Grueling Warrior Challenge should help basketball teams build identity


2009 Warrior Challenge

At Central High School


3:15 p.m. Fruita Monument vs. Bear Creek

5 p.m. Palisade vs. Douglas County

6:45 p.m. Central vs. Horizon

8:30 p.m. Grand Junction vs. Carbon, Utah


3:15 p.m. Carbon vs. Palisade

5 p.m. Douglas County vs. Central

6:45 p.m. Bear Creek vs. Grand Junction

8:30 p.m. Horizon vs. Fruita Monument


10 a.m. Palisade vs. Bear Creek

11:45 a.m. Fruita Monument vs. Douglas County

1:30 p.m. Grand Junction vs. Horizon

3:15 p.m. Central vs. Carbon

It’s hard to get a good read on a team from a couple of weeks of practice and a scrimmage or two.

Basketball coaches enter every season with questions, and the only way to find the answers is to play.

Playing three games in three days in this week’s Warrior Challenge at Central High School should help provide some answers.

How will we defend home-court advantage? The Warriors have the benefit of three games on their home court to open the season. Last year the Warriors went undefeated at home, and a large part of that was being able to start the year 3-0 in the Warrior Challenge.

“It means a lot to us to defend our floor,” Central senior Josh Wells said. “We try to go undefeated every year at home, and we are trying to win (the tournament) back-to-back years, which has never been done.”

How will we react to a different style? Carbon High School of Price, Utah, has played in the past five Warrior Challenges. The Class 3A Dinos are a team that always does fairly well in the tournament. Carbon coach Ted Bianco said his team gets to see a more physical style of play than they are used to in their league.

“We get to see a variety of different teams,” Bianco said. “We are a smaller team, so we get to play against bigger, physical teams, and it’s a matter of us stepping up to the challenge.”

What kind of shape are we in? Fruita Monument coach Dave Fox said one of the things he expects to be tested on is conditioning. With three games in three days, the third game can come down to who’s in better shape.

“You always feel a jump in play from game one to game two,” Fox said. “But game three is where you get to see if you’re in shape.”

How much have we improved over last season? At this time last season the Palisade boys were still trying to figure out what new coach Steve Phillips was looking for on the court. The Bulldogs lost all three of their games in the tournament, and were overwhelmed at times by the larger schools. This season, the Bulldogs are further along in Phillips’ system and should be more competitive this week.

“I think we are going to find out early if we have a chance to be good,” Phillips said. “We are thinking we are good, and thinking we are going to be better.”

How is everyone going to play together? Grand Junction lost its top three scorers from last season, so the Tigers will be using the tournament as a way to find the best rotations. Grand Junction has several options on the floor, and is looking to find the best combination to play consistently.

“We want to see how we play together and who plays well together,” Grand Junction guard Tyler Winder said. “We always want to try and compete for all four quarters of the game.”

How are we coming along in our first year together? Douglas County struggled last season, finishing 2-23, with one of its wins coming against Palisade. Jeff Riley has taken over as the Huskies’ coach, and will take the floor for the first time today against Palisade. Douglas County returns only two varsity players and Riley is trying to rebuild the program.

“We’ve implemented a lot of new stuff,” Riley said. “We want to use this weekend as a building block.”

How will we handle a road trip? For the Front Range schools, this is one of the few times during the year they will have to stay overnight for a game. Horizon coach Dave Lawerance said the Hawks use the trip as a way to bond as a team.

“We’ve been coming for the last 10-12 years and it’s a great thing for us because we don’t travel much, so it’s a highlight of the year,” Lawerance said. “It’s a chance to get away early in the season and spend time with the kids and build team chemistry.”

How can we turn it around? There are a few teams looking to improve on a less-than-stellar 2008-09 season.

One of those teams is Bear Creek, which finished 11-13. The Bears are led by Armoni Brewington, an athletic player who is highly regarded on the football field as a wide receiver.

The Bears went 2-1 in the Warrior Challenge the past four years. Bear Creek has consistency at the head coaching position, with Steve Hyatt entering his 21st season.


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