Veteran Meeker girls team hopes to make some noise at Class 2A state tournament
Meeker High School girls basketball coach Greg Chintala knew this was the year.
With seven seniors and a veteran junior on the talented squad, Meeker was destined for great things this season.
“From the time we got done with our end-of-season banquet last year to now, I’ve been telling the girls that we have something special,” Chintala said. “The only thing that will get in the way of that is us.”
After losing in the regional playoffs the previous three years, Meeker broke down the door to the Class 2A state tournament with a dominant season. The Cowboys went undefeated in league action and only lost once after the first of the year — a one-point setback to a Baggs, Wyo., school.
Meeker, the fourth seed, will play fifth-seeded Akron today at 11:45 a.m. in the quarterfinal round at CSU-Pueblo.
The Cowboys bring a veteran and talented team to the tournament, but Chintala said it will come down to how well they play as a team.
The veteran coach preaches four things to his players and writes them down before every game.
Senior Aly Ridings said those four things keep them focused.
“We have four key elements,” she said. “Effort, effort, execution and team. Sometimes we don’t play as a team, and that’s when things fall apart.”
Chintala said the Cowboys have to be successful at both ends of the floor.
“We need to play good team defense, and we need to shoot the ball well,” he said.
One of the biggest fundamental factors for Meeker to be successful is rebounding. “We’re going to be the smallest team at state. We’ve been the smallest team every game this year, so we’re going to have to box out,” Chintala said.
Senior Taylor Neilson said the team had the state tournament as its goal the entire season.
“Since the first practice, that’s all we’ve had on our minds,” she said. “Our teamwork is definitely the key. That’s been the glue that’s held us together the whole season.”
For Meeker, junior Sydney Hughes is the sparkplug that ignites the Cowboys’ high-intensity defense, which fuels its offense. Averaging 15 points per game, Hughes has a full-speed approach on both ends of the floor.
“I don’t think it’s going to be easy because we’ve never been this far before,” she said about going to state. Then she smiled and added, “But I think it’s going to be awesome.”
With Ridings and Neilson also averaging double figures, it gives the Cowboys three potent scoring options.
Both teams put points on the board with Meeker averaging 55 points per game and Akron 60.
Akron depends on two players for the bulk of its scoring with Jordan Baer averaging 17 points per game and Aj Miller a little under 15 per game. Both players are 5-foot-10, so Akron’s size will be a challenge for the Cowboys, whose tallest player is 5-10 freshman Reese Pertile, who sees plenty of action.
Chintala said he plans to stick with the same coaching style that got them to the tournament.
“If I change what we do now, (the players) are going to start freaking out, so we’re just going with the status quo,” he said.
He returned to the team three years ago after coaching the team for nearly 20 years previously. He said it’s been a special three years.
“They’re wonderful kids, I appreciate everything they do. They show up every day for practice ready to sweat,” he said.
Chintala drapes a blue towel over his shoulder during the game. He said it’s the same towel he’s had for 34 years. This season, the players gave him a white team towel, and the coach keeps that one tucked in his back pocket during games.
If the Cowboys win today, they will face the winner of the game between top-seeded Lutheran (21-1) and Paonia (19-5).
In the 2A tournament, teams will also play in third- and fifth-place games Saturday prior to the title game.