Double Trouble: Glenwood’s Gray, Peterson play big for Demons in league-title run
CLASS 4A state tournament
Who: Glenwood Springs (19-4) vs. Thomas Jefferson (12-11).
Where: Golden High School.
When: 5 p.m. Friday.
Radio: KMTS, 99.1 and 99.5 FM.
Did you know: Glenwood Springs has not missed the state tournament since the 2003-04 season.
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Zack Peterson and Will Gray have made some big contributions to Glenwood Springs High School’s boys basketball team this year.
Granted, the sheer size of the senior post players has a lot to do with those contributions. With each standing 6 feet, 6 inches tall, they’ve have easily served as the tallest duo among the teams in the Class 4A Western Slope League and among almost all teams in western Colorado.
And their overall contributions have, for lack of a better way of saying it, been huge.
“During our league-coaches meeting last night, everyone came up and told me how our big men have made such a big difference for us this season,” Glenwood coach Cory Hitchcock said. “They told me that they didn’t think they would wind up being as good as they are, which is a big compliment to those boys since they’re worked their tails off to get where they are right now.
“It’s kind of nice to have twin towers on your team to make people second guess if they want to attack the basket or not,” Hitchcock continued.
Peterson and Gray, along with the rest of the Demons, will have a chance to work their tails off for at least one more game. That will take place on Friday in the Richard Tate Regional, when WSL-champion and fifth-seeded Glenwood (19-4 overall) will take on fourth-seeded Thomas Jefferson (12-11) in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament at Golden High School. Game time is slated for 5 p.m. Friday, with the winner advancing to play either top-seeded Golden (20-3) or eighth-seeded Durango (10-13) on Saturday for a trip to the tournament’s Great 8 round next week.
Peterson and Gray, when they first started getting varsity minutes as sophomores, had a lot to work on to become effective players in the coming years. Neither were very productive during their sophomore seasons, when the Demons struggled to a 7-17 season and lost a first-round tournament game at Greeley Central.
That began to change during their junior season, when each moved into a more active part of the Demons’ offense in helping Glenwood finish second behind Rifle in the league standings. And this year, with no other teams in the WSL having two high-caliber post players on their roster, Peterson and Gray flourished.
And the Demons flourished because of their presence, which forced opponents’ defenders to key in on Peterson and Gray throughout the year. That’s opened up the perimeter for players like junior guard Cameron Horning (17.1 points per game, 27 3-pointers), senior guard Brian Burbidge (7.9 points), and junior Mason Yellico (3.9 points), who each have 3-point range and have reached double figures in scoring this season.
Meanwhile, Peterson (9.7 points, 6.6 rebounds) is the most versatile of the two post players in his ability to clean up loose balls and hit fade-away shots from outside the key. Gray (5.6 points, 5.9 rebounds) is the better defender, but he almost had a triple double against Eagle Valley in a 68-44 Glenwood victory on Jan. 6, finishing with eight points, eight rebounds and a career-high nine blocked shots.
“Zack is more of a look-to-score guy, and I’m more of a defensive guy, but that can change a lot as the game goes on,” Gray said. “And we can both contribute, but it really depends on what we really need at that point in the game.”
That depth in the key has given Glenwood something no one else in the WSL really had this season.
“If you go against other teams that have just one big guy and you’re able to shut him down, the game is over,” Peterson said. “But there’s been times when other teams have shut me down, and Will has come around to score 15. It’s great to have two of the best bigs in the league on the same team.”
But the Demons, who posted a 14-0 Western Slope League record, aren’t playing league games anymore. Instead, Glenwood Springs will be playing Friday against a Thomas Jefferson team that has a pair of 6-5 players in Josh McNair (17.5 points, 9.1 rebounds) and Jalen Rose (10 points, 6.3 rebounds). Their presence for the Spartans has opened up shots for 6-4 sophomore guard Ravel Moody (12.3 points, 30 3-pointers).
And if Glenwood was to advance and play against Golden, the Demons would be facing a team with a pair of 6-5 guys in Ryan Blodget (10.9 points, 8.4 rebounds) and Nick Capaul (8.9, 4.2). That, Peterson and Gray said, puts an emphasis on those two to remain aggressive — but out of foul trouble — for the entire game.
Still, Golden’s opponent, Durango, convincingly beat Glenwood 51-37 in the semifinals of last week’s district tournament in Grand Junction. That, more than anything, is a point of emphasis for Glenwood.
“That told us that we can’t afford to take a night off,” Peterson said. “That loss stung because we were on a 15-game win streak before that. We came back to reality with that, and we realize now that if we want to make a deep run, we can’t be complacent.”
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Senior quarterback/safety/punt returner Trey Caldwell used his legs to make up for some mistakes Rifle football made on Friday night and momentarily kept their hopes for a 2A state title alive.