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Preps Preview: Boys Basketball

Experience returns for valley teams

With the lack of snow accumulation on the slopes, it’s a bit hard to believe that the winter sports season is here. Practices across the valley got underway on Monday, however, and in the next week, the Vail Daily hopes to prep you for prep sports.

In the strange season that was 2020-21, youth reigned supreme. Now, those youngsters have matured to veterans, and whether it is looking to capitalize on experience or use it as a launching pad, all teams come into 2022 with heightened goals.

Eagle Valley’s Bryan Martinez and Battle Mountain’s Jose Hernandez will be key returners for the Devils and Huskies heading into the 2021-22 season.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Eagle Valley Devils

2020-21: 3-7 (2-7 league; 6th in 4A Western Slope)



Who is gone?

Carlos Sanchez (9.5 ppg, 41% FG)



Who is back?

Bryan Martinez (Sr., 9.2 ppg), Nikko Von Stralendorff (Jr., 8.6 ppg), Branden Vigil (Sr., 8.0 ppg), Eric Hasley (Sr., 5.4 rpg)

Storyline

The Devils return a healthy mix of seniors, juniors and sophomores, including four starters and every key rotation player from last year. Over the summer, that group went to work.

“The off-season was tremendous,” said head coach Justin Brandt.

The varsity will surely benefit from their 23 summer league games, and the pipeline is in good shape, too, with 30 games played between the C-team and junior varsity squads as well.

“Our team is trying to outwork our opponents and looking forward to that hard work paying off on the court this season,” Brandt said.

Cohesion will be critical for the Devils, according to the coach. “We can come together and put the team before me – ‘we’ before ‘I’ – and victory before individual accolades.”

Last March, the Devils let Glenwood Springs slip away in a close game at home. They are looking for healthy redemption.

Battle Mountain Huskies

2020-21: 1-13 (1-11 league; 7th in 4A Western Slope)

Who is gone?

Daniel Redinger (3.9 ppg)

Who is back?

Jose Hernandez (Sr., 2.9 apg), P.J. Kessenich (Sr., 3.8 ppg), Tanner Roberts (Sr., 6.7 ppg) , Elijah Morales (Sr., 6.5 rpg), Anders Schmidt (Sr., 4.3 ppg), Roshawn Reid (Sr., 4.2 ppg)

Storyline

The COVID-19-induced schedule was particularly rough on the Huskies, who played their first game three days after their initial practice. Furthermore, the starting lineup consisted mainly of players who had last seen the court as sophomores playing junior varsity. Being thrust into the varsity environment led to a discouraging record, but the Huskies finished the 2020-21 campaign with a 54-50 victory over Glenwood Springs. They will look to build off of that as they enter a new chapter in the program.

“We have had a good preseason and with a majority of our players being seniors, we are expecting to be much improved,” head coach Phil Tronsrue said.

“I believe the league is pretty wide open.“

With the loss of the 6-foot-4 Redinger, the Huskies will have some height to replace. Elijah Morales, who averaged 6.5 rebounds per game last year, should continue to be a force along the boards. Of the six major returning contributors from last year’s squad, Jose Hernandez and Tanner Roberts will be looked upon for leadership in the backcourt.

“We are focusing on us,” the head coach said.

“We want us to be the best we can, to play the best we can, to execute the best we can, and to be the best teammates that we can be.”

The Huskies will begin their season with two tournaments: one in Green Mountain and another two weeks later in Grand Junction. They open league play against their down-valley rivals to start 2022.

Connor Downey was an unsung hero in this 63-35 victory over Rangely last year, and will look to help guide Vail Christian back to the top of the 2A/1A Western Slope North League standings.
Mort Mulliken/Special to the Daily

Vail Christian Saints

2020-21: 8-5 (7-1 league, 1st in 2A/1A Western Slope-North League; lost in first round of state playoffs)

Who is gone?

None

Who is back?

Leo Rothenberg (Sr., 11.1 ppg, First Team All-League), Vincent Nowicki (Sr., 7.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, First Team All-League), Connor Downey (Sr., 8.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Sean Boselli (Sr., 6.9 rpg).

Storyline

The Saints are likely eager for two things in the 2021-22 season.

First, getting back to a more normal schedule. “Last season was difficult to manage all the COVID regulations for basketball,” wrote head coach Sheldon Kuhns in an email.

Second, avenging a crushing loss to Sanford in last Saturday’s state football quarterfinals. A senior-led team with names familiar to football fans — Nowicki, Shull, Mills, and more — will look for retribution on the hardwood.

“With all players back, we are looking forward to competing for league, district, regional and state championships,” Kuhns wrote.

Meeker was neck and neck with the Saints atop the league standings last year. Vail Christian will get their first taste of the Cowboys in 2021-22 in a great early season holiday tournament matchup.

Vail Mountain School Gore Rangers

2020-21: 6-5 (6-2 league, 3rd in 2A/1A Western Slope-North League)

Who is gone?

Devin Yarde (10.9 ppg), Becker Dienst (7.8 ppg)

Who is back?

Cole Pattison (Sr., 11.8 ppg), Beck Sapp (Sr., 6.1 ppg)

Storyline

In addition to Pattison and Sapp, the Gore Rangers return Nick Kirwood and Peter Hughes. Pattison led the team in points and rebounds last year and was one of the top scores in the Western Slope-North League. He will be counted on to shoulder more of the leadership burden in the wake of captain point guard Devin Yarde’s departure. All four returners are “hard working, tough, and athletic ballplayers who are going to do a fantastic job leading our team all season long,” wrote head coach Caleb Florence in an email this week.

Last year, Vail Mountain made the state playoffs for the first time. They suffered a buzzer-beating loss in the first round against Fowler.

“It showed our guys the level of play we need to exceed in order to continue playing in March,” Florence said.

Florence is excited about the senior leadership returning to the floor, and thinks the sophomores’ and juniors’ ability to assimilate and contribute at the varsity level will play a large part in determining their fate.

“We have a great group of young players our coaching staff has been working hard to develop the last couple of seasons, and many of those players are going to be asked to play big roles for us this year,” Florence said.

Late in the year, the Gore Rangers face the defending league champs at home. This game could have playoff implications.

“We have a lot of respect for those programs so it’s hard not to treat them as ‘key’ games,” Florence said.

Beck Sapp, center, and Cole Pattison, far right, are key returners for the Gore Rangers.
Kathleen Hogan/Special to the Daily

 


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