After a two-year slumber on the court, the Eagle Valley-Battle Mountain basketball rivalry is back.
Routs, while certainly fun if your team is doing the routing, are no fun for me. Close games like Tuesday night’s Devils’ 46-45 win over the Huskies give us something about which to talk.
• Let’s start with the big guy, Travis Edgar, who was the focus of much attention on both sides — and understandably so. (Edgar is really the only major mismatch between the two teams.) I really liked Eagle Valley’s pick-and-roll strategy, particularly in the first half. Put Edgar at the top of the key with the pick and then, somehow, he loses the Huskies’ defense — How do you lose Travis? He sort of stands out!?! But, hey, it worked. What was really cool was to see Edgar kick it back out to Noah Ejnes for the 3-ball. I’d like to see more of that as the season continues. Let’s face it, Eagle Valley, everyone in the Slope is going to sit on Edgar and make anyone else beat them. Way to step up, Noah.
• Edgar didn’t have a huge night nor did he have a bad night. That’s actually good. Grasshopper — I’m talking to you, Travis — you’re walking a fine line this season. You can’t be the be all and end all every game, but there will be some nights you will have to be the be all and end all. Sometimes, you will have to put this team on your back because you are the veteran now, but if you’re doing it every night, then the Devils are in trouble. Kick it back out when appropriate, and, when in the paint, go up hard. Yes, you will get the stuffing kicked out of you some nights. That’s fine. (Please notice how Freud says this from the comfort of his keyboard.) Edgar on the line is a good thing. Now, you need to make those free throws. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.
• Holy cow: It’s a Sabo ... Nice job, Jeremy ... no, that’s Slater. (Guys, I’m an only child. My folks understandably said, “One, and we’re done.” I am just not used to the sibling thing.) Young Slater, yes, he’s a junior, looked very clutch out there. That baseline jumper was pretty much the dagger, and it nearly blew the roof off the building. Good stuff.
• Props to Eagle Valley’s kids. Freshman Arturo Loera had a huge 3-point play during those frenzied final two minutes. Fellow frosh Samuel Ericson hit what was the game-winning free throw as well. These aren’t the only youngsters who will see varsity time this year for the Devils. You guys are going to have to grow up quickly this season.
• OK, Battle Mountain, tough loss, but you are closing the gap. Coach Tom Padilla said after the game that the defense folded. I agree somewhat. I think this is part of a bigger picture, which is you don’t know how to win the tight game. This goes back a year or two. You need to keep doing in the final four minutes what you’ve done in the first 28. It’s still basketball, guys. No crying. No whining, in particular, toward the refs. It’s about the five of you who are on the court during those final four minutes.
• Owen Riley, who is not Jerry Carrazco — whoops — very nice 3 with 19 seconds to go. That certainly put the fear of the Almighty in Eagle Valley. Riley is also a good part of the puzzle with Mizriam Olivas, Carrazco (who is not Riley), Cruz Villalobos (great buzzer-beater at the half) and John Rulon. Throw in the injured Amadou Dath, and this team does have talent.
• Mr. Rulon — You are not the first or the last person in the history of basketball who is going through some tough sledding on the court. It will come back, and you will emerge from this stronger. You must work harder. Every day during the break, you need to be on some form of court playing and shooting. It will come back. Three weeks from now, we’ll be laughing about this.
• Nice quote from Eagle Valley girls hoops coach Sam Bartlett about how his team played its best basketball last year in December (and in early January), and then petered out. That was very much the case for the Lady Devils, and something upon which they need to improve. It’s also a good note for all six varsity teams in the valley, including Vail Christian. Eagle Valley’s boys looked like world-beaters in December last year, but flat lined. Meanwhile, the Saints boys looked like same old, same old until late January and took off. The latter is better.
• And fear not, the Lady Huskies really look like they’re making progress. Will they win the Slope this year? Nope. But you can see that they are moving the ball with a purpose and starting to get organized defensively. It’s a start, and a step in the right direction.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.