Winless 2011-12 season replaced by winning momentum for Warriors
Winless seasons are no fun.
Ask the returning players on the Central High School boys basketball team. They played 23 games last season and lost 23.
“It’s hard to put in words how tough it is for a whole program to go through,” Warriors coach Ryan Hayden said.
But that’s all they lost: games. The Warriors collected victories that don’t reflect on a scoreboard. Skills were being honed. Character was being forged. Determination was being instilled. Experience was being gained. Lessons were being learned.
At the fork in the road where they could have said, “We quit,” the Warriors instead said, “We’ll do what it takes.”
And the reward for persevering and making a commitment to a program has been five wins through 12 games, a three-game winning streak at the holiday break and hope for greater success.
“The kids deserve credit. They kept working hard,” Hayden said.
The second-year head coach didn’t downplay the significance of the winning streak, terming it “monumental” in his team’s progress, while senior guard Preston Grandbouche said, “I knew this was going to come because we worked so hard for it. ... Hopefully this helps everyone’s attitude, to know that we are good.”
The Warriors can look at their 5-7 record and poke holes in it. They’re not satisfied with their modest success, and that’s a good thing.
Most of this season’s losses resulted from one bad quarter each game. Minus those eight-minute lapses, Central could boast several more wins. But this has become a team that moves forward. It doesn’t dwell in the past; it learns from it.
That’s why Saturday, when Adams City took a 15-8 lead in the first quarter, the Warriors didn’t say, “Here we go again.” Instead, they listened as their seething head coach made it clear he expected better from his charges. And the Warriors proceeded to turn things around and win that game because they expect better from themselves.
That’s one of the important changes Hayden sees in his players this season: Their expectations changed.
“Basketball is being looked at differently,” he said. “I think they’re invested in it. I think when you get the kids invested, it means more.”
Hayden has pushed his players along, but it still comes down to them believing, committing, uniting.
The Warriors are doing all of that.
“Coach got us into the weight room. We lifted, went to camps in the summer and became a team,” Central senior Matt Henderson said. “We worked hard in the offseason. I think we’ve come together, like a family. I feel that we’re a lot closer.”
Grandbouche agreed and said a core group of players did more than the weight training and the numerous basketball camps. They stuck together off the court.
“We do a lot of things un-basketball-related to get us more united and together,” Grandbouche said.
There’s more work to do. No doubt, there will be more losses to endure.
But from a program that experienced the ultimate futility a year ago and refused to be defined by it, there will be more wins, on the scoreboard and off.
In winning three games in a row, Central had to do it in three days, and the Warriors overcame a lackluster start to a late-morning game on the third day.
As most basketball coaches can attest, Hayden wasn’t blowing smoke when he said, “It’s hard to play three games in three days. I don’t care who you are and who you’re playing.”
Up, up and in
I couldn’t help but think several things when Palisade’s Caden Woods shot a pair of free throws in the Bulldogs’ 71-62 boys basketball win over Montezuma-Cortez a week ago:
■ Is there a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow?
■ If the game was outdoors, low-flying aircraft would need to be alerted.
■ The Gateway Arch in St. Louis would be impressed.
Let’s just say Woods puts more than a little arc on his free throws, and he said the approach at the free-throw line is fairly new.
“I’ve just been working on it lately,” he said. “I haven’t got it down yet. It’s a work in progress.”
By the way, he made them both.
That’s my ball!
Palisade doesn’t have the tallest post players, but they’re athletic and physical, and it’s no surprise Woods, Levi Hoaglund, and Zach Marengo are football players.
They mix it up in the paint and battle to get their share of rebounds, to which Bulldogs’ boys basketball coach Brian Tafel said, “Marengo and Levi and Caden Woods are types of kids that when they get their hands on the ball, no one’s getting it away from them.”
It will be worth it
Fruita Monument girls swimming coach Jessica Haley spoke highly of the improvement her swimmers made at the recent Montrose Invitational, where the Wildcats placed fifth.
She said the achievements in that meet were more impressive because her swimmers were four days into their “12 days of winter” training, a regimen common for college swimmers.
It’s four days a week for three weeks of swimming 6,000 yards on average, Haley said, adding they are her toughest practices.
“It’s testing them on: Are they ‘mind’ athletes, or are they ‘body’ athletes?” she said.
She also expects the training will reward her athletes come the postseason.
“Fruita Monument is going to be a team to watch late January,” she said. “I really think we’re going to surprise some people.”