At last " league champs
EAGLE-VAIL ” The Battle Mountain boys’ basketball team had the coin flip if needed. The Huskies didn’t.
Battle Mountain squeaked by Delta, 52-51, Saturday night to clinch a share of the 4A Slope title with Glenwood Springs. And as students and parents poured onto the floor to celebrate, Battle Mountain athletic director Rich Houghton announced, “Steamboat Springs 53, Glenwood Springs 39.”
In that instant, the Huskies went from co-champs to undisputed kings of the Slope for the first time ever. And by winning the title outright, Battle Mountain will be home for the state playoffs next weekend, and will not need the coin flip it had won earlier in the week had Glenwood and the Huskies finished as co-champs.
For the record, Houghton had correctly called heads. He ain’t a great AD for nothing.
And so, this senior-laden team has gone from 0-12 in league its freshman year to league champions three years later.
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“League champions. League champions,” said Huskies coach Phil Tronsrue, who took over the program when his seniors were freshmen. “You come into a program. You know I believe in my coaching philosophies, and I believe when you have some good players, you get some things accomplished. I knew we could do a lot of good things, but I truly didn’t know that we were going to be 20-2 and be 13-1 in league.”
“It’s awesome. It’s hard work the past four years,” said Connor Drumm, who’s been the anchor for the Huskies the last four years. “We’ve had a couple of new guys come to the team, but most of us have been working for four years. We deserve this.”
Thank you, Steamboat?
While Eagle Valley is Battle Mountain’s archrival in all but a few sports, the Huskies have quite the rivalry with Steamboat, especially in soccer and basketball. So going into the final day of the regular season, the Huskies found themselves in the rather odd position of having to root for the Sailors and their coach, Kelly Meek, against Glenwood Saturday to take the title outright.
“Thank you, Steamboat. Kelly Meek, thank you very much,” Tronsrue said with a laugh. “I appreciate you letting us walk into your house last Saturday night and letting us take a win from you. But I appreciate you going to Glenwood tonight and taking a win out of their house.”
Tronsrue knew that his team had won the coin flip in case of a tie atop the standings, but had not told his team. Further, at the half with his team down, 29-27, at the half against Delta, he told the Huskies that the score down in Glenwood was 53-39. He just didn’t say who was winning or if the score was a final.
When Houghton announced the score officially after the game, the Huskies and their fans went nuts chanting, “We’re No. 1.”
“I couldn’t believe it. It’s just barely setting in now,” senior Derek Rush said. “It’s awesome to be a league champion. I’ve never been a league champion in high school except for this.”
‘Scrappy, ugly and nasty’
While the end result was a thing of beauty for Huskies’ fans, the game itself was anything but. Tronsrue started all seniors, but not the usual ones, and the Huskies trailed until the fourth quarter.
When Delta’s Clay Norell hit a 3 with 5:21 left in the third to give his team a 39-32 lead, the Panthers were smelling an upset. With Delta having no shot at the state playoffs, this win would have made its season.
“Delta does a really nice job,” Tronsrue said. “They do a really nice job of posting up. They do a nice job of throwing it in. We had to collapse down, and they hit some perimeter shots. They like to drive and kick. They do a good job.
“At times, we were playing some really good defense, controlling the post. Other times when they entered the post, they caused us trouble. It was a knockdown, drag-out fight.”
Drumm (14 points on the night) and Josh Ruark pulled the Huskies even at 42 at the end of three.
“It was scrappy, ugly and nasty,” Drumm said, “You persevere through it. We were just hanging around there the first, second and third quarters. We just said, ‘This was it,’ and took it to them.”
What a Rush
Battle Mountain finally grabbed the lead when Ruark hit a free throw. He missed his second attempt, but Drumm was there for the putback and a 45-44 lead. With 5:37 left, Rush knocked down a 3, giving Battle Mountain control at 48-44.
“Since Palisade (Friday), the shot was feeling good,” Rush said. “I felt I could knock it down. It was just wanting the ball. I just knew I could knock it down if I was confident.”
Battle Mountain led, 52-49, when Delta’s Clayton Miller got a field goal as the buzzer went off. The referees added one second to the clock, but Battle Mountain inbounded the ball successfully, igniting a title celebration.
By winning the Slope outright, Battle Mountain is guaranteed a spot in the top eight of the state field and will host a regional next weekend. The state bracket comes out today on http://www.chsaa.org. Two teams will be assigned to Eagle-Vail and will play here Friday night, while Battle Mountain gets a bye through the round of 48. The winner of Friday’s game faces the Huskies on Saturday. … Clark the Shark: Without center Trent Beckley, Clark Simmons filled in magnificently with a team-high 17 points. … Senior night: Tronsrue had a little fun with the lineup. Guard Kyle Leffler took the tip and Joe Ortega had the Huskies’ first basket. … Before the game, Drumm received his nomination for the McDonald’s High School All-American game. … Double champs: Drumm, Ruark and Gustavo Bronfield all earned their second title of the athletic year. All three were members of the boys’ soccer team which won the Slope last fall.
Girls lose finale
Battle Mountain girls basketball would have liked to have sent off seniors Lauren Prewitt, Jesse Jacobson and Erica Lujan with a win, but it wasn’t meant to be as Delta won the season finale, 57-46.
Battle Mountain led at the half behind the hot shooting of Kelsey Sanders, Kaeli Hosler and Lujan, but couldn’t hang on in the second half.
Prewitt led the Huskies with 12 points. Battle Mountain finished the season at 3-19 overall and 1-13 in the Slope.
“The underclassmen knew that they had to step up, and it was hard for them to adjust right away,” Huskies coach Ernesto Arredondo said. “They didn’t start last year. I give it to them. All of the girls came out today hard. We’re going to take this and go into the summer, and work hard, and come out next season.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14630 or firstname.lastname@example.org.