Coal Ridge gears up for shot at state title |

Coal Ridge gears up for shot at state title

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

PEACH VALLEY, Colorado ” When Paul Harvey took over the Coal Ridge boys basketball program, he knew he had all the ingredients to run the offense he spent years soaking up as an assistant at Grand Valley.

A shifty, elusive point guard? Check. A perimeter assassin? Check. An athletic big man? Check.

All the parts were there to run the dribble-drive motion offense, a high points-yielding system that centers on dribble penetration. Drive-and-kicks for 3-pointers, dish-offs to the post for easy baskets and slashes to the hoop for layups are the staples of the offense, and the 19-3 Titans are cashing in.

They finished second in the 3A Western Slope League, took second at the district tournament and are now set to host the regional round of the state playoffs, beginning tonight.

And the offense is a big reason why the Titans are where they are.

“It just fits us perfectly,” said senior Eric Schmitz, the team’s chief sharpshooter and leading scorer at 19.4 points a contest. “We all like to drive and penetrate. All of us like to shoot 3s. We have a lot of fun with it. It’s why we’re doing so good.”

Harvey, who spent several years under Scott Kiburis at Grand Valley polishing the offense, couldn’t wait to implement the scheme that helped his old school win the 2A state title in 2007.

“We had a lot of success with some of the Grand Valley teams,” Harvey said. “And we have the big man. We’re actually running it a little bit differently than Grand Valley because of the big man.”

That big man is 6-foot-9-inch center Alex Klein, who’s averaging 11.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.3 blocks a game for Coal Ridge.

Andy Smedra is the other key ingredient in the Titans’ dribble-drive formula. He’s the shifty point guard, and his numbers ” he averages 14 points and 5.2 assists ” are benefiting from his quarterback-esque role in the attack.

But, while Schmitz, Klein and Smedra are Coal Ridge’s big three, contributions come from every crevice of the roster. Pretty much every player has range on his shot and pretty much everyone has stepped up to help Coal Ridge win games this season.

“It’s real important because some teams figure out who our big three are and, if they get shut down, we need to have other guys who can hit,” senior Jonathon Roessler said. “When everyone’s hitting, our offense just goes a lot better. We have four or five guys in double figures usually when we’re winning.”

The Titans hope to make that the case tonight when they open the 32-team 3A state playoffs against Holy Family (10-11).

Harvey’s old team, Grand Valley, is also part of the four-team regional field coming to Peach Valley. The Cardinals (15-7) open with Colorado Academy (16-6) tonight.

The winners move on to Saturday’s region final at Coal Ridge, which is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Whichever team claims the final moves on to the March 12-14 state tournament at Colorado State University’s Moby Arena, where the final eight teams in 3A will duke it out for a state title.

While Coal Ridge and Grand Valley’s boys teams are set to battle it out on local turf this weekend, the schools’ girls hoops teams will be settling in for long bus rides.

The Titan girls are headed to St. Mary’s High School in Colorado Springs and the Cardinal girls are bound for Buena Vista.

Coal Ridge (16-6) opens the state playoffs tonight against Yuma (14-9) and, with a win, would face either St. Mary’s (19-3) or Weld Central (13-10) in Saturday’s region final.

Grand Valley (11-11) drew host Buena Vista (21-1) in its opener tonight and would face either Erie (19-4) or Machebeuf (13-9) in Saturday’s region final if it won.

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