District basketball preview: Plenty of ups for Glenwood girls
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The way that Glenwood Springs High School’s girls basketball coach sees it, the Demons have become a victim of their own success.
“We’re not the same team as last year,” Glenwood coach Jacky Gaddis said. “Everyone keeps asking us what’s wrong with us. But we’ve lost two league games to the same team, and lost our two other games to teams that are ranked.
“We’ve been very successful, and it’s very frustrating that people don’t think we’re having a good season.”
For sure, each of Glenwood’s losses have come against ranked teams in third-ranked Pueblo West, seventh-ranked Montrose and ninth-ranked Palisade, which won the 4A Western Slope League title thanks to its two victories against the Demons this season, according to the Associated Press media poll released on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Montrose, Palisade and Glenwood are ranked Nos. 3, 8 and 10 in the MaxPreps Class 4A Power Rankings, which were used in part to determine the top seed in the Class 4A Western Slope District Tournament.
“I think that shows we’re playing some pretty good basketball on this side of the state,” Gaddis said.
The eight Western Slope District Tournament teams will have a chance to show just how good they’re playing on Thursday when tournament play starts at Palisade High School and Brownson Arena. Glenwood (16-4), the No. 3 seed behind top-seeded Montrose (15-4) and second-seeded Palisade (18-2), will open the tournament against sixth-seeded Rifle (12-8) at 6 p.m. Thursday at Palisade High School.
Also playing first-round tournament games on Thursday will be the Glenwood Springs boys (17-3), who come into the boys tournament as its No. 1 seed and will play eighth-seeded Summit (5-15) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Brownson Arena in Grand Junction. Another match-up includes Rifle (12-8), the boys tournament’s No. 5 seed, which plays No. 4 seed Durango (9-12) at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday at Palisade High.
Winners on Thursday will earn automatic seeding for the Class 4A state tournament, which begins Feb. 27. That will make up 27 of the 32 tournament spots, with the remaining five to be determined by a selection committee based through the Colorado High school Activities Association.
Glenwood’s girls, at one point this year, owned a 23-game win streak in league games prior to the Demons’ 51-44 loss to Palisade on Feb. 3. Last season, Glenwood finished 23-2 overall.
The Demons, however, nearly dropped its game at Rifle against a young and scrappy Bears team on Feb. 7. The Bears, playing with a roster of mostly underclassmen, held a seven-point lead on the Demons late in the fourth quarter before Glenwood rallied for a 46-42 victory.
With Rifle showing it’s close to turning the corner, that makes Thursday’s game that much more intriguing.
“They played us so hard,” Gaddis said of Rifle. “We’re glad to have them first because it will be a great game.”
Glenwood’s boys, meanwhile, finished running the table on the WSL with their 69-36 victory over second-place Steamboat Springs this past Saturday. That performance was a far cry from the one Glenwood gave during the Demon Invitational tournament on Dec. 12 and 13, when they suffered double-digit home losses to Faith Christian, Pueblo West and Montrose.
“We’ve done a 360 since then,” Glenwood coach Cory Hitchcock said. “When we went 3-0 in Alamosa [at the Mountain Top Classic tournament Dec. 4 through 6], I think our guys thought we were already there. But our guys have really bought into what it takes to be successful since then, and that’s making a commitment to playing good defense.”
Defense is the proverbial bread and butter for Rifle, which has held its opponents to less than 50 points in each of its 12 victories. The only time the Bears lost when allowing fewer than 50 points was in a 35-25 loss to Glenwood at the Pepsi Center in Denver on Dec. 19.
The Bears have lost to Durango in the district tournament for the past two seasons, falling 35-28 in the tournament title game a year ago and 38-33 in the tournament’s second round two years ago. Rifle coach Roger Walters feels that with that kind of game history between the schools, smart decisions down the stretch will be that much more important for both teams.
In the boys tournament bracket, however, coaches have conceded that the tournament selection committee likely won’t pick a team from the tournament for an at-large state tournament spot.
“It becomes that much more stressful because if you lose, you’re done,” Walters said. “So in a way, it’s a little more stressful because it’s kind of like a state tournament game.”
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It was a close game, but after some thrilling back-and-forth plays the Rifle Bears were able to pull off the 28-20 victory over The Academy on May 1.