It’s do-or-die time for Longhorn hoopsters |

It’s do-or-die time for Longhorn hoopsters

This is why they play the game.

Tonight at 7 p.m. at the Basalt High School Bighouse, the No. 8 seed Basalt girls basketball team renews its Class 3A state championship bid with a regional-level game against No. 25 La Junta.

With the field of 32 teams set, the winner advances to the sweet 16, and the loser goes home, finished.

Basalt, 18-4 on the season, enters tonight’s game the clear favorite over 11-12 La Junta . It will be a rematch of sorts from the third-place consolation match in last year’s state playoffs, a game won by La Junta after BHS’ title dreams were narrowly dashed in the semifinals.

And Basalt, which has won four consecutive Class 3A Western Slope League titles, has been in do-or-die situations before.

“We’ve got confidence knowing we can win these types of games,” Basalt head coach Terry Kappeli said.

“I see a lot of confidence, I see a lot of vitality and eagerness to get on to another level, and they’ve got all the tools they need.”

Led by senior Lauren Redfern, a multi-dimensional scorer who can play all five positions, the Longhorns have eight players they can look to for production. The starters, including Redfern, junior guard Deanna Spracher, senior guard Brittany Pollock, and senior forwards Rochelle Moebius and Amanda Schmitt, have all carried the ‘Horns before.

“On any given night, anyone can have a career-type game,” said Kappeli. “And that’s what we love about this team. There’s eight kids capable of having a very good night.”

No. 9 Eaton (18-5) and No. 24 Trinidad (11-11) tip off at 5 p.m. in Basalt in the early first-round game.

The winner of Basalt-La Junta and Eaton-Trinidad will face off at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Bighouse for the right to advance to the ‘Great 8.’ The eight finalists will clash next Thursday to Saturday at Colorado State University to determine a state champ.

“Getting this far was the second of our goals,” Kappeli said. “The first was to win the league; the second was to win regionals; and the third was to go to (the final eight) and do well. So we’re on our way.”

For the second consecutive year the Basalt boys basketball team squeaked into the state tournament by claiming the fifth and final spot at the district tournament.

And, for the second year in a row, their reward was the state tournament’s No. 1 seed.

The Longhorns travel to undefeated Pagosa Springs for a 7 p.m. tilt tonight and, from the look of things, the matchup is tilted in favor of Pagosa.

The Pirates feature two players measuring 6-foot-8 or better and have yet to drop a game this season.

“I don’t think we’re intimidated,” Basalt head coach Michael Green said. “We see it more of a privilege to get to play another game, and why not play the best in the state.

“We’ll be as positive as we can be and see where the chips fall,” he added. “We’ve got nothing to lose.”

Caleb Forrest paces the Pirates with 17 points per game and is also the team leader on the boards.

“We’ll have to make some adjustments, and hopefully make them do some things they haven’t had to do, and make the other kids do things to beat us,” Green said. “But we’ll definitely have our hands full.”

The winner advances to face the winner of the No. 16 Kent Denver vs. No. 17 Aspen game at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Pagosa Springs.

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