Devils host Erie tonight
Last year, Eagle Valley was a fourth seed and had earned a share of the 4A Slope title and was on the road for its first playoff game. This year, the Devils are seeded eighth and at home.
Yeah, that makes perfect sense.
Trying to figure out CHSAA “logic” is tenuous at best, so let’s go with it.
OK, Eagle Valley boys basketball hosts Erie tonight at 6:30 at Gypsum with the winner getting D’Evelyn Friday.
First some basic facts:
• Eagle Valley will not be playing someone they’ve already played two or three times.
• Why are the Devils so happy to have homecourt? They’re 7-1 (Palisade) in Gypsum, 7-4 on the road.
• Eagle Valley is at full strength with Ayren Hart healthy to play tonight, according to Jim Bair, the team’s coach.
• The visiting Tigers went 10-13 this year and were 7-7, and finished fifth in the stacked Tri-Valley League. According to Maxpreps.com, Keep your eye on Dylan Brink (No. 14) and Kyle Leahy (No. 4), who are the team’s leading scorers.
Now for some observations, starting with coach Bair.
• If there is one thing you want your team to do tonight, what is it?
The coach is not just saying this because you can’t let a Palisade or Rifle or an Erie get extra shots at the basket, though it’s a darn valid point. If Eagle Valley rebounds, it can run, and transition has been where this team has been at its best for the last two seasons.
Eagle Valley is 12-3 when it scores more than 50 points in game. And in a related development, a lot of those 50-point plus games came earlier in the year before conference foes started slowing things to crawl in the second half of the league season.
Rebound, run and win. I would say right now that it’s time for Travis Edgar and Ryan Werner to pound the boards, but it’s really everyone but Juan Baca who can do this. This is a big team. Everyone, crash the boards.
• The Devils’ size and athleticism is what makes them a very dangerous team come the postseason. (Let’s face it, Sam Lounsberry is huge shooting guard. That’s a scary-good concept.) It’s also what makes the last month frustrating. We see flashes of “wow.” We see flashes of “not-so wow.” (That’s not what I say in either instance, but it’s a family newspaper.) In fairness, losing Hart for a while was a blow to the talent level of the team as well as its psyche.
At the same time, Hart was out for one of the team’s best wins of the season on Feb. 2 against Delta. That was a “wow” moment because everyone chipped in. Yes, Travis Edgar had a huge game that afternoon, but I also remember having to look at my roster because it wasn’t only the starting five. Who’s 11? That’s Noah Ejnes. Who’s 15? Sam Boyd, etc.
• When you have this sort of inconsistency, some might look at the coach. Nope. Bair has done everything from demanding to pleading with this team to be sharp on game day/night. The coach can’t play the game as well.
I would say, “The seniors should lead,” but there are 10 of them. This is on the team itself. The Devils need to find it in the locker room, on the bench and in the huddle themselves.
And I don’t doubt they can. Back to those 10 seniors? The varsity team back in 2010 – and freshmen were the team – went 0-14 in the Slope. That we’re talking about postseason expectations is a testament to what this class has done. Now it’s time to add to the legacy.
See you at the game.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.