Higher expectations: Reed, Paonia focused on title in fourth straight trip to state
Johanna Reed will never forget her first playoff experience.
As a freshman for Paonia High School in 2007, it was up to her to get her team to the next round.
“Freshman year we weren’t expected to even make it past regionals, so it was nerve-wracking,” Reed said. “I always remember it was on me. We were tied and we had probably 30 seconds to go and I had to shoot the free throws to get us up.”
Now, three years and one coaching change later, Reed is making her fourth trip to state for the Eagles, who are the No. 1 seed in the Class 2A state tournament in Pueblo.
“Every year it gets harder,” Reed said. “We always set our goals high and always expect to make it to the next level.”
The top seeding comes only one year after Paonia (22-1) finished second in the state, falling to 46-35 to Wray, which was the top seed last season. That loss provided the Eagles with plenty of motivation.
“We’ve been in that game and now we want to be back there,” Reed said. “We have more experience, so it’s been pushing us through this year.”
The key to Paonia’s success has been depth.
The Eagles’ roster has eight seniors who contribute every game.
At guard, Reed gives the Eagles a burst of speed and Leslie Trujillo provides solid defense.
“That’s what helps me out a lot, because Jo (Reed) doesn’t always have to have the point guard or (guard) the top guard,” Paonia coach Scott Rienks said.
“Leslie can take that, take the pressure off Jo and allow Jo to play the offensive side better.”
In the post, the Eagles get big contributions from Grayson Pipher and Jordyn Rienks. Both scored at least 10 points in each game of regionals last weekend. Rienks made last year’s Class 2A All-State team.
The Eagles have gotten significant play off the bench from Kendra Hinton, who had 13 points in Paonia’s two wins over the weekend.
If need be, the Eagles can even rely on underclassmen, including sophomore Jessica Altman, who scored six points in Friday’s victory over Nederland.
“That’s a huge force in the fact that we feel like we can run all game if we want to, because I’m not afraid to throw freshmen out there and let them play, because they’re good enough,” Scott Rienks said.
Even better, the team’s chemistry is easily visible.
Before Friday’s victory against Nederland, the team sat together, cheering on the Paonia boys and singing along with each song that played in Brownson Arena.
“We just like to have fun,” Reed said with a laugh. “We just like to be relaxed. If we’re all tense, then we’re not going to play our game.”
Scott Rienks is quick to note his eight seniors average a 3.92 grade-point average in the classroom.
“Our kids really strive in the classroom and basketball is just kind of fun for them,” he said.
“We always put our school ahead, our friends, everything that means more, a little higher,” Reed said.
“Basketball is just our outlet to have fun. We like to play.”
The Eagles will open the 2A tournament against Holyoke at 11:45 a.m. on Thursday at Massari Arena in Pueblo.
Regardless of the outcome, Scott Rienks heads into the tournament proud of what his team has accomplished this year.
The Eagles’ only loss was to Olathe, which is undefeated and the No. 1 seed in the Class 3A state tourney this weekend.
“No matter what happens from here on out, you can’t take that (success) away from us,” Rienks said. “The girls have done everything they can to this point and they will always have that.”