Kremmling: Girls can’t fend off tough West Slope League teams
The West Grand Mustang girls continued to battle through a tough schedule as it lost a pair of game this weekend to Plateau Valley, 67-36, and Paonia, 77-40.
“We continue to make progress in areas of the game,” coach Larry Banman said, “but we have to work harder and smarter at putting together a complete game.”
The opponents this past weekend both have aspirations of coming out of the tough Western Slope League and advancing to the state tournament. Plateau Valley has one of the best players in Colorado in Jamie Smith, a four-year starter for the Cowboys who averages more than 17 points a game.
The Eagles of Paonia have more balance as a team, but they appear to be jelling as teams jockey for position in the district tournament.
The Mustangs of West Grand were unable to secure a league win this season and will be traveling to Parachute next Saturday to play the top-ranked Cardinals of Grand Valley.
“We certainly have our work cut out for us this week as we prepare for a tough opponent,” Banman said.
This past weekend, the Mustangs were able to get Smith in early foul trouble and keep her on the bench for extended periods. Of particular satisfaction to coach Banman was a charging foul which West Grand’s Renea Ellison drew on Smith.
Smith finished with a game-high 24 points, but the Mustangs were able to hold her to 12 points until she scored 12 points in the fourth quarter after the outcome had been all but secured.
The Cowboys shot 33 freethrows to only 20 for West Grand. The Cowboys converted 21 of their opportunities and the Mustangs converted seven of their chances from the freethrow line.
“Jamie Smith is so quick and she is very adept at driving to the basket and converting a layup. She is also a veteran who has learned to create contact to get a call that puts her on the freethrow line,” Banman added.
“During the middle stretch of the game, I felt that we played well against the Cowboys. We had several chances to make the game somewhat interesting, but our shots weren’t falling. I have no quarrel with the shot selection we got,” Banman added.
The Cowboys finished the game with a 21-9 run that helped secure the final score.
Brook Cecil led the Mustangs in scoring with 10 points, while Jessica Elliott scored nine points and Stephanie Stubbs added eight points.
Rose Hargadine had perhaps her best defensive game of the season with nine rebounds and eight blocked shots. Stubbs, Elliott and Angie O’Neill again did a good job on the boards. Elliott grabbed four offensive and four defensive rebounds while Stubbs was particularly effective on the offensive boards and O’Neill did a good job on the defensive boards.
Against the Eagles, the Mustangs ran into a team that received balanced scoring from five players who scored in double figures. The Eagles have a very strong interior game and they crash the boards very well. In addition, they run an effective fullcourt press that the Mustangs expended a lot of energy in breaking.
Cecil had a good game from the offensive end, as she scored 17 points. Elliott added six points, while Rose Hargadine scored five points, including one three-pointer.
Taylor Pesch and Stubbs had four points apiece.
“We kept our poise fairly well throughout a very physical contest,” Banman said.
“Paonia has a lot of weapons which they can throw into the mix. They have a strong interior game, which should serve them well in the postseason.”
Coach Banman said there have been some promising signs in the games, particularly on the defensive end of the court. He noted that senior Jordan Davidson continues to play good defense, and has become an effective force on defense.
“When we communicate, we do a pretty decent job,” Banman said. “We do need to be more aggressive in team rebounding on both ends of the floor.”
The Mustangs face a Grand Valley squad that split a pair of contests this season with Plateau Valley and swept Paonia in two contests.
They feature another of the top players in the state in point guard Kendall Babler. The Cardinals defeated the Mustangs, 70-29, in a game earlier this season.
The Mustangs finished the regular season 6-11 and 0-8 in league play.
“It has been my contention that the competition in the Western Slope League has been superior. Coach Toni Gunther (of Plateau Valley) told me she is convinced it (the league) is the strongest in the state,” Banman said. “Over the next few weeks, as we enter district and regional and then state play, we will see if she is correct.”
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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.