Central’s post players key for playoff success
The Central Warriors boys basketball team took care of Durango and Montezuma-Cortez in convincing fashion this past weekend, pushing its record to 17-3 overall and 6-1 in the Southwestern League.
What a difference one year can make.
Last season at this time, the Warriors had swept Durango and Cortez at home but were fighting to stay alive in the SWL. Central lost two of its final three to Fruita Monument and Grand Junction and missed the postseason.
This season, with essentially the exact same roster (guard Cody Derner was the lone graduating senior), the Warriors have all but locked up a playoff birth for the first time in Phil Cain’s five-year tenure as coach.
One of the biggest differences last season and this one has been the play of the Warriors’ post players.
“We struggled with our big guys last year,” Warriors guard Clay Kame said. “They have all come a long way just getting better in practice, and it has carried over to the games.”
The Warriors use a three-guard lineup with Kame, Blaine Jackson and Michael Wiedrich starting alongside forward Travis Key and post Kahler Grandbouche.
Grandbouche has made the biggest leap between seasons. The 6-foot-5 all-conference soccer player has been a force on the boards as well as providing a solid inside scoring presence.
“Kahler has come a long way,” Cain said. “He played JV and a little varsity last year, but he has grown and became the tallest guy on the team.”
This is Grandbouche’s second year of basketball with the Warriors. He spent his freshman and sophomore years focusing on soccer and traveling with club teams during the winter.
“Sometimes I wish I had played my first two years,” Grandbouche said. “But I grew a lot playing with these guys over these past summers.”
Because of Grandbouche’s soccer background, he has more of a strategic game in the post as opposed to using power. Kame describes Grandbouche more of a finesse player. Grandbouche’s play has allowed Kame the luxury of finding Grandbouche open when the opposing team’s defense collapses for an uncontested bucket.
“He can run all over the court and can move his body much better than most big guys,” Kame said.
But it hasn’t been all Grandbouche in the post; the maturation of three other players has helped the Warriors win nine of their past 10 games.
Seniors Key and Griffin Woosley and junior Josh Wells all rotate to keep pressure on their opponent.
Key is a starter, and despite being undersized at 6-foot-2, uses his athleticism to his benefit. As a three-sport athlete, he’s able to stretch outside and knock down jumpers as well as provide a rebounding presence.
“Travis can handle the ball and bring it up the court when he needs to,” Kame said.
Woolsey, at 6-foot-4, has grown two inches since last season and does the grunt work in the post.
Wells, a junior, showed his value against 6-foot-5 Cortez post player, Micah Conrads, outrebounding him 3-0 as Central took a 10-point first-quarter lead against the Panthers.
To Cain, the post players are a key to success as the team approaches playoffs.
“All of our posts work really hard and that is what we need,” Cain said. “Sometimes they get left out, and we can’t afford that because when they are getting touches, they kick it out which allows more spacing for our guards on the outside.”
Central faces Fruita Monument on Friday and can lock up the SWL on Feb. 17 with a win against Grand Junction.