Here’s to a job well done, Huskies
And thus ends a record-setting year for sales of peanut m&m’s.And if you’ve come down from your chocolate-driven sugar high or working your way back up after Thursday night’s tough loss to Evergreen, it’s time to realize what happened not just in the last four months, but in the last four years.Tears were understandably shed Thursday night. But Battle Mountain basketball, bravo. I know this is like comparing fine vintages of Bordeaux, but for my money, this was the sweetest season in a year for the ages at Battle Mountain.This was a program with no history – at least little positive history – and these Huskies simply soared into the record book.Skiing, hockey, soccer, and now, volleyball and cross country reign in Huskies Nation. But basketball has been an afterthought until this year. There was the thought that this was going to be a good year – but 22-3, league champs, regional hosts and the Sweet 16?This just doesn’t happen at Battle Mountain. This team was 0-12 roadkill in the Slope when these 10 seniors were freshmen in coach Philip Tronsrue’s first year. These guys went from worst to first and beyond. This is a team about which people will be talking for many years – and deservedly so.CoachingBattle Mountain has had good teams before in my nine years here, most notably the 2001-02 team of Josh Henry, Austin Wignall, Andy Linke, Isaac Martinez and Jimmy Medina. Throughout the year, I’ve batted around comparing those Huskies with this year’s edition.
You can go back and forth, as I have, about how these teams would match up in a hypothetical game. Henry had a better junior year than Connor Drumm did last year. Drumm was better in his senior year. Trent Beckley vs. Wignall? Austin definitely in his junior year; Trent edges him in his senior year. Linke vs. Derek Rush? Completely different players.And so on. You’ll run yourself in a circle here.One of the things that made this year’s team better was coaching. Dr. Phil molded these Huskies into a full-fledged team – not just a starting five, and not just go-to-Henry-at-the-post.That’s why Tronsrue’s neck-and-neck with Brian Doyon and David Cope for Battle Mountain Coach of the Year. (For those in the cross-country community, Rob Parish, though every bit as deserving, can’t win the award because he took it last year.)Every player on this team had a role. Yes, there were the Twin Towers, but Battle Mountain needed Rush, Josh Ruark, Kyle Leffler, T.J. Montoya, Clark Simmons and Kenny Brodin just as much to succeed. The same goes for Zac Adamson, Gustavo Bronfield, Clay Wilson, D.J. Van Curan and Joe Ortega. You guys didn’t get much playing time, but you made this team better everyday in practice, and shined when you hit the floor.Pepsi and m&m’s, though critical – I’ve got to give myself a little credit here – were one thing. The way Tronsrue put this team together during the last four years was no mean feat. The coach made a role for every player and taught perseverance – if I had a nickel for every time Dr. Phil said the word, I’d own an island in the Bahamas – and it paid off on and off the court.That lesson will lead to success for these student-athletes in future basketball endeavors, and more importantly, in life.To that end, a hearty nod to assistants Dave Wilson, Bob Reed and Vinny Cisneros.
The playersDrumm: Nice job, No. 24. While Coach of the Year is up in the air, the Boys’ Senior Athlete Award is all but in the mail. Drumm, who developed into a fantastic soccer player, lived up to the hype of his basketball talent. When you start as a 6-foot-4 freshman, this is tough. Big game? Call on Connor. Oh by the way, Glenwood, we can hear the sound of the Drumm quite clearly. Parish, can we get bib No. 24 for track for Drumm?Beckley: Trent, you went from being a tall guy to a basketball player this year. There’s a big difference between the two. A big question this season was whether Beckley had gained the experience to be a factor on the court for an entire game on a consistent basis. Question answered. Heart? No question. His right thumb was in a lot more pain than he let on during the postseason. Try playing inside with a bad right hand the way Beckley did sometime.Leffler, Ruark, Rush and Montoya: You guys gave this team the balance it needed to be an explosive squad. One night it was Kyle; another it was Rush; then it was Ruark or Montoya. You get the picture. There was always someone stroking the 3-ball. This group also spans the spectrum of hair from Ruark’s buzz cut to Montoya’s much-missed ‘fro.Simmons: First of all, I always like a guy named “The Shark.” San Jose’s my favorite hockey team. Simmons was the key big man off the bench. This has always been a hole for Battle Mountain, and Simmons filled it well. Clark the Shark was huge in games against Delta when Beckley was out. And if you don’t think this kid likes basketball, you should have seen him before Thursday’s game.Brodin: Lemme say it. Brodin is fouled and spills to the court. “Oh my God, they killed Kenny!” Like Clark, Brodin was a solid go-to guy off the bench. Need someone to take a charge? Kenny’s your man. You can’t kill Kenny.Ortega: Big Joe was the fan favorite. “We want Joe” was a common chant at the end of games, and Dr. Phil obliged when possible. Everyone remembers the end of Senior Night when the Huskies won league. Remember the beginning? Ortega had Battle Mountain’s first basket.Adamson, Van Curan and Wilson: Zac and D.J., I’m finally spelling your names right, and that’s been a year-long ordeal when it comes to Van Curan. Clint, I haven’t called you Clay all season. Kidding. Just making sure you were paying attention. Gents, it’s your turn. Make it count.
The fansTo the parents who have criss-crossed the state through foul weather, the good times and the bad times, pat yourselves on the back. I know how you live and die with your kids. Your support means everything to them and the program. To the parents of seniors, I’m sure we’ll see you for some home games, but just imagine that you might have a Friday or Saturday night off as opposed to making that delightful trip to Craig or Delta.And the whiteout … kudos to the student body. You made the gym The Dog House. The Glenwood home game and Round 2 vs. Montrose were just a few of the great moments you all had supporting the team throughout the year.Extra props for turning Mesa State into Eagle-Vail Thursday. To look across from the press box and see a sea of white 200 miles from home was tremendous.That having been said, a week from today is the first home game of the spring season – girls’ soccer versus Summit in Edwards. Grill Boys, you’d better be there. Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14630 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado