Strong girls teams atop SWL make for intriguing matchups
Although it’s clear the Grand Junction High School girls basketball team is the class of the Southwestern League, parity has made the SWL one of the most entertaining leagues in the state.
The Tigers have lost twice this season, once to No. 9 ThunderRidge in a nonleague contest. The other loss came to Montrose, anchored largely by Stephanie Rowan’s ball-handling, where the Indians handed Grand Junction its first loss of the season, 44-35 on Jan. 17.
The second time around, with Rowan out with a wrist injury, the Tigers slammed Montrose 50-24.
That was part of a two-game losing skid for the Indians, who had been unbeaten in the league until Fruita Monument, which has come on strong in the second half of the season, topped Montrose 27-25.
Fruita Monument lost to Durango 53-47 last Friday, three weeks after handing the Demons a double-digit loss.
Durango is on a four-game winning streak and faces Montrose on Valentine’s Day.
So. Much. Parity.
Grand Junction coach Sam Provenza said it’s a strong league with teams that do things quite differently.
“You’re talking about three completely different teams right there,” Provenza said of Grand Junction, Fruita Monument and Montrose. “We kinda pin our stuff on defense. Montrose plays a tight, squeezing-in-the-middle-of-the-floor defense. They like to shoot a lot of 3s and get out in transition. Fruita relies on a lot of good athletes to take it up and down the floor. I think that’s the biggest difference you see.”
Fruita Monument coach Michael Wells pointed to the quality of inside play as the reason for parity.
“I think we all have to play a little differently,” Wells said. “Montrose is tough inside with good shooters outside. Junction likes to play a little more up-tempo with their press, but they’re also well-rounded.”
With the postseason quickly approaching, there are at least three and potentially four playoff teams coming out of the SWL.
Sometimes the Colorado High School Activities Association can’t get out of its own way.
One mind-boggling decision made Jan. 29, one day before a recent legislative council meeting, barred Mountain Vista High School senior Bailey Roby from playing junior varsity or varsity basketball outside of one specific game against Littleton High School.
Roby, listed at 6-foot-4, has two lower-leg prosthetics similar to those of Oscar “The Blade Runner” Pistorius. The backlash over the decision was swift and one-sided, with more than 2,400 signatures on an online petition demanding that Roby be allowed to return to the court. The Twitter hashtag #letbailyrobyhoop has trended across Colorado and become something of a rallying cry for supporters of Roby.
Roby played through his junior year and half of his senior year with the Golden Eagles before being banned from play. Roby had averaged 1.4 points per game in eight appearances for No. 3 Mountain Vista.
Less than 48 hours later, Roby was permitted to play again on a “game-by-game basis.”
CHSAA, in a news release, pointed to rule in 3-5-1 in the basketball playing rules as reason for the initial ban.
The rule reads: “The referee shall not permit any team member to wear equipment or apparel which, in his/her judgment, is dangerous or confusing to other players or is not appropriate.
“NOTE: Each state association may, in keeping with applicable laws, authorize exceptions to the NFHS playing rules to provide reasonable accommodations to individual participants with disabilities and/or special needs, as well as those individual with unique and extenuating circumstances. The accommodations should not fundamentally alter the sport, heighten risk to the athlete/others or place opponents at a disadvantage.”
Although Roby is now allowed to play if the two competing schools agree, another hashtag featuring CHSAA and an expletive, started popping up around Colorado. The ruling was also made national news on ESPN’s show “Olbermann.”
Good Polling Numbers
Numerous area teams have cracked The Associated Press Prep Basketball Poll. The Grand Junction boys basketball team, on a nine-game winning streak and undefeated since Christmas break, moved up a spot to No. 9 in the Class 5A poll. They’re 16 points behind a six-loss Overland team, but a bevy of top-level games for ranked Class 5A teams gives the Tigers room to move up.
In the Class 3A boys poll, Moffat County is up to No. 4, and Meeker is the 10th-ranked team in the boys Class 2A poll.
The Grand Junction girls narrowly missed getting ranked in the Class 5A poll as the top vote-getting team outside the tope 10.
Grand Valley, an astounding snub from previous polls, finally cracked the Class 3A poll in the eighth spot. Olathe is No. 10 in the same poll. Paonia and Meeker are ranked No. 7 and No. 10, respectively, in the Class 2A poll.
In the third week of the poll, Western Slope teams are finally receiving some recognition, and more continue to float to the top.