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January 16, 2013
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And the state chase begins

First, the particulars.

Battle Mountain boys basketball won its second-straight game, downing Summit County, 57-51 in Farmer's Korner.

Jack Kamby had two big 3s down the stretch, and the defense had some big stops late to pull the Huskies to 3-3 in league play. Speaking of defense, Jimmy O'Rourke had a big night with 10 rebounds and seven blocks.

Joe LyBarger led the Huskies with 17 points.

Coach Tom Padilla was not overly-enthused aboiut his team's defense and intentsity. He was looking for more consistency from his club, which is starting to sound a like a familiar refrain in Western Colorado.

And this is our plotline for the next month or so. Delta is probably the team to beat in the 4A Slope, until someone proves otherwise. Palisade's at Delta on Tuesday and that should be a good one.

Palisade is off to a good start, but has won a lot of close games. Just ask the Huskies, who lost to the Bulldogs, 45-44, in their conference opener in Palisade.

After that, it comes down to who shows up on what night. Eagle Valley, Battle Mountain, Steamboat Springs and Glenwood Springs are all in the mix with Rifle and Summit bringing up the rear.

The Devils, despite a loss at Delta before the break, have the potential to win the Slope. What is troubling from early returns, as scattered as they may be, is that consistency Padilla spoke about his Huskies. Devils coach Jim Bair has said the exact same thing about his team.

In the three Eagle Valley games I've seen this year, the Devils have been brilliant, running Rifle ragged and OK in a win at Battle Mountain. The latter is understandable. It's a rivalry game and that rarely produces crisp basketball. I give you a pass there. Against Summit last week - a win - it looked like the Devils were sleep-walking.

With a more consistent schedule, starting Friday at Steamboat, which will be only their second in a month, the Devils might find that groove. All the tools are there. The Devils are big, skilled and quick. It's show-me time.

As for the Huskies, they are better than I thought they would be and they may be in a position to make some noise. The Huskies can play with Palisade. We'll find out about Delta Jan. 26. In the meantime, they host Steamboat Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Steamboat is beatable, which is weird to say. Then again, so was Glenwood, and that didn't go as well as the Huskies hoped last week.

Look for Summit and Rifle to be spoilers. Summit is improved, and Rifle, from past Slope experience, just doesn't stay down long.

Taking care of business in the Slope is important because the season ends with a conference/regional tournament at Colorado Mesa. The eight Slope teams will be tied in with three teams from the 5A/4A Southwestern League, Durango, Montezuma-Cortez and Montrose.

With 11 teams in the tourney, seed Nos. 6-11 will play pig tails to make a field of eight in Grand Junction, and seven squads qualify for the state tournament. Do the math. Finishing fourth or better in the Slope - assuming Durango gets folded in with the higher-seeded teams in the league - gets the Devils and/or Huskies a bye through pigtails, and goes a long way toward a state-tournament berth.

The teams that put together runs in the next month are going to be the ones dancing come tournament time.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Jan 16, 2013 11:47PM Published Jan 16, 2013 11:35PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.