Fiery team plays for one another |

Fiery team plays for one another

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Wray's C.J. Twiss, in white, surrounded by three Grand Valley players, pulls down a rebound in the closing minutes of the final game of the 2A Colorado High School Basketball Championships Saturday, March 15, 2008 at Massari Arena in Pueblo, Colo. Wray won 48-47. Grand Valley players from left: Lyndsey Tonder, Sherry Miakar, Laauren Schubert. )AP Photo, Chris McLean/Pueblo Chieftain)

PUEBLO ” Erin Vanderpool crashed to the baseline trying to cut a path to the basket and drop in a layup.

Lauren Schubert dove fearlessly to the floor in an effort to snag a possession from a Wray player.

Sherry Mlakar dislocated her shoulder diving after a loose ball, the first of two times she’d do that.

Those were the lasting images of Saturday’s Class 2A state title game between Grand Valley and Wray.

Blue collar to the core, the Cardinal girls left everything on the court during in nearly capturing the state crown.

They didn’t get the title they coveted, but Grand Valley certainly left an impression on Pueblo in their second-place state run.

“Give the Cardinals credit,” said Wray coach David Reed, whose Eagles beat Grand Valley 48-47 in Saturday’s championship game. “They play so hard, they compete so hard. I was really impressed with them. We were very fortunate to win.”

Reed sees many of those same scrappy traits in his team, which made for a heck of a title game.

What makes these Cards so willing to risk their well-being for a win?

It has everything to do with trust and chemistry, sophomore Erin Vanderpool said.

“Someone’s always willing to do something else,” she said after Grand Valley’s semifinal win over Rocky Ford. “We know each other so well. We have so much chemistry that we don’t even have to think about it. It’s just like an instant reaction.”

It works like a chain reaction, she explained. Watching a teammate make a hustle play for the sake of the team inspires others to follow suit.

“When you see someone running like that you know they want it,” Vanderpool said, “and it makes you want it so much more. It lights a fire.”

Fiery is the best word to describe the 2007-08 Cardinals, who wore their want to win on their sleeves.

Senior Sherry Mlakar credited the team’s collective willingness to sacrifice themselves to being a well-bonded group.

“Each class has played with each other for about six years,” she said. “We all know each other and know what each other can do. We’ll do anything to win, on the floor and off the floor. Anything.”

Added fellow senior Lauren Schubert: “We’re together all the time. We worked all year and summer all four years to do it. The sophomores, the freshmen all know it was our last chance. They play really hard for us and we play really hard for them.”

Hard-nosed was definitely the approach the Cardinals employed in the state championship game, and what they became known for during the regular season.

It also probably helps that Grand Valley’s girls hoops coach, Mike Johnson, also coaches a sport known for its toughness.

“Maybe it’s because they’ve got a football coach as the girls basketball coach,” he said with a chuckle. “I don’t know.”

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