Eagle Valley set to take on Kennedy in Denver
Vail, CO Colorado
GYPSUM, Colorado ” Throw out the records.
Play like there’s nothing to lose.
Never give up.
Pick any underdog cliche, and there’s a chance it could apply to the Eagle Valley girls basketball team. The Devils enter the first round of the 4A state tournament against John F. Kennedy tonight at 7 p.m. in Denver. Eagle Valley is the No. 11 seed, but don’t bother telling the Devils to be intimidated by the Commanders.
The team is loose heading into tonight’s matchup.
“The team is relaxed,” Eagle Valley coach Ken Reagan said. “(Monday) at practice, they were really excited. It’s nice to play right away. It’s nice to get going.”
The sixth-seeded Commanders will be tough to knock off. Kennedy comes into the game with a 15-8 record, and 5-3 mark in the Denver Prep League.
Not only that, the Commanders list one of the state’s top scorers on its roster. Small forward Jamee Leichtle averages 21.5 points per game, and will be the focus of the Devils’ defense. Kennedy’s next leading scorer is Layla Rabih with 9 points per game.
“We’ll stick to man-to-man, and try to deny (Leichtle) the ball,” Reagan said. “We’ll play a four-on-four game and make other girls beat us.”
To offset Leichtle, Eagle Valley will counter with its balanced attack. The Devils strength on offense is inside, but a number of players are capable of scoring for Eagle Valley. Kacey and Jamie Bair are the Devils’ main threats, forming a daunting duo for other team’s to handle.
When one is unable to find their rhythm, the other seemingly picks up the slack. For example, when Kacey found herself in foul trouble against Battle Mountain in Eagle-Vail, Jamie stepped up with 11 points and 11 rebounds in a 56-28 win.
Three weeks later, Kacey returned the favor with 20 points ” including a run of 12-straight in the decisive third quarter ” and 10 rebounds in a 60-46 victory against the rival Huskies.
Kacey (12.6 points per game) and Jamie’s play could go a long way in determining the winner.
Who steps up?
Unfortunately for Eagle Valley, the Devils will be without the services of point guard Brenda Zapata. In the Feb. 17 win against Battle Mountain, Zapata went down with a serious left-knee injury in the third quarter.
With Zapata’s season cut short, Eagle Valley will rely on a host of players to replace her 13.1 points per game. Yvette Parra is slotted to take over the point. The senior is adept at bringing the ball up the floor, and has shown a nice jump shot out to 18 feet.
“Yvette will take over the point,” Reagan said. “She’s pretty comfortable with that.”
Guards Emily Kingston, Stephanie Renzelman, Sierra Pickslay, Mikaela Nevin and Zapata’s little sister, Jazmin, will help lighten the load on Parra.
“It’s been kind of nice (to have the balanced scoring),” Reagan said. “All the girls have had their nights. Hopefully, we can get a game when they’re all on. We play our toughest basketball when players all sharing the wealth.”
At times this season, Reagan’s employed a high-risk, high-reward offense. One of the guards streaks down the court after a defensive rebound hoping to get a long pass for a layup.
When it works, the Devils can run any team out of the gym. When the strategy fails, Eagle Valley forces the ball and makes too many turnovers. Limiting empty possessions is a must against the talented Commanders.
“We have to be able to rebound and run the floor,” Reagan said. “That’s going to be a huge option for our offense, the transition points.”
The winner of tonight’s game will take on either Fort Lupton or Greeley west in the second round on Friday.
Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.