Roaring Fork prepare to take on Eaton
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE ” Paired up and jogging circles around the volleyball markings at Roaring Fork High School’s main gymnasium, members of the school’s boys basketball team awaited the sound of coach Roger Walters’ whistle.
As soon as the shrill sound echoed through the facility, the outside man in each pair charged the logo at center court, where a single basketball sat. The inside man’s job: to use a box-out to stop the outside man from getting to that ball.
It was the little things, like boxing out, that Walters centered his Rams’ Monday practice around. That’s because, going up against defending Class 3A champion Eaton in the Great Eight round of the state tournament, those little things will make all the difference.
“If we don’t do these little things, we’re going to be humiliated,” Walters stressed to his team.
“We just have to try to do the little fundamental stuff ” rebound, boxing out, passing the ball, holding onto the ball and being patient,” the Rams’ 6-foot-8 post Torrey Udall, a senior, said. “There’s not going to be a whole lot of scoring, so we have to do the little things.”
The Rams (19-5) will do their best to avoid humiliation against the vaunted Reds (23-1) at Colorado State University in Fort Collins on Thursday, with a trip to the state semifinals on the line.
Roaring Fork’s hope is to shock all of Colorado with an upset.
“Nobody expects us to win so we just have to play our game and do what we do best,” senior guard Matthias Weissl, a foreign exchange student from Austria, said. “I’m always so motivated to play against one of the best teams in the state, where we can show what we’ve worked the whole year for.”
After years of traveling to Fort Collins as one of the favorites to win it all, the Rams are adjusting to a different role as they prepare to make their fifth consecutive appearance at the state tournament ” that of the underdog. Losing four starting seniors from last year’s squad, which churned out a fifth-place state finish, lowered expectations for the Carbondale school.
Walters and his Roaring Fork players hope to turn that doubt in their favor.
“When you can try to prove people wrong, that’s always an advantage,” the fifth-year Rams coach said. “There’s no pressure on us by any means. There’s not one person outside of this locker room that thinks we can win the game, so I think that might help us.”
On top of that newfound underdog status, Roaring Fork hopes it may have been toughened up by its brutal regular season schedule, which featured three close losses to 3A Western Slope League mate and fellow state qualifier Aspen, and a season-opening win over 4A WSL champ Steamboat Spring.
And then there were two tight wins over tough teams in University and Sheridan in the regional rounds of the state tournament.
Suffice it to say, the Rams are as battle-tested as they’ve been in recent seasons as they stand on Fort Collins’ doorstep.
“I definitely think we played our best basketball yet [at regions],” Udall said, “but we still have a lot of things to improve on, which is cool to know. I mean, we left a lot out there that we should have finished. We have a lot this weekend we could do and still get better, so we can finish at the top of our game, hopefully.”
It all starts with Eaton on Thursday. Win that one ” not an easy task ” and the sky is the limit for this Roaring Fork team.
“Lots of people thought we wouldn’t make it at all,” senior guard Alex Hernandez said. “We’re just glad to prove them all wrong. You never know.”
“We were a No. 1 seed last year and Kent Denver beat us,” Udall added. “State’s a different place. Anything can happen.”
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The Coal Ridge High boys suffered their first 3A Western Slope League loss of the year Thursday night on the road at Gunnison, falling to the defending league champion Cowboys 65-45.