Rams basketball poised for big winter in Carbondale
Head coach: Larry Williams (10th season)
Last season: 18-6 overall, 7-2 3A Western Slope League.
Postseason: Lost to Manitou Springs in state tournament Sweet Sixteen.
Key Returners: Justin Thompson, Sr. F; Joe Salinas, Jr. P; Ronald Clemente, Jr. G.
Players to Watch: Ronnie Petatan, Sr. G; Edwin Candela, Sr. G; Oscar Miranda, Jr. G; Mikel Mayo, Jr. G; Irving Anchondo, Sr. F; Aidan Sloan, Jr. P.
Outlook: Veteran Roaring Fork head coach Larry Williams enters his 10th season guiding the Rams, and this year’s crew may be one of the best to hit the court in Carbondale in recent memory.
That being said, last year’s Roaring Fork cagers were no slouch by any means, going 18-6 overall and losing to Manitou Springs by a scant 2 points in the state tournament’s Sweet Sixteen. Williams though, feels the 2017-’18 Rams, with a little tweaking, may have that special ingredient to get them into rarified air in the 3A Western Slope League race.
“We still need to have some individuals find what role they best fit into to help the team the most,” stated Williams, who is, in early season practices and scrimmages, experimenting with players in different positions on the floor than they are accustomed to.
One player Williams is sure to find a position for is senior forward Justin Thompson. Thompson, a big cog in the Rams’ success a year ago, could be the WSL’s best player. Williams says the 6-foot-2-inch leaper worked hard on his game during the summer months and is primed for a stellar year.
Not far behind Thompson on the list of the league’s top players is 6-foot-3 junior post player Joe Salinas. Though his offensive game may still need some polish, Salinas is a capable rebounder and shot blocker who will give Roaring Fork a much-needed presence in the painted area near the basket that has been missing in past years.
Williams will also rely on junior guard Ronald Clemente to orchestrate the Ram offense and help provide perimeter defense against talented, opposing backcourts.
Coal Ridge, Grand Valley and Delta should provide some big tests for Roaring Fork when league play starts in January. A key date to circle on the calendar for area hoop fans is Jan. 23 when the Coal Ridge Titans pay a visit to Carbondale. The winner of that one should be in good shape to make a run at the conference crown when all is said and done as spring draws near.
Always fundamentally sound and focused under Williams, the Rams won’t put the cart before the horse and look ahead on the schedule at any time during the season.
“We’ll take things one game at a time, the way we always have,” says Williams. “We’ll focus on defense first, rebounding, and shot selection. Those are the big three for us.”
Roaring Fork will open the season on Friday, Dec. 1, against Steamboat Springs at the Brenda Patch Tournament in Carbondale. The following afternoon in the Patch Tourney, the Rams will take on the Rifle Bears.
Head coach: Jade Bath (second season)
Last season: 9-11 overall, 4-5 3A Western Slope League.
Key returners: Megan Nieslanik, Sr. G; Logan Erickson, Jr. G; Kendall Bernot, Jr. P.
Others to watch: Coach Bath stated at this time in the preseason, there are several players competing for positions to play in the varsity rotation.
Outlook: Hit hard by graduation, the Roaring Fork ladies, under the direction of second year head coach Jade Bath, will need to quickly regroup in the preseason and find some youngsters to fill the roles of several prominent players that are no longer wearing the blue and gold uniforms.
“We lost seven seniors who laid a good foundation for our program last year,” said Bath. “We don’t look at this as a rebuilding year, though. I would like the kids to raise the bar even higher than in the past. Just finding what girls will step up and fill some key roles is our priority right now.”
The lone senior on the team, Megan Nieslanik, along with junior guard Logan Erickson, should be able to hold down the fort for Bath out front on the perimeter. Junior Kendall Bernot, who according to Bath may play several positions for the Rams, will be counted on heavily to provide defense, points, rebounds and leadership for the young Carbondale team.
“We’ll be young, just one senior on the roster,” stated Bath. “But if the kids can play a mature game and do what we ask, our expectations for them can rise. Some of these girls saw varsity time last year, so we just need to act like a mature team and act like we have been there.”
The Western Slope League girls’ race could be fairly wide open this coming season, but Bath gives a slight nod to Moffat County as the conference favorite. She also looks for Olathe and Cedaredge to have competitive teams, but she is quick to state that “You just really never know. Some teams will surprise you because they develop more quickly than you would have guessed as the season goes on.”
Regardless of what happens on the court in 2017-’18, Bath is having the time of her life coaching at her alma mater and being with her team each night at practice.
“These girls compete so hard,” Bath said. “It’s just fun to watch them and be around them every night.”
The fun begins for Bath and the Rams on Dec. 1 and 2 in Carbondale as Roaring Fork will host Steamboat and Rifle in the annual Brenda Patch Tournament.