Eagle Valley at Battle Mountain hoops, Round 2
One of the great traditions of all things Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley is that the two schools are constantly shadowboxing each other.
The first question I get after a game from any Battle Mountain coach or player, regardless the sport, is, “How did Eagle Valley do?” (And vice-versa.)
If every kid in this rivalry were able to memorize dates of historical events or key formulas of math or science like they did facts involving this rivalry, we’d have the premiere school district in the country.
So in anticipation of tonight’s second round of the basketball rivalry at Battle Mountain — 5:30 and 7 p.m. — I was tracking the boys scores from last weekend.
On Friday, the Huskies went to Rifle and took the No. 8-ranked Bears to overtime, and I’m thinking, “Well, Battle Mountain’s got to be the favorite …”
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And then on Saturday, Eagle Valley caps a great weekend by beating Palisade, the No. 2 team in the league, 64-55.
Not so fast, Freud.
In what seems like a long, long, time ago in galaxy far, far away — it was Dec. 19 — Battle Mountain edged Eagle Valley, 57-54, in overtime in Gypsum. The Huskies were seemingly cruising at the half, leading, 34-20, but got too comfortable in the second half. The Devils, despite a lot of foul trouble, kept coming and forced overtime.
• Eagle Valley’s Arturo Loera picked up three fouls in the first quarter and was essentially a non-factor back in December. His absence at the point led to Battle Mountain’s ability to build a lead early and the Devils sure could have used him late — he fouled out in the fourth quarter.
We’ll chalk this up as a learning experience for Loera, which he hopefully doesn’t repeat the learning experience tonight. We also don’t single him out, because by overtime, he was one of four Devils on the bench with five fouls.
Eagle Valley needs to play more smartly tonight, keeping its best on the floor.
• Battle Mountain should have run away with December’s game. Yes, the Huskies had a 14-point lead at the halfway point, but it should have been more. Battle Mountain was parading to the free-throw line, yet absolutely dreadful from there — 9-for-31.
The bigger picture
The top-five teams in the 4A Slope are assured of a district berth when the circuit joins up with the Southwest League (Durango, Central and Montrose) for postseason play.
Entering tonight’s game, the Huskies hold down fifth place in the Slope at 3-4, and the Devils are sixth at 3-5, so tonight is kinda important. (Excellent analysis, Freud.)
• The Huskies have the size advantage. That’s why they stuck with Rifle. The question is, “Do they use it?” That involves both the physical and mental aspects of the game.
Size is great, but you have to be in the right place on the court. Mentally, the juice needs to be flowing for all 32 minutes — or 36, if we got OT again. No letdown, like the second half against the Devils or the fourth quarter against Rifle.
• Logic would dictate that the Devils win with a transition game and the Huskies win in half court. Or not.
Disclaimer: I’ve seen more of the Devils than the Huskies because they’ve had more home games so far this season. Nonetheless, I like what I’ve seen from Eagle Valley’s Dawson Kellor, Jimmy Murphy, Jesus Loera and Garrett Martin. The Devils are learning to play big at times.
Were last week’s wins against Delta and Palisade a coming-out party or a part of the two-steps-forward-one-step-back thing we see with growing teams?
• The 3-ball: Murphy’s a quiet assassin and so is Arturo Loera for the Devils. Miles Joersz and Abdoulaye Dath counter for Battle Mountain. Who gets hot?
• Poise. Rivalry games are rarely well-played affairs. Anything Huskies-Devils or Eagle Valley-Battle Mountain draws the biggest crowds of the year and gets the adrenaline pumping. If anything, Battle Mountain coach Phil Tronsrue and Eagle Valley’s Chris Walls will be trying to get their guys to calm down before the game and at halftime.
The team that realizes that this is just a basketball game earlier than the other has an advantage.
The ladies tip off at 5:30 p.m. Eagle Valley is the favorite because they’ve won nine straight against the Huskies. (Excellent analysis, Freud.)
That said, this is a trap game for Eagle Valley. Battle Mountain plays better at home and they do have the goods to deliver the upset if the Devils aren’t sharp.
Eagle Valley can’t afford to fall further behind Palisade and Rifle at the top of the Slope, while the Huskies could use a win in a free-for-all involving five teams for two district spots.
Oh, yeah, part II
We’ve got another set of rivalry games tonight — Vail Christian at Soroco.
Gents, don’t be cocky. You’re still not the greatest team in basketball history. Going through the league once is nice. Twice shows it wasn’t a fluke. Enter this game humbly, knowing Soroco’s going to give you everything.
Ladies, you can play with the Rams. You led them at the half in Edwards. Soroco’s good, but not a bunch of slam-dunking cyborgs.
I can root here, so go Saints.