Poll position

Five Western Slope girls teams ranked in top 10

Vanessa Herrera and the Fruita Monument Wildcats are not ranked in the top 10 despite their only two losses being to teams that are ranked.

Four teams — one in each classification from 5A to 2A — now represent the area in the top-10 Denver Post girls basketball coaches poll.

Two are from the Class 4A/5A Southwestern League.

Grand Junction (10-0) just slipped into the No. 10 spot in Class 5A; Montrose (5-1), which won all three of its games at the Black Canyon Basketball Classic in Montrose, is No. 8 in Class 4A. Kala Keltz leads the Indians with 11.3 points per game.

In Class 3A, Olathe (4-0) jumped one spot to No. 8.

And in Class 2A, Paonia (2-2) rose a spot to No. 5. The Eagles’ only losses are to Class 3A No. 1 St. Mary’s (4-0) and Olathe by two points.

One of the area’s hotter teams, Fruita Monument (7-2), has yet to garner a vote.

The Wildcats’ losses have been to Class 5A No. 3 Regis Jesuit and No. 4 Chaparral.

After their loss to Chaparral, the Wildcats won three straight games in the Black Canyon Basketball Classic, notably a 58-48 victory over Delta.

Intense describes the Wildcats in the first half. They had intensity even before senior guard Lauren LaBonde entered game — in a second quarter against Delta, she had 11 points, six steals and two assists.

Not bad for the first player off the bench.

“She does have that intensity,” Fruita coach Richard Atkins said. “And that breeds more intensity. It’s contagious.”

LaBonde, who can shoot the 3-pointer, and pass and run the floor with flair, simply has a passion for playing defense.

“I don’t know what it is,” LaBonde said. “I love getting up in people and having them just not wanting to come near me. If you can take someone’s point guard out of the game, it disrupts their whole offense.”

In its seven victories, Fruita has not yet allowed 50 points .

The Wildcats next play Jan. 10 at Grants (N.M.) in the Kirtland Central Bronco Tournament.


X-rays taken Monday of the right ankle of Grand Junction starting center Shafer Rubalcaba were negative for any breaks, Tigers coach Sam Provenza said.

Rubalcaba, who sprained her ankle in the Black Canyon Basketball Classic, said she will miss the Tigers’ game 7 p.m. Thursday against Pueblo West, Class 4A’s No. 3-ranked team.

She hopes to return for the Tigers’ Jan. 11 game at Chaparral.

“It’s been hard not being on the floor with the team when you’re one of the team leaders,” Rubalcaba said.

But guard Bri Baldwin, who has been nagged by an injured right wrist, could play against Pueblo West, Provenza said.

Pueblo West (7-0) made it to the state semifinals last season and returned its two leading scorers, Taylor Leyva, who is averaging 17.1 points per game, and Haley Simental, 16 points per game.

Pueblo West’s closest game was a 69-46 win at Boulder.

Grand Junction is averaging 13.6 steals per game, led by Sydni Brandon’s 3.4. Elisha Jahnke averages 2.7 and Kylie Burns 2.1.


The Wardogs, otherwise known as the Palisade-Central girls swimming team, has been led by a pair of sophomores: Kyra Newhouse, who attends Central, and Liz Cottingham, who is at Palisade.

At last weekend’s Montrose Invitational, Newhouse placed third in the 50-yard breaststroke and 50 backstroke.

Cottingham finished fifth in the 50 backstroke.

Neither swims year-round.

“They’re both doing well, and we expect them to be in the finals in the league championships,” Wardogs coach Steve Weir said.

Weir said the Wardogs have 10 swimmers from Central and 10 from Palisade.


Fruita Monument’s sixth-place team finish at the Warrior Classic was its best since 2006.

The Wildcats had two others place besides 170-pound champion Jacob Seely. They were Aidan Woomer (fifth at 160) and Eli Konrad (sixth at 106).

Fruita did it without 145-pound sophomore Isaac Rodriguez, who was sick and didn’t wrestle. He missed the tournament last year, too.

Marcus Velasquez is the first Warrior Classic champion from Montrose High School since Jordan Passehl won the 189-pound title in 2009.

Grand Valley’s Cody Pfau fell one round shy of joining Uintah’s Candace Workman as the only girls to place at the Warrior Classic. Workman was fifth at 103 pounds in the 2007 tournament.


Wildcats boys basketball coach Billy Dreher thought his team would have a .500 record at this point.

But without a game until Jan. 15 against Olathe, Dreher and the Wildcats will have plenty of time to consider their first half.

Fruita (4-5) had a three-game winning streak before losing to Sand Creek and Greeley West at the Greeley Invitational.

The good news for Fruita is 6-foot-7 Spencer Fair is heating up from behind the 3-point line, hitting 7 of 16 after starting the season 1 of 9.

Fair averages 11.5 points per game.

Dreher said Fruita in the second half of the season must hit more shots close to the basket.

“From the guard to the post players we’d been getting some good looks,” Dreher said. “We get the ball inside and miss the shot.”


Palisade hosts its Palisade Rotary Club Invitational Holiday Tournament Thursday through Saturday.

Boys and girls teams in the tournament are: Central, Cheyenne South (Wyo.), Rifle, Palisade, Montezuma-Cortez and Durango.

Rifle (2-4, 0-2), which is new this season to the Class 4A Western Slope League (along with Summit), will play a league game 7:30 p.m. Thursday against Palisade (3-2, 2-0).

Action starts at 3 p.m. Thursday with the Central girls playing Cheyenne South.

Sentinel reporter Allen Gemaehlich contributed to this report.


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