Devils boys basketball opens the season in style |

Devils boys basketball opens the season in style

Garvey, ahem, Matt, has 18

Eagle Valley’s Bryan Martinez drives to the hoop during his team’s season-opening 59-24 rout of Grand Valley on Saturday in Gypsum. Eagle Valley hosts Battle Mountain on Tuesday at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. (Mort Mulliken
Special to the Daily)

That was for what local basketball fans were waiting all through this interminable pandemic, the “we’re playing and now we’re not playing, the postponement of basketball to February initially and then back to late-January.

Returning a promising corps with the addition of new talent, Eagle Valley boys basketball looked the part on Saturday afternoon in Gypsum dismantling Grand Valley, 59-24.

Yes, a 4A team with postseason aspirations should smack a 3A team. And, just as we have cautioned all week with multiple opening games in different sports with varying schools, it’s just one game.

There’s a ton of season to go, but this is how you want your team to look out of the gate.

“It was exciting,” Devils coach Justin Brandt said. “We played like we were the better team, which was great, except that we won by a lot of points despite a lot of mistakes.”

Let’s start with the Big Three, Branden Vigil, Bryan Martinez and Carlos Sanchez — if this were hockey, we’d call this the BBC line. The three started last year, took their lumps, and gained so much experience.

Vigil started the first half with a 3 and Sanchez had another bomb to bookend the first 16 minutes. In between, Martinez was gliding through the Cardinals’ defense with ease.

Not only are these three a fine nucleus, but there seems to be depth. Sophomore Nikko Von Stralendorff gives the Devils some size in the paint and he converted it into two free throws early, and showed his rounded game with a 3-pointer later in the first quarter. Von Stralendorff knocked down another 3 in the second half, so that was no fluke.

Then, the Devils brought in junior Matt Garvey, who knocked down two 3s to end the first period for his first varsity points and a 20-6 lead. It’s nice to see that No. 3 has stayed in the Garvey family. Keegan, Class of 2020, was doing the filming on Saturday.

In the second, Eric Halsey made his presence known with some buckets. He and Vigil also took charges on consecutive Grand Valley possessions when the Devils were leading 29-12.

Keep in mind that is just as difficult, if not more so, to have a good start as it is to lay an egg during an opener. The Devils have to maintain, if not improve upon, Saturday’s game and that takes more work.

“I think this team has big hopes and desires,“ Brandt said. ”We’re just trying to train them to work hard because we know that there are other teams out there who are working their hardest to beat us.“

Younger Garvey ended up going off for 18 points (six 3s), while Vigil had 10 and Sanchez eight.

Girls show promise

So there was a moment or three early when Eagle Valley girls basketball was playing Grand Valley on Saturday in Gypsum when you were worried.

Perhaps it was when the Devils were down 10-0 or 14-2 during the first quarter, and you were thinking, “Oh no, it’s going to happen again,” or “This is going to be a long year.”

And then it got better. Yes, the visiting Cardinals took down the Devils, 66-51, but Eagle Valley girls basketball fans metaphorically walked away from Saturday’s game/Saturday’s computer viewing knowing that their team will not be an easy out like last season.

Eagle Valley’s C.J. Yurcak fires the ball down the court during her teams game against Grand Valley on Saturday in Gypsum. The visiting Cardinals took the win, 66-51. (Mort Mulliken
Special to the Daily)

After a 5-15 campaign that included a dreary nine-game losing streak, new-to-Eagle Valley coach Vinny Cisneros and the Devils look much better.

“We know that this program is rebuilding. In a normal offseason we would have had opportunities to have scrimmages and so on,” Cisneros said. “Obviously, we have to learn while being thrown into the fire, but we’re doing the things we’ve been working on — pushing the transition, using attacking pressure. It’s nice to see us doing those things in a game.”

Need proof? In 20 games last season, the Devils only scored more than 50 points once — the win of the year at Battle Mountain, 58-41. They’re 1-for-1 in 2021.

More proof? Eagle Valley had three players in double-digits — Ilse Barcenas led the way with 15 points; Sieairra Rivera finished with 13 and Anna Gill 11.

Of course, the defense needs work and, as with any team, there are ton a rough edges after the first game, but what team doesn’t have a mile-long to-do list after the opener?

“Clearly, the defensive side of the ball is the area we need to work on most,” Cisneros said. “We need to do a better job of trusting each other on help-side defense anticipating and rotating. We’ve worked on it, but you need to see it in live action.”

Eagle Valley hosts Battle Mountain on Tuesday at 4:30 and 6:30 pm.

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