Sophomore helps Central’s seniors reach Sweet 16

Photoby William WoodyBrittany Hoppe, right, has developed into a solid point guard for the Central High School girls basketball team.The Warriors play a home game in the Class 5A Sweet 16 tonight at 7.


No. 5 Grand Junction (15-10)  at No. 1 Highlands Ranch (21-3)

• When: 7 tonight, Highlands Ranch High School.

• League: Grand Junction, Southwestern (4-6); Highlands Ranch, Continental (12-0)

• Sweet 16: Grand Junction won its first-round game against No. 12 Boulder 45-44, then upset No. 4 Aurora Central 60-38. Highlands Ranch defeated No. 9 Fruita Monument 64-20 in the second round.

• Leading scorers: Jamie Derrieux, Grand Junction, 14.3 points per game; Sendy Valles, Highlands Ranch, 14.8 ppg.

• Next up: The winner faces the winner of No. 3 Ponderosa and No. 2 Denver East on Saturday in the Great 8 at the Denver Coliseum.

• Notes: It’s been a goal since the beginning of the season for the Grand Junction girls to make the Sweet 16. Well, the Tigers are here and facing one of the best teams in the country. ranks the Falcons No. 44 in the country and No. 1 in Colorado. Highlands Ranch has lost three games all season, two against teams from California and one against Oregon City, Ore. Needless to say, the Falcons are stacked. Highlands Ranch is led by Valles, but has plenty of firepower with Katelyn McDaniel (14 ppg) and Shanti Smith (11 ppg).

This group of underclassmen from Grand Junction isn’t afraid of a challenge. Led by Derrieux, only a sophomore, the Tigers are always prepared for big games. The key for Grand Junction will be handling the Falcons’ press and keeping Highlands Ranch off the offensive boards.

As tough as the matchup seems on paper, the Tigers have been playing well lately. Junior Fawn Brady averages 12 points per game and Paula Lage adds 11. Regardless of the result, the young Tigers will take a lot from tonight’s game.

“They are excited at the challenge of moving on,” Tigers coach Sam Provenza said. “They want to see how far they can take it.”

Amy Kame is the face of the Central High School girls basketball team, one of the best girls teams to come out of the Grand Valley.

The senior guard scores nearly 26 points per game and has led the Warriors to a 21-3 record and a home game at 7 tonight against Heritage in the Sweet 16 of the Class 5A state playoffs.

Kame has averaged 33 points per game over the past six games, and has a solid group of seniors around her in Haleigh Higgins, Stacey Kinnett and Maddi Vana. The Warriors are senior dominated, with six upperclassmen getting significant playing time.

A sophomore, though, has provided the spark for the Warriors, point guard Brittany Hoppe.

“When she comes into the game she gives us a whole lot of energy,” Central coach Todd Dixon said. “I know she’s having a lot of fun with this group.”

Hoppe was on the varsity roster last season, but didn’t see much playing time. With last year’s starting point guard, Karen Hayter, graduating, Hoppe knew she’d play a bigger role this season.

“Someone had to take her spot, and I was able to become part of this team,” Hoppe said. “Whenever I have the opportunity, I give 100 percent.”

Hoppe’s development this season is a reason why Kame has continued to fill up the scorebook. Early in the season, Kame had to play out of position, running the offense as the point guard.

Hoppe’s play has allowed Kame to move back to shooting guard.

“Our talk during the offseason was trying to develop someone that could take Karen’s role and distribute the ball,” Dixon said. “We knew Amy could do that, but she’s so much better at a wing where she can create and not have to worry about starting the offense.

“We have had no reservations about putting Brittany in that role.”

Hoppe hasn’t been much of an offensive threat, but since her minutes per game started increasing through the season, her tempo has gotten the Warriors’ offense going.

Hoppe is a solid ballhandler with blazing speed, and usually leads the fast break. Hoppe is also a stout defender using her quickness to create turnovers.

“My main role is to push it down the court,” Hoppe said. “I know if someone is getting after it, I will, too.”

Hoppe’s progression this season is impressive, considering she’s a three-sport athlete with her main focus on softball.

Hoppe said she spent a majority of the summer playing in softball tournaments, and doesn’t have much time to concentrate on basketball or her spring sport, golf.

“We don’t have a lot of single-sport athletes,” Hoppe said. “You talk to kids from Denver and they’ll say ‘I only play softball.’ If I told my parents I wasn’t going to play golf or basketball, they’d say ‘You better (play); you’ll regret it if you don’t.’ “

The Warriors are happy Hoppe hasn’t thrown in the towel on any sport. Tonight’s game is a rematch from Dec. 19, when the Warriors beat Heritage 50-46 in the championship of the Heritage Hoopla tournament.

“They are going to come ready,” Dixon said. “On paper we are just as good as them, and having it at home is huge for us. We need a big crowd there.”

Heritage is coached by Ron McClurg, a 1988 graduate of Grand Junction High School.

McClurg’s team is led by 6-foot-1 senior Kim Lockridge, who averages 15 points per game.


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