Battle Mountain tops Rifle for first Slope win
McKenny keeps his cool, goes off for 25
EDWARDS — First off, Battle Mountain boys’ basketball got a 4A Slope win.
With a 41-37 victory on Saturday afternoon, the Huskies are in the win column in the league. No, it wasn’t a Chicago Cubs-like drought because the team had just three Slope contests in January, but 1-3 — instead of 0-4 — just makes life better.
“It feels so amazing,” Huskies center Liam McKenny said. “It’s our senior year. We want to feel that more.”
Perhaps more important was a small moment in the third quarter. With 4:33 left in the period, McKenny appeared to have blocked a shot. It looked like a clean block, but he got called for his third foul.
This has been the pivot point in some of the team’s previous games. Basketball’s a mental game, and it has tested McKenny. Usually among the biggest players on the court, he might not get all the calls he wants on the offensive end in the paint. On the other end, as the big man, he can get called a bit more than normal.
On Saturday, McKenny kept himself focused on the game instead of mentally taking himself out by litigating whistles, and the result was 25 points and a Battle Mountain victory.
“What went through my mind when I got that third foul is that we’ve been talking about keeping your head, not jumping to block or reaching for a steal. How can I alter the play without making the hero play?”
McKenny did the little things right, and everything followed. He started the fourth quarter with a 3-point play. He went hard to the rim for points or earned the fouls. Knocking down both ends of 1-and-1s twice with fewer than three minutes left in the game was clutch.
“Liam’s been really good about getting the ball to his teammates, knowing that he’s he’s going to get the ball back and be in a better situation,” Huskies coach Philip Tronsrue said. “Instead of forcing it, he’s distributed the ball well. He’s allowing his teammates to help him get open.”
And if McKenny is going, it bodes well for the Huskies. In the fourth quarter, Rifle had to deal with him in the paint and that opened up Owen Ruotolo and Hakeem Dath for key scores. As the season continues it’s not hard to see Luis Trillo, another serious perimeter threat, getting involved. Throw in Jack Sullivan, Dalton Patterson, Harrison Rubis and others, and, all of a sudden, the Huskies are a problem for opponents.
Speaking of opponents, apparently, Battle Mountain (7-7 overall and 1-3 in the Slope) heads down to Gypsum on Tuesday for Round 1 with Eagle Valley.
Under the category of “take it for what it’s worth,” home court hasn’t meant much the last two years in the rivalry. Battle Mountain is 2-0 in Gypsum, while Eagle Valley has won twice in Edwards.
“The way it’s been the last few seasons, I think we prefer to be on the road,” Tronsrue joked.
Free throws sink Huskies
Sports can simultaneously be complicated and simple.
Basketball has intricate defenses, passing lanes and other nuances.
Saturday’s Battle Mountain-Rifle girls game was pretty simple. The visiting Bears went 22-for-32 (68 percent) from the free-throw line and beat the Huskies, 40-31, in overtime in Edwards. Meanwhile, Battle Mountain was 2-for-14 from the stripe.
One does not have to be in Advanced Placement calculus to figure out how this was decided: The discrepancy did not escape Huskies coach Kindi Backstrom’s notice. She was delicate in addressing it.
“The girls played hard,” Backstrom said. “You can’t just sit there and watch them. Looking at it, we had a couple of players foul out, and we didn’t have Maggie (Skidmore). We had a couple of girls step up. We’ll continue to play just as aggressive and hope the calls go in our favor.”
And with that, Battle Mountain fell to 4-9 and 1-3.