Titans poised to defend 3A WSL crown
Coal Ridge Boys
Head Coach: Paul Harvey, ninth year
Last Season: 16-8, 12-2. Lost to Manitou Springs in the second round of the 3A state playoffs
Key Players: Hunter Gerber, Sr., F; Brandon Herrera, Jr., G
Players to Watch: Kevin DiMarco, So., F; Jan Hernandez, So., G; Aaron Arreola, So., G; Eziel Ruiz, Sr., F
Coal Ridge girls
Head Coach: Clyde Morgan, second year
Last Season: 9-14, 7-7 3A WSL. Lost to Lutheran in the first round of the state playoffs
Key Players: Santana Martinez, Jr., G; Natalie Dougherty, Sr., F; Alexys Holder, Sr., F; Kaitlyn Harlow, Sr., F; Sam Dunn, Jr., G
Players to Watch: Dana Kotz, Sr., F; Cheyenne Williams, Jr., G; Kashley Morgan, So., G/F; Jessica Feese, Jr., F
Coming off of one of the best seasons in school history — including a regular season 3A Western Slope League title and a runner-up finish in the league tournament, all of which was capped off by a run into the second round of the state playoffs following a win over Buena Vista in the first round — the Titans are back to defend their league title.
Now, after accomplishing all of that in 2015-16, the Titans will have a target on their back while also trying to work in three new starters following the graduation of starters Jake Solinger, Greyson Keener and Dan Schouten.
Fortunately for Coal Ridge, first team all-conference senior forward Hunter Gerber — who appears to be the favorite for 3A WSL Player of the Year, while sitting just 158 points away from 1,000 for his career — and honorable mention all-conference junior guard Brandon Herrera return for one more go around with the Titans this winter in search of a second straight league title and another state playoff berth.
“It would be nice to go deeper into the state playoffs, but we want to defend our league title this season,” Coal Ridge Head Coach Paul Harvey said. “We wanted to step up our schedule this season and really schedule tough opponents. We didn’t want to have any easy games this season in nonconference games so that once we get into league play we’ll hopefully be battle tested and ready to go against our league opponents.”
With Gerber and Herrera still in the fold, the Titans under Harvey will have two steady veteran players to count on early in the season as they help ease in a trio of new starters, led by senior forward Payton White and sophomore guards Jan Hernandez and Aaron Arreola. The sophomore guards saw extended varsity action last season, while White makes his varsity debut. Make no mistake though: This team will go as far as Gerber and Herrera can take them. Fortunately for Coal Ridge, the duo averaged nearly 28 points per game, 10 rebounds per game and six assists per game. Obviously those combined numbers will need to rise this season as the Titans will see tough play from everyone in the 3A WSL, but with the skilled duo of Gerber and Herrera, along with a deep bench and plenty of height, the Titans have what it takes to defend their 3A WSL title against the likes of Basalt, Grand Valley and the improving Roaring Fork Rams.
“We want to be a pretty balanced team this season,” Harvey said. “But it’s nice knowing that when we need [Brandon and Hunter] to score to carry us that they can do it. We have some kids that can really shoot it, but they still need to improve.”
Coal Ridge girls
For the most part in 2015-16, things went well for the Lady Titans under first-year head coach Clyde Morgan. That being said, though, the Lady Titans did take a step back last season in terms of record, finishing 9-14 (7-7 3A WSL) one year after going 11-12 (9-5) in the final year under head coach Steve Young.
Now, heading into year two under Morgan with largely the same core of players, the Lady Titans are eyeing an improvement in the league standings after finishing fourth in the league and securing a playoff berth, where the Titans ultimately fell in the first round to the Lutheran Lions.
This season Coal Ridge will look to rely heavily on standout junior guard Santana Martinez, as well as senior forward Kaitlyn Harlow, senior guard/forward Alexys Holder and junior guard Sam Dunn. Adding a major boost to the Titans this season — at least athletically — is the addition of senior forward Dana Kotz and junior guard Cheyenne Williams.
Senior forward Natalie Dougherty also returns for Coal Ridge one year after being the fourth-leading scoring for the Titans in 2015-16.
Depth isn’t an issue for this version of the Titans under Morgan. Knowing how deep this team is and the amount of experience it can roll out there has the Titans aiming for a top three finish in the 3A WSL this winter. If things break well, the Titans could find themselves neck and neck with Moffat County, Grand Valley and Olathe.
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The Bears open their playoff run with a runaway 48-15 victory over the Englewood Pirates last Saturday at Bears Stadium