‘Goofy’ Titans know when to get serious | PostIndependent.com

‘Goofy’ Titans know when to get serious

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

PEACH VALLEY, Colorado ” Jokes fly around the Coal Ridge gymnasium as if it were a comedy club.

That’s par for the course with any team coached by Paul Harvey, who’s notorious for his quick wit. But when it’s time to get down to business, Coal Ridge’s boys basketball team pushes the silliness aside.

“They’re kind of goofy,” said Harvey, who has his squad heading to the Class 3A state tournament in his first season as coach of the Titans. “When it comes to game time, they’re very competitive, very driven.”

That balancing act was no more evident than at Tuesday’s practice. The Titans finished up on a light note with a game of knockout, one that bred both quips and fierce competition.

This weekend, though, Coal Ridge is on a mission.

The Titans head to Colorado State University in Fort Collins as an underdog in an eight-team field. Regardless, they have their eyes trained on a state title.

“I don’t feel like we can’t pull it off,” said Alex Klein, Coal Ridge’s 6-foot-8-inch big man known in the gym as “The Exterminator” for his shot-blocking prowess. “Some of the younger guys are probably like, ‘Oh, it’s going to be fun to stay in a hotel,’ but the seniors, we want to make it memorable. We want to put a trophy in that case.”

The 21-3 Titans will begin that trophy quest tonight against 20-4 Eaton, which beat Denver Lutheran 56-46 in Saturday’s Sweet 16 to make 3A’s round of eight for a third straight year. Seth Lobato and his nearly 20 points a game lead the Reds.

“I think we match up very well with them,” Harvey said. “The biggest issue is intangibles. Playing at state, they have that experience and our guys never have. It’s a new gym, big crowd and, you know, those things are hard to adjust to.”

This is where Harvey’s serious side rises to the surface.

An assistant coach under Scott Kiburis when Grand Valley won the 2A state title back in 2007, Harvey knows a thing or two about the pressure-heavy atmosphere of the postseason’s later rounds.

Keeping the trip to Fort Collins strictly about basketball will be the coach’s primary objective.

“It’s hard because it feels like you’re on vacation,” Harvey said. “You’re out of school, you’re staying in hotels. As a coaching staff, we have to make sure they realize that we’re there for basketball. Hopefully they can put that other stuff behind them and play.”

Again, there’s that delicate balance between keeping things light and keeping things serious. It’s worked for the Titans so far.

“This is something we’ve been working for,” said Andy Smedra, whose nickname is “Rockefeller” for his passing ability. (As Harvey put it, it’s because he hands out dimes.) “We knew if we played our game, we could get here.”

Now “here,” the Titans hope to make some noise.

“We just need to stay focused, play as a team and have fun,” Klein said. “Whatever happens, happens.”

Eric Schmitz, who left Coal Ridge’s Saturday Sweet 16 game against Colorado Academy with a sprained ankle, is expected to suit up for the Titans in Fort Collins.

“He’s good,” Harvey said on Tuesday. “He did a lot drills tonight. I think he’ll be able to go. He may not be 100 percent, but I’ll take an 80 percent Eric Schmitz, because he can still shoot.”

Schmitz, whose accuracy from the perimeter has him averaging a team-high 18.9 points a game, is nicknamed “Easy-E.”

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