High school basketball league play gets started

This weekend marks the beginning of the important games for boys and girls basketball teams in the Western Slope League Classes 4A, 3A and 2A/1A.

Although most coaches will say “every game is important,” these are the ones that really count.

All the WSL teams have ended their non-league schedule and begin playing league games on a consistent basis.

Early interesting match-ups include Palisade at Rifle, Grand Valley at Olathe as well as Plateau Valley at Hayden.

The Hotchkiss boys team also will be playing league games this weekend starting Friday against Cedaredge and Saturday against Roaring Fork.

The only thing that’s different for the Bulldogs is that they haven’t played a bulky non-league schedule with three-day tournament after three-day tournament. Hotchkiss began the year with two conference games and have played only one true non-league team, Dec. 18 against Paonia.

“It has a lot to do with the way our league is set up,” Hotchkiss coach Kyle Crowder said.

“Sixteen of our 19 games are in the league, so we knew it was going to be tough coming in.”

The Bulldogs have done well early in the year, starting out 4-0. Hotchkiss is led by seven seniors and has four players averaging in double figures. JT Hotchkiss is the Bulldogs’ leading scorer with 16 points per game, but Steven Floyd, Pat Sullivan and Dakota Coats are all in double figures.

Hotchkiss is atop the WSL standings so far, but with the likes of Aspen and Grand Valley in the league, Crowder said he knows it’s going to be a tough league this season. With that, Crowder and the Bulldogs have taken a simple approach to the schedule.

“We need to win the games we should win,” Crowder said. “We also have to be prepared and ready for the games that we could win.”

With Hotchkiss having a majority of its games counting as league games, the end goal is setting itself up well for the district tournament at the end of the season.

“We talk things that are absolutes for us,” Crowder said. “We have to absolutely try and win as many home games to set ourselves up for the end of the season.”

STYLE POINTS

The Fruita Monument boys basketball team can never be told they aren’t playing a tough enough schedule. The Wildcats are playing two of the top three teams in 5A MaxPreps.com boys basketball poll this weekend. Thursday, Fruita Monument faces No. 1 Rampart and Friday it faces No. 3 Fountain-Fort Carson.

“We are trying to stay positive win or lose,” Fruita Monument coach Dave Fox said. “By playing better teams you find out what you are good at, and what you aren’t good at.”

Fox said the Wildcats have benefited from having a lot of time off heading into the game. Fruita’s had ample time to practice against the 1-3-1 zone defense Rampart runs.

“We have had some time to get ready for different things they might do,” Fox said. “It’s been nice to have a little more time to prepare.”

The Wildcats will finish the weekend playing at Heritage, who is sitting at 3-6 this season.

POLLS

Monday’s MaxPreps.com fab five poll wasn’t very kind to the Western Slope. There were no boys teams ranked, and only two girls teams earned their way into the polls. Central was ranked No. 5 in the 5A poll and Paonia was ranked No. 2 in the 2A poll.

TOP OF THE VALLEY

Thursday’s Jackpot duals at Grand Junction High School is a lot about bragging rights. Fruita Monument, Palisade, Central and host Grand Junction will wrestle against each other to see who’s the best in the Grand Valley. The duals begin at 5:30 p.m.


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