High-flying Cards bolster high hopes | PostIndependent.com
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High-flying Cards bolster high hopes

Jon Mitchell
jmitchell@postindependent.com
Grand Valley High School girls basketball coach Mike Johnson goes through defensive drills with his team during workouts on Monday at Grand Valley High School. Johnson is entering his 14th season as the Cardinals' coach.
Jon Mitchell/Citizen Telegram |

GRAND VALLEY high school

winter SPORTS

BOYS BASKETBALL

Head coach: Scott Parker (second season).

Last season: 6-14 overall, 6-10 Class 3A Western Slope League (sixth place), lost to Basalt in first round of WSL tournament.

Key returners: Tyler Scott, Sr., 6-5, F; Trent Haggerdy, Sr., 5-10, G; Sam Parker, Jr., 5-11, G.

Others to watch: Tanner McGee, Soph., 6-3, F; Santos Cornejo, Sr., 6-1, G/F; Ben Coleman, Jr., 6-2, G/F; John Parker, Soph., 5-9, G; Ivan Arizaga, Sr., 6-0, G/F; Leon Hernandez, Jr., 5-9, G; Luis Pena, Sr., 5-8, G; Cordero Orona, Sr., 6-0, G/F; Omar Chirez, Sr., 6-0, F.

Outlook: Grand Valley didn’t start to click until the end of the season, when the Cardinals won their final five regular-season games to reach the league tournament, only to lose in the first round to Basalt. Parker said it won’t take that long for his team to jell this season, noting that a good summer season will ensure that. “We are heads and shoulders above where we were at this time last year,” the coach said. ... Sam Parker finished with a team-high 12.7 points per game and was second on the team in 3-pointers with 19. He only played in the Cardinals’ final 11 games last year, having to sit out the first nine due to CHSAA’s transfer rules. ... Scott averaged 10 points and 9.3 rebounds last year. ... Parker is especially happy with the added experience on the team this year. Everyone on the roster has at least one year of varsity experience compared to a year ago, when there were only two players who had seen varsity time.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Head coach: Mike Johnson (14th season).

Last season: 15-8 overall, 12-4 Class 3A Western Slope League (third place), lost to Bishop Machebeuf in first round of Class 3A state tournament.

Key returners: Ashlynn Speakman, Sr., 5-1, PG; Haley Johnson, Sr., 5-8, F; Lauren Paskett, Sr., 5-5, F; Ashley Radel, Sr., 5-3, G; Jordan Scott, Jr., 5-11, F.

Others to watch: Kyra Chenoweth, Jr., 5-8, G; Hannah Cornelius, Sr., 5-7, G/F; Vanessa Greene, Sr., 5-5, G.

Outlook: Johnson feels good about his team, saying that the amount of experience on this year’s team mirrors previous teams that have made deep postseason runs. Still, he’d like to see some of the skill expand as the season progresses. “Right now, we have seven kids who have a lot of experience, but I’d love to see that number be eight, nine or 10 by the middle of the season,” he said. ... Haley Johnson is a four-year starter and a two-time all-state player who averaged 12.3 points and 6.4 rebounds a year ago. Speakman and Radel are each three-year starters. ... Grand Valley will be tested early when it plays at the Holy Family Tiger Tip-Off Tournament on Dec. 12-14, with state contenders Holy Family and Manual penciled in on the schedule.

WRESTLING

Head coach: Rick Gutierrez (10th season).

Last season: Six individual state qualifiers, third-place finish at Class 3A regional tournament.

Key returners: Bryan Hegwood, Sr., 182; Miguel Valles, Sr., 132; Will Hinkle, Sr., 160; Jonathan Smith, Soph., 113/120; Jacob Hegwood, Jr., 126; Jeb Stagg, Jr., 152.

Others to watch: Jonathan Downing, Fr., 171.

Outlook: Numbers are down this season for the Cardinals, as only nine wrestlers have come out for the team so far this year. That doesn’t mean Gutierrez, however, will set the bar any lower. “If someone thinks they can come in here and hardly do anything knowing they’ll fill the weight, that doesn’t mean they’ll get the spot,” the coach said. “They have to show that they have what it takes to survive in this wrestling room so they can earn a spot.” ... Hegwood, Valles, Hinkle and Stagg each reached the 3A state tournament a year ago, and Hegwood made the podium as a sixth-place finisher at 171. He’ll try to go up a weight this season. ... Gutierrez said he likes the work ethic of his returning wrestlers, and he hopes it will rub off on the team’s younger wrestlers.

PARACHUTE — The winter sports programs at Grand Valley High School seem to be setting their sights a little bit higher this season.

Each of the high school’s three teams — boys basketball, girls basketball and wrestling — hope to make stark improvements on their 2012-13 campaigns. That’s saying quite a bit, considering that the girls basketball team reached the Class 3A state tournament and the wrestling team has fewer wrestlers this season.

All three teams, however, figure the 2013-14 season is something to look forward to.

All five starters on Grand Valley’s girls basketball team from last season are back, including a pair of players — Haley Johnson and Ashlynn Speakman — who have a gamut of starting experience. They lead a very experienced group, something that hasn’t come around very often at Grand Valley.

“The last time I had this much experience coming back, we ended up losing the state championship game by a point,” said Grand Valley coach Mike Johnson, referring to the Cardinals’ 48-47 loss to Wray in the 2008 state championship game. “This year, I have four seniors who have played for four years.”

That speaks of maturity, which the Cardinals hope to capitalize on. Grand Valley did show some inconsistencies last season, but Johnson feels like his core group of players, along with his younger players, have moved past that.

“We’ve got to play fast and hard because we don’t have a lot of size,” said Johnson, who enters his 14th season as Grand Valley’s girls hoops coach. “Plus, we’ve got to defend the length of the floor each night. If we’re able to do that, we’ll be tough.”

Second-year Grand Valley boys basketball coach Scott Parker likes what he sees from his team, too. The Cardinals finished the season with a 6-14 overall record, but they closed the regular season last year with five consecutive victories.

“The kids have shown a lot of chemistry on the floor, and it took us a while to find that at the beginning of last season,” Parker said. “I think we’re going to be very solid defensively, but we’ve also become very fluid on offense.”

Tyler Scott, a 6-foot-5 senior, leads the way after averaging 10 points and 9.3 rebounds last season. Trent Haggerdy and Sam Parker also return to the starting lineup.

In wrestling, Rick Gallegos returns for his 10th season as coach. And even though the Cardinals’ numbers are down — nine wrestlers went out for the team through Tuesday — it doesn’t mean the team will be taking a break.

“We have four state qualifiers back from last year,” Gallegos said. “And our guys not only have that experience behind them, but they have the work ethic to keep getting better as the season goes on.”


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