A look back on Huskies-Devils hoops | VailDaily.com

A look back on Huskies-Devils hoops

That was fun

One of the reasons Eagle Valley doesn't feel like a 6-14 team is junior Carlos Sanchez (15) is so fast and a terror to guard.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

We really ought to play every Battle Mountain-Eagle Valley boys basketball game in Edwards.

The Devils really shouldn’t mind. They’re 2-2 in Edwards the past four years against their archrivals and 1-3 against the Huskies in Gypsum.

The last four games in Edwards:

  • 2017: Devin Huffman slams it down, and the Huskies upset the Devils, 49-45, in overtime, costing Eagle Valley a share of the league title.
  • 2018: Eagle Valley goes beyond nuclear from 3-point land and beats the Huskies, 110-102, in a 32-minute game. (This is still about the craziest game I have ever covered.)
  • 2019: The Devils take down the favored Huskies, 82-78, in triple overtime. (Freud has a heart attack on deadline.)
  • Thursday night: Liam McKenny drops 34 points on the Devils, but the Huskies barely get by Eagle Valley, 67-66.
Battle Mountain’s Liam McKenny has a pretty decent night against Eagle Valley with 34 points. (Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com)
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You want a good game? Play it in Edwards, and let’s make it a darn day game for your sportswriter.

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Here’s all the stuff I couldn’t get in on deadline:

Pfft on McKenny

We might just talk about McKenny going off for 34. But the way I see it, the Huskies won by one point. Karsen Williams scored the first field goal for the Huskies; thus they couldn’t have won without him.

It’s surprising we didn’t run the headline, “Karsen leads Huskies to victory.”

Obviously, it was Senior Night, and coach Philip Tronsrue had to start eight seniors in five spots, and he’s a really bad coach for not being able to do that.

Hakeem Dath was out with an injury, and Tronsrue sat McKenny and Owen Ruotolo so that Thorne Hensel and Williams could start. After all, McKenny and Ruotolo are used to pregame intros

Seniors starting on Senior Night should happen, but it can be scary. Tronsrue and I were joking about Senior Night 2006 after Thursday night’s game. The Huskies had to beat Delta for a share of the league title and Steamboat Springs needed to beat Glenwood Springs for the Huskies to win the 4A Slope outright.

The 2006 Huskies had too many seniors for Senior Night — work on that, Phil — and the Huskies juggled their lineup and had to come back against Delta, 52-51.

Like Williams, senior Joe Ortega started and had two points.

Headline: “Ortega leads Huskies to league title.” For the record, it was, “At last: league champs.” (And a rare, belated thank-you to Steamboat for beating Glenwood, 53-39, that night.)

OK, McKenny

The senior scored 66 points against Eagle Valley in two games. That makes your mark. As I wrote in the game story, McKenny was the one factor in this matchup that was unaccountable. The Devils had no answer.

Yes, he’s 6-foot-6, and the Devils and a lot of other teams have struggled with him, but McKenny’s had to battle as well at times.

Opponents have collapsed their defenses on him. At times, the calls haven’t gone his way, and he’s taken himself out of the game mentally.

There were many turning points Thursday night, and one of them came with 4:37 left when McKenny got his fourth foul. Nonetheless, he scored six of Battle Mountain’s final seven points.

Pretty clutch.

Coach Brandt falls on the grenade

A telling quote from Eagle Valley coach Justin Brandt after Thursday’s game: “I think we’ve had six games within five points this year, and we’ve won only two of them. That’s on me. We challenge the players to get better, and this is a situation where I have to get better.”

Actually, Eagle Valley has had eight games decided by five points or fewer and the team is 3-5. Of particular frustration is two losses in three days to Rifle and Battle Mountain by a total of three points.

This is Brandt taking one for the team, a veteran move by a young coach in his second year.

Of course, Brandt second-guesses everything as he replays the season in his brain. But the players influence the game the most, and we have a large sample size in 20 games and 6-14 record in Gypsum.

That said, this doesn’t feel like a 6-14 squad. Eagle Valley scraps and simply never quits, which is kind of annoying when covering the Devils because they’re never out of a game. (I’m joking, people.)

Keegan Garvey has a fantastic arrogance required in a 3-point assassin. (And I can’t believe one of Mike Garvey’s kids is a senior.) Carlos Sanchez is so quick to the rim, and then he just drops a fall-away jumper like he did in the third quarter? Good luck guarding him. Bryan Martinez and Branden Vigil don’t play like sophomores.  

If they make the playoffs, the Devils are going to be a tough out.

What the …

With rivalry games, the spotlight shines on unusual places:

  • Eagle Valley’s Tristen Clark didn’t play organized hoops until this season. He had 13 points on Thursday night.
  • Big men 3s: Clark and McKenny both hit from downtown with 13 seconds of each other.
  • Patterson with the 3? Who are you and what did you do with Dalton? 
  • A small play that was huge: Battle Mountain got the ball to Ruotolo in the waning seconds. He is the one person you can’t foul because the kid is automatic.

Playoff scenarios

Battle Mountain is in the tournament. It’s just a question of where. The Huskies were No. 31 in the ratings-percentage index as of this writing. They want to be No. 32 or better to host a first-round game next week.

Eagle Valley is very much on the bubble at No. 46 — 48 teams qualify. Today’s regular-season finale at Palisade is pretty much a play-in game.


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