State tournament a family affair for Brabys
PARACHUTE – After a week of soaking up the accolades of classmates and the community at large following qualifying for the Class 2A boys and girls state tournament, Luke and Megan Braby want to play basketball.”This is what I’ve been waiting for all season,” said Luke, the starting center for Grand Valley’s boys team. “Now it’s finally here. I just want to throw on my jersey and get out there.”Megan, a guard on the Cardinals’ girls squad, agrees with her brother on this item – along with escaping the hoop talk that engulfed the Braby home since winning last week’s regional championship games.”My Dad’s been talking to us all week about basketball … what we need to do and how it works and stuff,” she said. “So it’s good that we’re finally going to get to play.”And both Grand Valley teams won’t have long to wait after reaching the Pueblo Events Center for their Day 1 tournament contests this morning.The Cardinal boys tip off the double-elimination tournament at 10:15 a.m. against Del Norte, followed by the girls contest against Sangre De Cristo. It’s the first time both Grand Valley squads have reached the state tournament in the same season.
Megan, a senior, has an edge on state tourney experience over her younger brother. Last year, the Cardinal girls played their way into big show for the first time in school history, while the boys missed out.The defeat at last season’s regional championship game stuck in Luke’s craw throughout the current year.”I was up in the stands watching. It was fun, but we wanted to be there in the game,” he recalled. “I was happy for (the girls team) and Megan, but, I wanted to go.”The boys making state this time was a relief for Megan.”I cared so much that (Luke) got to go to state before he graduated,” said Megan. “Because I got to go last year and that was such a good, cool experience. Now that my brother and I are there, it’s like yeah – we both got to do it.”And the Braby kids are confident of each team’s ability to reach Saturday’s championship game, while not overlooking their respective first-round opponents.”You don’t want to start worrying about the championship game right now because you have two games to win before you get there,” Luke said. “And, there’s some good teams in the way. But, it’s not impossible to think about it. That’s your goal.”
Securing a win over 18-4 Del Norte is the first step for Grand Valley’s boys. The Tigers, feature a front line of 6-foot-5-inch Michael Messier, Geoff Heller, a 6-2 Singan, and another guard-forward in 6-3 Kyle Jones. Heller is Del Norte’s top scorer, with a 13.1-point average. Messier scores a shade over seven points a game and is the Tigers’ best rebounder.Braby, at 6-5, is the tallest man on the Cardinals’ roster.”As far as they go, they like to go into the post, work the ball inside and get close shots,” Braby said. “That’s what a lot of the teams in our league like to do. It’s nothing new for us.”Grand Valley will stick to its game.”We have guys on the perimeter that can shoot the ball. I’ve been out there practicing with them every day and I’ve been playing with them for years. It’s kind of like ‘pick your poison’ when you’re playing us,” he said. State: see next page
“When you try to take the post away, we’re going to light you up with 3-pointers. If you focus on the outside shooters, I’m going to get my (points) inside. It’s kind of a catch-22 for the other team.”Guards Dylan Culver and Sam McKinley combine for 32 points a game. Braby, who scored 16 in the regional title win over Nucla, averages 12 points a contest.On the girls side, the Cardinals and Sangre De Cristo know each other well. In the summer, the two teams played three close games, including a 9-8 overtime victory by the Thunderbirds.”Both teams have really good defenses,” Megan Braby said. “They have one big girl (Brittany Brown) who stays in the paint a lot. They also have a few shooters, but I’m not nervous.”Brown averages 14.1 points. Teammates Kelsie Clan and Michelle Escheman are good for seven points each. Grand Valley features a balanced offense, while limiting opponents to an average of 37 points. Junior forward Katie Bryan and senior Shannon Dunn register 10 points each a game.The key factor for the Cardinal girls, Megan Braby said, is to stay within themselves.”The other team’s not going to throw us off,” she said. “We just have to get focused and play our game because we’re good. That’s what got us to state.”
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Sign language has become a bit of a competitive strategy on the court for the Glenwood Springs High School girls basketball team in recent years.