Fitzpatrick returns to breathe new life into Basalt girls basketball | AspenTimes.com

Fitzpatrick returns to breathe new life into Basalt girls basketball

Kat Fitzpatrick was a player the last time the Basalt High School girls basketball team had a winning record. It was the 2007-08 season, her senior year, where the Longhorns finished fifth in Class 3A. The year before, when Fitzpatrick was a junior, Basalt lost to Bishop Machebeuf, 55-46, in the state championship game.

Fitzpatrick admits that group — centered on her 2008 graduating class — was special. And she sees similarities between those girls and this year's team, which she now finds herself in charge of.

"I really wanted to have one more chance to really work with them because I think that they can do something special here at Basalt," Fitzpatrick said. "When I worked with the girls a few years ago, I really recognized a few players and just the group all together. I could tell it was a special group. It's a group of girls that doesn't really come around very often."

Fitzpatrick, a former Western Slope League player of the year, also was one of the state's best soccer players. She spent a season on scholarship playing soccer at NAIA Rocky Mountain College in Montana before transferring to Colorado State University. She also spent two seasons playing basketball in college, including when she studied abroad in Australia.

A 2012 CSU graduate with a degree in English literature, Fitzpatrick returned home after college and has worked as a recreation coordinator for both Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel and for the town of Basalt. She's also been a youth soccer and basketball coach over that time, including two years ago when she was the girls junior varsity coach at BHS.

After a year away from the high school, Fitzpatrick, 26, is back this season as the head varsity coach, replacing Josh Mink.

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"I feel like her being able to go to the playoffs and her being able to experience that can help her as a coach to take us there," BHS senior Carsyn Knotts said. Knotts, the team's top scorer from a year ago, played for Fitzpatrick on JV as a sophomore. "I loved playing under her and I'm really excited for what this season holds for us and for her."

The Longhorns kicked off the 2016-17 season with a flurry of practices Friday, the first official day high schools in Colorado could get in the gym for winter sports. In less than 16 hours, the girls practiced three times — there was no school Friday because of parent-teacher conferences — beginning at midnight. After an early morning hike — including sprints up the hill behind the high school — they were back in the gym for more.

"I'm not even sure some of the girls slept at all after practice because they were all excited and messing around," Fitzpatrick said of the team's sleepover-style first day. "They were having fun and it was good team bonding. It's fun to set the season off on a positive note. It's a good way to have a fresh start and put the other seasons behind us."

The Longhorns only won three games last season — twice over Aspen and once against Roaring Fork — which, according to MaxPreps, was the most wins for the program since winning five games in 2010-11.

The team wasn't that strong before Fitzpatrick helped lead a remarkable turnaround in her junior season, and she believes this group has that same unique makeup that could lead to something special.

"To be a part of that, seeing that it's possible for a coach to come in and really believe in her players and the players believe in the coach, that they can really turn a program around," Fitzpatrick said. "And Basalt always has my heart. I love coaching, and if I can coach in my hometown, then there is nothing better."

The Longhorns will open the season Dec. 1 at a tournament in La Jara, hosted by Centauri High School.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

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