Huskies girls win opener vs. Junction |

Huskies girls win opener vs. Junction

Caballero leads the way with 18

Gabriele Caballero splits the lane and drives for two of her 18 points during Battle Mountain girls basketball’s 38-29 win over Grand Junction Thursday night in Edwards. (Mort Mulliken
Special to the Daily)

EDWARDS — Battle Mountain girls basketball took quite the tumble last season from 15-9 in 2019 and Western Slope League champions to 6-16.

The reason? Yes, Gabby Caballero and Alden Pennington, the perimeter aces from 2019 returned, but players Like Elizabeth Shearon, Audrey Teague and Claire Krueger graduated and with their departure went rebounding.

So the challenge in 2021 is to find those paint players for rebounds and accompanying putbacks for offensive balance. Battle Mountain does not want opponents putting four defenders on Caballero, for instance. (We joke, but Palisade is probably considering it.)

The Huskies started to solve the puzzle during Thursday night’s season-opening 38-29 victory over Grand Junction in Jim Schuppler’s debut as the coach of the team.

“Every rebound is vital,” Huskies senior Gianna Carroll said. “On the offensive side, every rebound is another chance to score. On defense, we get the rebound and it’s the end of their possession. We need to be a rebounding machine.”

“Basically, Alden and Gabby have the green light to shoot,” said Schuppler. who is better known as the school’s football coach, but who has also served as an assistant hoops coach for three years as well. “We work the rebounds off those long balls and it showed. We battled on the boards and got extra shots and extra possessions.”

Caballero, not surprisingly, went off for 18 points Thursday night, but it was Carroll who probably had the play of the night.

Down 18-17 midway through the second quarter, Carroll drained the 3 from the top of the key to give the Huskies the lead for good.

“That was exciting,” Carroll said. “I didn’t realize how open I was. I just squared my feet, shot it and it went in.”

While the second half was a bit sloppy for both teams, Battle Mountain was excellent in managing the game situation late in the fourth. The Huskies weren’t scoring points, but they played a beautiful game of “keep away,” forcing the visiting Tigers to foul.

“Marley Lindner and Mia Bettis took to their rebounding roles,” Schuppler said. “But it all comes back to playing more like a team. I really like this team’s basketball IQ.”

Tigers overwhelm Huskies

In the immortal words of Kevin Bacon in “Animal House,” “Remain calm. All is well.”

Battle Mountain’s Paul Kessenich lets it fly during the Huskies’ season-opener on Thursday night against Grand Junction. The Huskies lost, 56-25. (Mort Mulliken
Special to the Daily)

Grand Junction came to town Thursday night and handed the Battle Mountain boys basketball team its lunch, 56-25, in the opener for both teams.

Under normal circumstances with a three-week preseason and 23 games starting the first weekend of December, too much emphasis is put on the first game. And, yes, the opener is more mathematically important in a 14-game, COVID-19 season.

But … It is just the opener.

Thursday’s game was why God or the deity of your choosing created nonconference games. No time to cry over this one because Battle Mountain is at Central on Saturday.

“Hopefully, they reflect on it, think about it, but don’t dwell on it,” Huskies coach Phil Tronsrue said.

As for Thursday’s game against the Tigers, this is what happens when a team with not much varsity experience plays a squad that does. To quote (sort of) Rick Pitino from his Celtics days, “Liam McKenny and Owen Ruotolo aren’t walking through that door.”

Nor are the seven other seniors from the Huskies basketball’s Class of 2020. Guard Luis Trillo is the only returnee with varsity experience. The young kids are going to have to grow up quickly.

“I thought it was a good eye-opener for them,” Tronsrue said. “This is what (varsity basketball) looks like.”

Tronsrue felt that there were some good moments. Battle Mountain had some spurts. The Huskies also had good looks at the bucket, but just couldn’t convert.

On the other side of the ledger, the Huskies’ defense needs major improvement.

“My term is that we looked like a sieve,” Tronsrue said. “We were on the outside and the water was flushing down the middle.”

Expect today’s practice to focus on shutting down lanes, rotating and coordinating help.

The scene

COVID-19 basketball is strange, but comforting nonetheless. Battle Mountain had the traditional east stands for parents and visiting fans stacked up against the wall. The normally raucous west seats, usually filled with Huskies faithful, were empty.

Battle Mountain’s next games are at Central in Grand Junction on Saturday. (Mort Mulliken
Special to the Daily)

The bench areas look just like they do on television for NBA or NCAA games with spaced seating in multiple rows.

Players, including their time on the court, coaches and staff were all wearing masks and CHSAA now has an administrative timeout with the first whistle after the four-minute mark of every quarter just to allow players to have a break after running around with said masks affixed to their faces.

Yet, despite an empty gym and everyone looking like they were prepared for surgery, both tilts turned into normal basketball games.

Both Battle Mountain teams are Central on Saturday.


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