Coal Ridge downs Grand Valley |

Coal Ridge downs Grand Valley

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

PEACH VALLEY, Colorado ” When does scoring just three points in a quarter turn out to be a good thing?

When the other team manages just one point in the same time frame.

Behind some of the best defense head coach Rick Schmitz has seen from any team he’s ever coached, Coal Ridge rolled to a 44-18 win over visiting Grand Valley in the first round of the 3A Western Slope League district tournament on Wednesday.

By contesting every shot, clogging the passing lanes and boxing out with extreme efficiency, the Titans (15-5) held the Cardinals to just one third-quarter point and four points total in the second half to coast into the district semifinals against Gunnison.

Coal Ridge and Gunnison will square off Friday night at neutral Palisade High School with a tipoff time of 3 p.m.

“That’s probably the best defensive effort I’ve ever had a team play,” Schmitz boasted in the aftermath of his Titans’ big Wednesday win. “And that’s in 30 years of coaching.”

And, led by senior Morgan Jessup’s 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting, Coal Ridge mustered more than enough offense to get by.

Tori Verdieck added 10 points off the bench on 5-of-5 shooting, regularly converting second-chance points off offensive rebounds. The 5-foot-10-inch junior finished with seven total rebounds.

Another Titan frontcourt force, Kaitlin Moeller, led the Titans with 11 rebounds.

Moeller said she never even realized what kind of defensive performance her team was putting together in the second half.

“We weren’t ever focused on points,” the senior said. “We were just focused on getting the next stop. I didn’t even know we held them to that.”

On the flip side, Grand Valley head coach Mike Johnson could only tip his hat to the defensively stingy Titans.

“It wasn’t really a pretty offensive performance,” he said. “Coal Ridge played amazing. They are just what I thought they were ” the most talented team in this league.”

It didn’t help matters that Johnson’s top scorer, Erin Vanderpool, flirted with foul trouble early, spending long spells on the bench after picking up three fouls in the game’s first 6 minutes, 16 seconds. She went on to foul out midway through the fourth quarter.

Samantha James led Grand Valley with six points. Kasi Jensen and Vanderpool netted four points apiece as the Cardinals fell to 9-11 overall.

Grand Valley must now work its way through the consolation half of the district bracket if it wishes to be among the league’s five state playoff qualifiers.

That quest will start tonight at home against Cedaredge. The Bruins and Cardinals get underway at 7 p.m.

The Titans, meanwhile, head to Palisade on something of a hot streak, having won nine of their last 10 games.

“That’s been our goal,” Jessup said, “to be playing our best basketball this time of year.”

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