
That’s all part of the journey that the Cardinals hope will take them back to the Class 3A state playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.
“This is up to us,” Rigsby said. “If we stay mentally focused and play how we’re capable of, we can beat anyone no matter how many players we have.”
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