Ximena Gutierrez brings the heat on defense for Demons
Four years ago, then-freshman guard Ximena Gutierrez burst onto the scene as a hard-charging fireball of energy for the Glenwood Springs Demons girls basketball program under then-first-year head coach Rhonda Moser. Right away, Gutierrez stood out on the court with her physicality on defense, playing a key role at the top of Glenwood’s press.
With that physicality often came a lot of foul trouble throughout the season, which frustrated and often disheartened the young Gutierrez. But now, winding down her senior season for the Demons under Moser, the four-year starter has channeled her physicality into becoming one of the top defenders in the state.
Playing rugby in the fall, according to Gutierrez, really helped her become confident and comfortable in her own skin as a self-described tomboy.
“Rugby really changed my life in the way that I can be physical and aggressive, and that doesn’t make me any less of a girl,” said Gutierrez at a recent Glenwood practice. “There’s this stigma with girls that we’re supposed to be gentle and fragile, sensitive and careful. I really don’t like that stigma. I grew up with an older brother and a bunch of older guy cousins. They toughened me up and pushed me around when I was younger, and I had to fend for myself. I was always a tomboy from the start and always aggressive.”
Her aggression on the court can rub some players the wrong way and often leaves opposing coaches questioning officials on how much Gutierrez is allowed to get away with defensively. The Demons will take what they can get out of Gutierrez on defense, though, which is a high number of steals per game (3.6, tops in the 4A WSL), and a work ethic and mindset that has helped turn Glenwood’s vaunted defense into one of the toughest to play against on a nightly basis, allowing just 37 points per game on the year, second-lowest in the 4A Western Slope League.
“She’s really learned how to take care of business at that end of the floor,” said Moser. “She raises the energy level when she’s on the floor, and she really sets the pace defensively for us. Ximena is a great leader defensively.
“Ximena is the type of player that, if I need something, she will get it done. She’s a playmaker defensively.”
Controlling her effort level at the defensive end and her ability to outwork others at that end of the floor led to Gutierrez establishing herself as one of the top defensive players in the league.
“That’s just a mentality at that end of the floor,” said Gutierrez. “I knew early in my career that I wasn’t as skilled as others were, but I knew I could outwork them and I could prove that by playing better than they could. I strongly felt that the only thing I could really control on the court was how I played defense, and I learned that in eighth grade. That’s always been my mentality, and I’ve always tried to work as hard as possible at the defensive end.”
In recent years, Gutierrez has been asked to step up offensively, providing the Demons with a proven scorer. That need for a proven scorer was never more needed than this season after the graduation of Maddie Bolitho, Tatum Peterson, Dani DeCrow and Ellie Moser off of last season’s Glenwood roster. Fellow senior guard Emily Worline has stepped up for the Demons from beyond the arc, but it’s been Gutierrez who has upped her scoring output this season, pouring in 9.9 points per game while also adding in her ability to be a strong passer.
The thing that helped Gutierrez grow into a go-to scorer this winter for Glenwood was something so minor, yet so important for any athlete: confidence. This season, Gutierrez finally feels like she belongs.
“In recent years I never really felt like I belonged on the court offensively with girls like Maddie [Bolitho] and Tatum [Peterson],” said Gutierrez. “I was always worried about messing up offensively and hurting the team. But this season I’m much more confident and comfortable in my abilities, and I’ve been able to show that.”
Gutierrez has a slick handle at the point for Glenwood, blowing by defenders with a quick crossover, or putting the ball behind her back to beat a defender in the press. With her ball handling growth has come an improved ability to pass the ball to set up teammates, as highlighted by her nine-assist output on Jan. 29 in a home win over Summit, 67-34. Her physicality defensively has also led to her being able to finish at the rim consistently on offense this season, especially through contact.
“She worked really hard over the summer,” said Moser. “The biggest thing we harped on was finishing, finishing, finishing. She doesn’t have the prettiest shot in the world, but she can get by defenders and get into the lane. This year, she’s really been able to finish consistently, drawing fouls in the process.”
On the year, Gutierrez has attempted 42 more free throws than the next-closest teammate, averaging nearly four free throw attempts per game for the Demons.
Her strong career is coming to a close, but she’s left behind a legacy of physical defense and a work ethic that has gone unmatched, raising the bar for future classes. The senior hopes to play basketball at the next level and has at least two schools interested in her at press time. For now though, she’s focused on making this final run with Glenwood count.
Gutierrez and the Demons return to the court Saturday for a league clash with the Steamboat Springs Sailors at home.
The senior guard will be one of six girls basketball players honored on Senior Day.
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