Watch: Summit boys, girls basketball fight fatigue to defeat Eagle Valley rivals
Tiger boys improve to 4-2 on season, girls to 2-5
Considering his players didn’t get to bed until after 1 a.m. Saturday morning Summit High varsity boys basketball coach Jordan Buller was a bit worried about energy for Saturday’s game versus Eagle Valley. After a tough loss at Palisade, driving back on Interstate 70 in a snowstorm meant the only real preparation the Tigers got for their afternoon tip versus their rival, the Devils, was a shoot around, free throws and a pregame debriefing.
Despite the short rest and quick turnaround — and despite not having any fans in the stands — the Tigers (4-2, 3-1 4A Western Slope) bottled up more than enough energy to run away from the Devils (2-4, 1-4) in an emotional, scrappy 71-59 victory.
Buller credited the team’s depth and ferociousness on the offensive and defensive glass for the impressive, energetic win.
Summit played with that passion from the get-go, as Buller told his squad rotations and substitutions would be more frequent than normal. Senior captain point guard Hector Diaz (10 points) was limited to 4-minute spells against Eagle Valley’s in-your-face man-to-man defense. Diaz was one of 10 Tigers to score on Saturday. The team had an even offensive output led by Naz Poliuk’s 14 points, Cam Kalaf’s 14 points and Tyler Nakos’ 13 points.
The Devils tried to agitate senior Poliuk all game long. Devils senior guard Branden Escudero even stayed at Poliuk’s hip when the Tiger went over to the sideline to speak with Buller at one point in the game. Though Escudero won his share of possessions, it was Poliuk who responded to the challenge throughout the game, including grabbing a blocked shot at the Devils’ rim and running it back to score a transition 3-pointer that sent the Tigers’ junior varsity players in attendance into a frenzy.
“One of the things with (Poliuk) is he can be a little bit of a firecracker and we’re anticipating we’re going to see some guys really get after him,” Buller said. “Eagle did a good job getting under his skin and I thought at the beginning he responded a little wild, so I called him over, but after that he was calm and played through physical play, guys being all in his shorts, I felt he did a pretty good job.”
“I’m ready for it — I kind of expected it because they know who I am and how I play versus other teams,” Poliuk added. “I was most proud of that 3 in transition, it really got the (JV) players hyped.
Buller credited Nakos for playing more assertively Saturday, especially when attacking the basket off the dribble. The coach said the state-tournament-qualifying golfer Nakos is used to keeping his calm out on the links. The Tigers coaching staff has pushed him to play with “more of an edge” out on the hardwood.
But if there was anything Buller was proud of Saturday it was Summit’s rebounding from Kalaf, Kobe Cortright, Andrew Duxbury and Ephraim Overstreet — as Summit’s size limited Eagle Valley to one shot on most possessions and created extra possessions on the offensive end.
Short-handed Tigers girls snap losing streak
Though they were without two of their top players, the Summit High School varsity girls basketball team managed to come back to defeat Eagle Valley 35-30 on Saturday.
Summit (2-5, 1-4) was lead by a 13-point outburst by Brina Babich, who excelled in the post in a game where fellow post player Autumn Rivera (5 points) played well throughout but went down with an ankle injury late in the game. Rivera’s injury added on to the load for Summit’s short-handed squad. Two players were called up from junior varsity due to a season-ending broken wrist to Paolo Arredondo and Anna Garvert being too ill to play.
“I’m definitely proud of today’s game,” Babich said. “I had a hard time with mental things a few weeks ago, so I’m proud I was not getting into my head. I was forgetting the last shot and staying aggressive. Coach (Kayle Walker-Burns) said she wanted us to hustle and play good defense and get good shots up. We needed to score to win and I think we were successful at that.”
Another Summit standout Saturday was Sarah Pappas, a versatile inside-out player who excelled on turn-and-shoot opportunities en route to eight points, including two crucial fourth quarter buckets in Summit’s comeback. The Tigers opted for a 1-3-1 zone defense to conclude the game, as Babich and Pappas excelled in forcing Eagle Valley (1-5, 1-4) to commit turnovers.
Walker-Burns said the Tigers’ win also came after the team got little sleep after a late bus ride back from Palisade on Friday. The coach said it was “the little things” that helped Summit fight fatigue and hold out in the last few minutes of the game, capped by Kelley Duffy’s two big free throws in the final seconds to seal the win.
“Yesterday we played more as a team than we had all season, and we were tired from that,” Pappas said. “But once we settled down, we knew we could beat them. We were flowing better, we were more aggressive with our shots and, overall, we kicked it up.”