Paonia goes to regional tourney looking for third straight title

The Paonia girls basketball team is developing a winning tradition.

The Eagles are trying to reach the Class 2A state tournament for the third consecutive year, but first will have to get through the Region 5 tournament this weekend at Mesa State College.

By winning the District 5 tournament, Paonia locked up the top seed in the regional, which includes Dayspring Christian, Fountain Valley and Rangely. The regional winner goes to the state tournament.

In their past two trips to the final eight, the Eagles were knocked out after two games. Depth caught up to the Eagles, but coach Scott Rienks said that won’t be a problem this year.

“Last year our depth was a hindrance,” Rienks said. “This year we have a 10-man rotation and I would say it is our strength.”

The Eagles’ depth has helped them put together a 21-1 record.

“This group has been very motivated,” Rienks said. “They have been focused all season on getting back.”

Paonia has taken on all comers, beating Class 3A No. 1 seed Gunnison this season and notching wins against Delta and Hotchkiss. The Eagles defeated District 5 runner-up Meeker twice.

Grayson Pipher, Johanna Reed, Jami Reed, Jordyn Rienks, Shelby Campbell and Brittani Vernard have the Eagles averaging 52 points a game and allowing only 33.

Rangely, the No. 3 seed, finished third in the District 5 tournament and lost to Paonia 56-43 earlier this season.

Rangely will play Fountain Valley at 3 p.m. today. Paonia will play Dayspring Christian at 6 p.m.

The championship game will be at 1 p.m. Saturday.

On the boys side, Meeker holds the top seed. The Cowboys won the District 5 tournament by defeating Plateau Valley 61-50. Meeker finished fifth at state in 2007 but missed the final eight last season.

Based on the season so far, the Cowboys are ready to return.

“We had four boys that dressed varsity but didn’t get to play a whole lot,” Meeker coach Klark Kindler said. “They got to see the experience and feel the atmosphere but they came to me and said they wanted to get back when it was their team.”

This group of Cowboys went 22-1, and other than a loss to Plateau Valley in January, Meeker’s closest margin of victory was 11 points. That came in the district title game.

Meeker is led by starters Mitch Jacob, Brian Crowe, Brock Campbell, Tyrel Gerloff and Colton Brown but can go eight or nine players deep.

“We don’t have one player that has to score for us,” Kindler said. “All five starters can score and all five have led us in scoring at times.”

“We have to shoot the ball well and keep playing defense the way we did the last month of the season,” Kindler said.

The Cowboys open against Longmont Christian at 7:30 p.m. today, with Rangely playing Custer County in the other first-round game at 4:30 p.m.

Rangely (15-8) made its way into the regional at Mesa State by finishing third in the District 5 tournament. The Panthers lost to Meeker in the district semifinals 84-50.

The boys championship game will be at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.


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