Preps roundup: Holiday competitions
Eagle Valley contests six basketball games and one Nordic ski race, and Battle Mountain plays three games as well, all before holiday break
The holiday rush took on a competitive meaning for Eagle Valley High school teams this weekend. Both basketball squads contested three-game tournaments and the Nordic team, despite having only had a couple of practices on snow, drove over the pass for a rust-buster race in Leadville.
Basalt was the site for the Devils girls’ three-game set. In the opener against Banning Lewis Academy, they ended the Stallions four-game winning streak with a convincing 64-32 win. Five players scored in double figures as the Eagles won their second game in a row — they dispatched Conifer 67-7 last week for their initial win of 2021-2022. Jasmine Fontana led all scores with 14 points, while Lauren Hauseman added 12 and C.J. Yurcak, Alyssa Jones, and Cedar Fitzsimmons each contributed 11 points. It was Banning Lewis Academy’s first loss of the year.
In Friday’s second-round matchup against Glenwood Springs, the defending league champions proved to be too much for Eagle Valley, handing them a 77-22 defeat. “We started off strong but weren’t able to keep pace with their pressure,” head coach Vincent Cisneros stated after the game.
“We were down a few players, so we were short-handed and got tired quick and early.”
Cisneros’s club finished the tournament on Saturday against Rifle, losing 52-34. Sophie Webster and Jasmine Fontana led the Devils in scoring with eight points each. It was a disappointing finish to a weekend that started out strongly.
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“We haven’t been able to find consistency on either ends of the floor,” said Cisneros.
“The last two days, we’ve started out strong, but weren’t able to maintain the level of aggression we prefer to play at.”
The team lost Josie Fitzsimmons to a concussion on Thursday, and are still waiting to play a game with their full roster. The next contest for the 2-5 Devils is at home Jan. 4 against Grand Junction.
On the boys’ side, Eagle Valley lost to Aspen 68-35 on Thursday. CHSSA’s pre-season pole had the Skiers ranked No. 6 in 3A, and after jumping out to a 6-0 record, they’ve sinced moved up to No. 4. No opponent has come within 32-points of the Skiers in 2021-2022.
“It was great to compete against one of the best teams in the state,” head coach Justin Brandt stated after the game.
“To be the best we need to play against the best.”
On Friday, Justin Brandt’s club bounced back with a 77-52 victory over Skyview Academy. The Devils were aided by a balanced attack; five players reached double figures. Branden Villalobos’s lockdown defense on Skyview star Treyton Cox, who dropped 30 points on Rifle in the previous game, was also critical.
“Villalobos held him way under his average with tenacious defense,” Brandt wrote in an email after the game. Branden Vigil led the Devils with 14 points.
Eagle Valley finished the tournament with a 56-45 victory over Banning Lewis Academy on Saturday. The Devils moved to 4-2 on the year. They host Grand Junction on Jan. 4.
“This weekend was a great time to refine our team by seeing different styles of competition from outside of our normal western slope teams,” Brandt wrote in an email after the three games.
On the skinny skis, Eagle Valley eschewed their weather apps, which informed them of a -9 temperature in Leadville, and drove up to 10,200 feet to shake the dust off of the wax boxes and contest a fun “mix and match” relay at Mount Massive golf course. The format was eight legs of a 2.7-kilometer loop, to be contested by two-person teams in any arrangement. Racing alongside athletes from Lake County, as well as citizen’s racers, the team of Lukas Bergsten and Ferguson St. Johns rose to the top by the end of roughly 22-kilometers of skiing under a bluebird sky.
“Super happy to have some snow and a fun vibe” said head coach Paul Steiner.
“The team has courage and heart — I couldn’t ask for more. Well, more snow would be awesome, but as far as people go, these kids are second to none!”
The Devils will head back up to Grand Mesa for a race next week before the official ski league races start up in January.
Battle Mountain boys win first game of season
The third time was the charm for the Battle Mountain Huskies. After dropping a close game to Delta 47-45 on Thursday and losing to Grand Junction 50-34 on Friday night, the Huskies boys basketball team triumphed over Montezuma-Cortez 51-45 in the third game of a non-conference tournament in Grand Junction.
Against Delta, Battle Mountain dug themselves a hole early, going behind 14-5 at the end of quarter one. Led by Tanner Roberts’s five three-pointers and 17 points, they clawed their way back, entering the fourth quarter with a two-point lead. It looked like the elusive first victory was in hand, but 24 turnovers proved to be too much to overcome. Against Grand Junction, an early Tiger run put the tournament hosts up by nine at halftime, and the visiting Huskies were unable to gain significant traction to pull themselves back, eventually falling to 0-5.
In the final game of the weekend, the Huskies played tough through another tight back and forth game. The largest lead of the night was 4-0 Battle Mountain in the opening minutes. After that, neither club was able to pull ahead by a greater margin. At the end of three, it was 37-37, and with just over three minutes to play, a J.T. Carver field goal put the Panthers up 42-39. A subsequent 10-0 run by the Huskies put them up 49-42 before Gabe Crowley nailed a late three to give Montezuma-Cortez new life in the final minute.
Whitton Hyde broke the Panther full-court press with three hard dribbles along the Montezuma-Cortez sideline and delivered a jump pass at mid-court to Husky forward Juan Montano, who was fouled. Montano made the front half of the one-and-one before the Panthers rushed back to their end. After failing to connect on three desperation heaves, Luke Horton padded the Battle Mountain lead with a final free throw with 3.2 seconds remaining, giving the Huskies their much-needed win.