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What’s on the horizon for local basketball?

Watch the Gore Rangers and Devils

Eagle Valley’s Branden Vigil (10) tries to guard Battle Mountain’s Liam McKenny during a game last season. Vigil, now a junior, is part of a very talented returning crew for the Devils who have high hopes in 2021. (Daily file photo)

You hear the squeak.

Growing up watching pro sports, including the Golden State Warriors at the Oakland Coliseum, in the Bay Area, you don’t hear it. In a small high school gym on a winter night, you hear everything — coaches arguing with refs, what’s being said in the huddle and yes, the ever-reassuring sound of sneakers on hardwood — and you know all is well because basketball is here.

Yes, the teams have been practicing for months, but Thursday was really only the fourth day of official practice, of course. As such, we don’t have rosters yet, but here’s a general idea of what we expect.



Could be really good

The Vail Mountain School boys basketball team is the big kid on the block with the Eagle Valley guys a close second. Times change, no?

If you recall previous episodes of VMS basketball, you might remember that Gore Rangers were the last team standing of the local squads. VMS beat Vail Christian, a major milestone in East Vail, during the district quaterfinals and went on to win that tournament for the first time in school history.



VMS made the state playoffs, beat Clear Creek in a “home” playoff game played in Idaho Springs — COVID-19 was just breaching our consciousness then and the first two rounds of the playoffs were moved from East Vail to the home of those Golddiggers — for the first state-playoff victory in school history.

Vail Mountain School basketball enters the season as the defending district champions for the first time in school history.

Yuma dispatched the Gore Rangers in the Sweet 16, ending the Cinderella story. Yuma ended up winning in the 2A state quarterfinals the next weekend before CHSAA shut down the playoffs and everything else.

The heart of this team returns — graduation losses were really around the edges. The challenge is doing it again when everyone knows you’re coming. For what it’s worth, VMS made the CHSAANow.com poll as the No. 15-ranked team in the state in 2A.

Everyone in the 2A Slope knows the Gore Rangers are coming this year.

Meanwhile, down in Gyspum, Eagle Valley boys basketball also has headliners returning — Branden Vigil (now a junior), Bryan Martinez (junior) and Carlos Sanchez (senior), to name a few. A 6-16 team last year, Eagle Valley was 3-6 in games decided by five or fewer points last season.

Experience can help with the close games you need to win. The Devils have to improve on defense to avoid the foul trouble they encountered often last season.

But the pieces are here.

Interesting with possibility

Pretty much everyone graduated from Vail Christian boys basketball, including Jamison Lee, Alec Moritz and Hayden Sticksel, from a team that went 17-5.

However, calling it a rebuilding year or a youth movement at Vail Christian is prohibited by a little known codicil of the school’s charter. Truth? Coach Sheldon Kuhns doesnt allow it.

Graduation whacks smaller schools more heavily, but this is not the first time Kuhns and company have been here. After a 16-7 2015-16 season with a state-playoff appearance, everyone graduated much like last spring.

The next season, the Saints went 0-5 in December with juniors and sophomores who hadn’t seen much playing time the previous year. It looked like they were not going to win a game all season. The Saints got their legs, finished 8-12 and set the stage for the last few seasons of success.

With a shorter season, the Saints won’t have the time to ride the learning curve, but there is a lot of good talent in Class of 2022, the juniors like the Downey boys (Connor and Quinn) and Vinny Nowicki, not to mention sophomore Theo Moritz. (Can the Moritz boys shoot 3s?)

The Saints probably won’t be elite this year, but here comes the next great Vail Christian team.

Just down Highway 6, the Battle Mountain boys are dealing with graduation as well — Liam McKenny and Owen Ruotolo, most notably. And like Vail Christian three miles away, coach Philip Tronsrue’s approach is, “Been there, done that, have the T-shirt.” (Or in Coach T’s case, a very nice dress shirt, instead of a T-shirt.)

Building

Everything goes in cycles in sports and it’s tough sledding among the three girls’ teams at Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley and Vail Christian.

The Devils (Vinny Cisneros) and Huskies (Jim Schuppler) have new coaches. Cisneros is a terrific pick for Eagle Valley. Class of 2005 at Battle Mountain, Cisneros wants to be a basketball coach, has coached as an assistant at Battle Mountain as well as having the head job at one point at VMS.

He lives in Gypsum, where he has a family and a very confused son, Calvin, who’s used to rooting for the Huskies. (Come on, Calvin … “Ain’t it great …”) He, Vinny, that is, is a good answer for the coaching carousel that has been Eagle Valley girls basketball.

Schuppler’s new to being the head girls basketball coach, but not to the program having been an assistant for years. You might also remember him as the school’s head football coach.

We don’t know about his basketball Xs and Os, but, from football, the guy is creative. He certainly motivates. This should work.

At 6-14, the Saints had the best mark among the ladies last year.

Since all three girls’ teams are in the building category, one might think that all three squads will have bad years. Don’t. There is always a surprise team and one of this trio will be it in 2021.


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