It’s post-season time for the Huskies
EAGLE-VAIL ” The gym at Battle Mountain is something akin to Fantasy Island.
Smiles, everyone. Smiles.
All that is missing is athletics director Fred Koetteritz running around yelling, “Hey, boss, de plane, de plane.”
These are indeed heady and happy times for Battle Mountain. Both basketball teams are going to the state playoffs, a notable achievement at a school where hoops are usually merely an afterthought behind hockey, skiing and even wrestling.
“It feels good. Have we gone to them before,” asked forward Connor Drumm at Tuesday’s practice.
Both sets of Huskies are going boldly where no Huskies have gone before.
“I think everybody’s down to Earth, but I think everybody’s still excited about it,” boys coach Philip Tronsrue said. “We’re breaking new ground. It’s hard not be excited, especially when everyone you come in contact with is talking about making the state playoffs.”
Boys vs. Conifer
Battle Mountain (15-8) is the seventh seed in the Jim Baggot Region. The Huskies take on No. 10 Conifer (12-11) out of the Jeffco League at 7:30 p.m. Friday down at Centaurus High School.
The Huskies and the Lobos have common opponents. Both had pretty much identical wins against Aspen ” Conifer (59-44) and Battle Mountain (58-46). Conifer played Summit twice in league play, losing both times to the Tigers, 50-43, and, 62-52. Battle Mountain beat Summit, 49-43.
“I know they’ve been beaten a couple of times by Summit,” Tronsrue said. “I know they’re kind of a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde type team. If they’re on and playing, they look pretty good. If they’re not, they look pretty scary and ugly.”
The gameplan for the Lobos is pretty straight forward ” pressure. Get some buckets early and put on the press. In what is going to be a theme for both Battle Mountain squads, the Lobos are a guard-oriented team with their tallest post player measuring in at 6-foot-3.
That certainly gives the Huskies the height advantage with the likes of Trent Beckley and Drumm underneath. Tronsrue certainly wouldn’t mind pounding it into those two all night long.
What differentiates this Battle Mountain team from, say, the Josh Henry Huskies of 2001-02 is balance. That team had multiple threats, but just didn’t use them.
In the back court, Tronsrue has the dynamic presence of point guard Thomas Pacheco and Rogelio Loya, who’s heated up in the second half of the season. There’s also Kyle Leffler, Clint Wilson, Vinny Cisneros and Derek Rush.
“We all understand what’s a stake here,” Tronsrue said. “We don’t want to have this thing go flushed down the toilet. We want to do something. We’re a No. 7-seed. We’re playing a 10th-seed. We want to win one or maybe a couple ballgames, cause some excitement.”
If Battle Mountain can get past Conifer, Centaurus is next. Tronsrue described the Warriors as, “some pretty good horses, and I don’t mean Clydesdales.”
Centaurus likes high-pace, high-scoring basketball. The Huskies will need to slow down the game and keep the score no higher than in the low-60s.
In the meantime, it’s all about hard work in the gym, according to Drumm.
“I think you’ve just got to work harder in practice, harder than we’ve worked all season,” he said. “These games are going to be tougher. We’ve got to prepare ourselves. You’ve just got to think that they’re a better team than they are. You can’t take anyone for granted, just play as hard as you can against them.”
Girls vs. Mullen
Battle Mountain/Vail Christian teacher and coach Pat Phelan, a Mullen alum, is unequivocal about where his support lies.
“I’m going to tell you a little bit about Mullen,” Phelan said. “The high school I went to didn’t have any girls at it. So, the only girls I can ever love are Battle Mountain High School girls. Battle Mountain girls all the way.”
So with that settled, the No. 12 Huskies have the No. 5 Mustangs at 6 p.m. in Craig in Round 1 of the Tonya Haave Region.
Battle Mountain is the Cinderella of the ball. With the exception of coach David Hite, who is ever the optimist, the Huskies thought they were done Saturday after being routed by Moffat County.
Then came Selection Sunday.
“Coach called us at 5:30 (p.m.) to tell us we were going,” senior Meagan Reigel said. “It was awesome. It’s not over yet. We can still go for it. It just feels great. We thought that Saturday was our last game. We have the opportunity to go farther than any team has gone before.”
The Mustangs (16-7) are the heavy favorites, having gone 10-4 in the 5A Centennial League. But, Hite sees some chinks in the armor.
Like Conifer, Mullen is a perimeter team. Lauren Prewitt and Reigel to the white courtesy phone, please.
“We want to just play our basketball,” Hite said. “When it comes to playing our basketball, if the opportunity is for us to get inside, great. If our guards are attacking the basket and can dish it to the bigs., good If we get hot from the outside ” Lexi (Guinn) and Kaeli (Hosler) ” we’ll shoot from the outside.”
Another thing to consider is how far this team has come. Long doormats in the 4A Slope, the Huskies moved up a few rungs this year, even beating Eagle Valley, a sixth seed on the other side of the bracket.
“We’ve had an incredibly tough year,” Hite said. “We’ve had ups and downs. I’ve all along told them that we have all the right pieces. We have the guards, the posts and the bench.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 614 or email@example.com.