Keeping Focused: Grand Valley junior Sam Parker leads 3A in scoring as state tournament opens today
PARACHUTE — Sam Parker’s presence on the basketball court has been well known this season. Other teams make sure he knows that.
“I sorta get double-teamed a lot,” the Grand Valley High School junior said. “That makes it a little tougher to score, but that’s OK. I still manage to get by.”
Does he ever.
The Cardinals point guard has been the go-to guy for the Grand Valley boys basketball team this season. His 21.6 points-per-game scoring average is tops in Colorado’s 3A classification, and it’s come despite all of those double teams on the perimeter and around the hoop.
And the 6-foot-tall Parker, whose time playing at the varsity level for the Cardinals has been limited to just 1 1/2 years, might just try to bump up his production a little more this weekend. That’s because his squad is trying to reach the quarterfinal round of the state tournament for the first time since 2007, when the Cardinals claimed the school’s first and only boys basketball state title as a 2A school.
But to do that, Grand Valley (14-8) will have to first get by The Pinnacle (17-5) during a first-round matchup at 7:30 tonight at Colorado Springs Christian School. The winner moves on to Saturday’s regional championship game against either Frontier Academy (12-11) or CSCS (19-3) for a spot in the 32-team bracket’s Great 8, which will be held next week at Clune Arena at the Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs.
Parker’s ball handling and quickness have made him tough to guard for the Cardinals’ opponents from the Western Slope League. He usually comes open from beyond the 3-point line thanks to the motion offense Grand Valley uses in its half-court sets, but he’s able to drive the lane and shoot off the dribble as well.
All total, Parker has drained 59 3-pointers — tied for sixth in 3A with Delores Huerta’s Isaac Luna — and is shooting 81 percent (104 of 129) from the free throw line. Only one other 3A player — Spencer Bazz of Faith Christian (132) — has taken more free-throw attempts than Parker.
It’s also helped that Parker has had a strong supporting cast around him. His little brother, sophomore John Parker, is the Cardinals’ second-leading scorer (11.8 points) but has reached double figures in six of Grand Valley’s past nine games. Add in 6-3 Tanner Magee (8.3 points, 5.7 rebounds) and 6-5 Ty Scott (7.8 points, 7.5 rebounds) and the Cardinals’ inside presence has helped create open shots from the perimeter.
“Those big guys have been huge for us,” Parker said. “If we can get it inside and create those shots for us out there, we can get up by 10 or 20 really quick.”
Parker, however, had to deal with a long wait when he first got to Grand Valley.
When Grand Valley coach Scott Parker took the helm prior to last season after previously serving as the football coach at Coal Ridge, Sam — Scott’s son — transferred to the Parachute school. With that comes a mandatory nine-game waiting period for players who transfer to compete at the varsity level.
The Cardinals struggled mightily while Sam played junior varsity hoops, but they won their last five regular-season games when he joined the varsity squad. Still, the wait wasn’t enjoyable for Sam at all.
“It was probably the roughest thing he’s been through as a player,” coach Parker said of Sam, who stated he felt like he “got worse” playing JV.
“He served that time and really had no control over that,” coach Parker continued. “Sometimes in life you have no control over that and you have to play the cards you’re dealt. He came on in the second half of the season and … ended up having a solid year. But then he came back in the spring and basically made a commitment to having a better junior year than his sophomore year, and he’s done that.”
The 12.9 points per game he scored in just 11 games as a sophomore last season was solid, for sure. That season, however, ended with a district-tournament loss to Basalt.
The Cardinals aren’t ready for this season to end.
“We don’t look back at some of those past [Grand Valley] teams since none of us were around back then,” Sam Parker said. “But as for right now, I just want to go out and get some wins this weekend.”
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