Lady Mustangs win season opener, then lose close one to Aspen | SkyHiNews.com

Lady Mustangs win season opener, then lose close one to Aspen

Larry Banman
Sky-Hi Daily News

Overcoming early jitters, the West Grand girls basketball team defeated Valor Christian, 45-34, in the first round of the Aspen Invitational Tournament and then put up a valiant effort in a 38-34 loss to the Aspen Skiers in the second game of the two-game tournament.

Assistant coach Joe Shields was directing the varsity team in the tournament. He praised the Lady Mustangs for their effort and poise throughout the two games.

Cutting down on turnovers is the goal of every team, and coach Shields said that will be a key factor for West Grand as it proceeds through its regular season schedule.

In the high-pressure situation of facing a full-court press, however, he said the Mustangs did an excellent job of breaking the press of both teams in this past weekend’s tournament in Aspen.

On Friday night the Mustangs faced Valor Christian, a brand new school located in Highlands Ranch near Denver. West Grand dominated the play during that first game, but numerous missed shots in the first half kept the Kremmling team from pulling away from Valor Christian. The score at the end of the first half was 19-19.

The Mustangs used the halftime break to make some adjustments and the

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players got a chance to regroup. In the second half, West Grand was able to pull away to a 45-34 victory.

Several of the players on the team were unable to make the trip due to injuries, the state pom competition in Denver and prior commitments. As a result, coach Shields had eight players suited up and all were able to play and contribute to the action.

Leading the scoring for the Mustangs were Rose Hargadine with 14 and Rebecca Roller with 12. Renea Ellison and Melissa Kraker added seven points apiece and Brook Cecil chipped in with five points.

Contributing valuable minutes off of the bench were Brenda Heid, Maddie Roller and Alyse Billington.

The West Grand coaching staff has been stressing the need to reduce the number of needless fouls in the game. The Mustangs responded by committing only nine fouls in the game. Coach Shields said that was achieved without a drop in aggressive play and rebounding effort.

On Saturday, Aspen posed a much bigger threat, particularly with their star player, Julia Hassell. In a 41-19 victory on Friday night over Eagle Valley High School, Hassell had 19 points in the first half and 19 in the game.

Coach Shields noted that Hassell is an excellent outside shooter and the Aspen team uses a series of screens to get her open looks at the basket. Hassell has gained statewide notoriety, listed by both the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post as one of the “Players to Watch” in Class 3A.

The Skiers also used a 1-3-1 fullcourt press and heavy defensive

pressure in a half-court defense. The Mustangs responded well to the pressure and were within one tough officiating call of pulling to within two points with less than a minute to go in the game that finally ended, 38-34, in favor of Aspen.

West Grand employed a defense that they never practiced and, coach Shields said, the players responded with a sterling effort. Hassell did break out with 10 points in the third quarter, but she was held to a total of 18 in the game.

The game was close throughout, with Aspen leading 9-6, 15-13 and 28-22 at the breaks.

West Grand played much better the second night, coach Shields said, in response to the challenge of a tougher opponent.

In the game against Aspen, Jessica Elliott and Cecil led the team in scoring with 12 points apiece. Hargadine had seven points, Ellison chipped in with two and Rebecca Roller added the final tally.

This week, the Mustangs are on the road with a short trip to Granby for a game against Middle Park on Friday night.

The next weekend, West Grand finishes up the pre-Christmas schedule with three games in the Middle Park Invitational tournament.

At this point, the Mustangs will be playing Middle Park, Meeker and a team to be named later. The Denver Eagles pulled out of the tournament, leaving Middle Park scrambling to find a replacement team.

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