West Grand Mustangs aim to return to playoffs | SkyHiNews.com

West Grand Mustangs aim to return to playoffs

Larry Banman
Sky-Hi Daily News

File photoWest Grand finished fourth in its division last year and hopes to do at least that well again this year.

Coach Leo Pesch of West Grand High School has two starters back from last year’s boys basketball team that finished 12-7 for the season and defeated Paonia in the first round of the district tournament.

Mackenzie Widener and Cory Davis provided much of the speed and outside shooting for last year’s team, but coach Pesch is depending on a cast of several players to fill in gaps on the front line that were left by graduation.

“Marshall Kraker is going to have to play well for us,” Pesch said of the senior, who has the most varsity experience after Widener and Davis.

In addition, Pesch is expecting major contributions from Ryan Smith, Sky Handyside, Rory Menhennett, Drew Klotz and Matt Johnson.

“They are all going to really have to step up and contribute this year,” he noted.

Freshman players who may also see action this year include Tim Ritschard, Luke Miller and Conner Widener.

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Pesch is entering his 19th season as the coach of the West Grand Mustangs. He is assisted by junior varsity coach Ryan Eastin, who is entering his fourth season with the program.

The Western Slope League was one of the toughest conferences in the state last year and figures to be super competitive again for the 2007-08 season.

Grand Valley is the returning state champion and Meeker finished fifth in the state tournament last season. Paonia, who West Grand upset in Paonia last year, returns most of its players and has the tallest returning team.

Rangely, which hasn’t been extremely tough in the past few years, traveled to Hayden this past weekend and defeated the Tigers.

West Grand finished fourth in the competitive conference and Pesch hopes to be in the thick of things again this season.

The Mustangs will have a chance to get a read on the competition this weekend as the varsity and junior varsity squads travel to Meeker for the Meeker High School Invitational Tournament.

The teams at the tournament include Rangely, Meeker, North Park, Hayden, Mancos and West Grand. The Mustangs open with Rangely and are assured of three games. The opponents will be determined by the outcomes of the other games.

The Mustangs have been working extremely hard under the direction of coach Pesch. Approximately 20 players have been going through drills since the middle of November. That is a significant increase over the past two years as Pesch rebuilds the squad.

Those who have watched the Mustangs over the past couple of decades know they will see a team that works hard and scraps for every possession and loose ball.

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