EVERGREEN — So it was over, then it wasn’t. Then it was really over and just beginning at the same time.
Eagle Valley girls basketball thought it was eliminated from state after falling in the second round of districts on Friday to Steamboat Springs. The tournament gets only six automatic bids to the dance, and the Devils were team No. 7 after that loss.
But, as it turns out, there were still at-large berths for the state tourney, and the Devils nabbed one of those on Sunday. (Since it is the season of bracketology, Eagle Valley was under the category of “last four in, but all were happy to continue.)
The No. 12 Devils went down to Evergreen on Tuesday for a state-playoff game at Evergreen and fell to the Cougars, 58-36, to end the season officially.
“I just didn’t think that (the tournament committee) would give any respect to the Western Slope,” Devils coach Sam Bartlett said on Tuesday night. “They gave Delta a bid, too.”
And while Eagle Valley (12-11) fell to a better team in Evergreen, Tuesday’s finale was a better cap to the season than the Steamboat loss.
“We were looser tonight,” Bartlett said. “Our shots didn’t fall, but it was fun to watch and making the playoffs is progress from last year for the program. It was a rewarding experience despite the outcome.”
A PROMISING FUTURE
And though it was a loss, the Devils got a good look at the future. Freshman Kylie Martin led Eagle Valley with 14 points, some of that offense coming from older sister, Taylor. Junior Mariel Gutierrez finished with nine.
The Devils will lose Megan Asmussen, Lauren Thorpe and Michelle Carbajal to graduation, but a lot of talent is returning.
“On paper, I’m very excited,” Bartlett said. “We’ve got names, athletes and tremendous potential. I’d be more excited if they get into the gym this summer and dedicate themselves to becoming what they can be — not just stellar individuals but a stellar team.”
And that is the rub for the Devils — getting the pieces to lock together. Bartlett felt that his team has shown glimpses of its potential but got worn down, particularly on defense, as the season progressed. And since defense leads to quick transition and Eagle Valley’s strength, speed, that’s a reason the Devils lost five in a row to finish the season.
“We really have to dedicate ourselves to shooting,” Bartlett said. “They have to get out on their own — not just under a coach’s watchful eye — and play. They need to do the Isiah Thomas thing — dribble a basketball everywhere they go, and every time they run into a hoop, shoot for 20 minutes.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.