Boys basketball team advances to Durango
Sky-Hi News Sports Correspondent
West Grand High School will be represented at the Class 2A Regional Tournament in Durango this weekend, after the boys basketball team earned a second place finish in the district tournament this past weekend in Kremmling.
Meanwhile, the girls season ended in Rangely with a 52-32 loss on the road in Rangely.
“The girls played hard,” Coach Sara Mortensen said. “The season is long for these girls, but we were just getting warmed up.”
The West Grand boys came in as the second seed of the district tournament and defeated Hayden, 58-55, to earn a spot in the championship game against Meeker. In that game, the Cowboys prevailed, 70-56.
The West Grand boys knew they would be traveling this weekend to a regional tournament, they just didn’t know their destination. By virtue of their second place finish, they will be joining Sanford, Ignacio and Crowley County in that tournament.
The first game will be played Friday night, with the championship game scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Durango High School. In this format, only the first-place finisher advances to the state tournament the following weekend.
The boys led virtually the whole game against Hayden on Friday night. It was a tight and closely played contest but the Mustangs held the upper hand throughout.
Travis Gore led the team in scoring with 26 points in the contest. It was a goal of the Mustangs and Coach Leo Pesch to come out of the district tournament with a top finish to improve its chances of advancing from the regional tournament.
In the championship game, West Grand came out like gangbusters, racing to a 23-14 lead. Unfortunately, the hot shooting for the Mustangs didn’t return until the fourth quarter. Sixteen points were scored in those two frames, as Meeker steadily turned the nine-point deficit into an 11-point lead heading into the final frame.
West Grand was able to play evenly with the Cowboys in that final frame, but it wasn’t enough to cut into the lead and the final score of 70-56 was secured. Leo Pesch scored 13 points and Nick Ritschard added 11 to the effort.
Coach Leo Pesch said he is excited to be playing during this time of year and he is particularly happy that his players can enjoy postseason play.
The Mustangs will be pitted against Sanford at 8:30 p.m. on Friday night. The winner of that game will play the winner of the Ignacio vs. Crowley County game on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The winner of that game advances to the state tournament against the other seven regional tournament winners.
In the girls defeat in Rangely, Hannah Howell led with 15 points, but foul trouble kept her out of a significant portion of the game. “She would have gotten more points if we could have kept her out of foul trouble,” Mortensen said. “Chyenne (Sims) played great defense with lots of ball pressure and ended with nine points. We had some young players in the game and they helped out. Anna Cunico had three points and Sky LePage ended with two points.”
Coach Mortensen said her team ended the season playing great defense and the girls were moving the ball more on offense. “Basketball is such a tough sport because it not only takes skill, it takes so much mentally to keep yourself in the game,” Mortensen said. “I believe we have as much skill as most of the teams in our league but mentally we need to pull together as a team and not tear each other down. That’s a hard thing to learn and it’s even harder to coach that.
“Once these girls start believing in themselves, each other and me as the coach, big changes will come to these girls and the wins will come,” Mortensen said. “It takes the players, their parents, and the fans to trust and believe in the coach and their program for wins to happen.”
Mortensen noted that she saw a lot of growth this year and that she has enjoyed every minute of the season. “There is nothing better than to see improvements. The talent is growing and so are these young ladies as individuals.”
The seniors were praised by Mortensen for their leadership and passion for the game. “Hannah (Howell) became our leading scorer, Chyenne (Sims) was our top defender, Shea (O’Hotto) was the leading rebounder and Kira (Stone) pitched in and covered everything in between with the most positive attitude. I’m sure Kayla (Tanton) would have been a leading scorer as well, but ended her season short with an injury to her ACL. She is tough and recovering from that while continuing to give our team support.”
Mortensen said she is planning on open gyms, going to summer camps and working individually with the players throughout the summer. She noted, “Games are won in the offseason.”
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The Mustangs cross country team trudged through a muddy 5K Saturday morning during the West Grand Invitational, a race that slowed times but sent the fun factor through the roof for many of its competitors.