Reardon again leading Basalt basketball as Longhorns race out to a 5-0 start

From left, Basalt High School girls basketball players Gracie Reardon, Ava Lane and Riley Dolan are leading the charge for the team’s unbeaten start this season. Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times. From Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, in Basalt.

Playing in a pandemic has hurdles. Some are physical, like having to wear a mask, and others are mental, like dealing with the uncertainty of having a season at all.

The point is there are plenty of reasons why the Basalt High School girls basketball team could be having a terrible season. But the reality is the Longhorns have so far been able to clear each of these hurdles during one of the best starts in recent program history.

“It’s tough to tell in a year of COVID why things are blending together this year better than other years,” BHS coach Amy Contini said. “This season, more so than ever, the girls have bought in. We don’t have to reiterate so much what we are trying to do. They’ve already bought in. They know what we are doing and it’s been a lot of fun to see how they’ve responded.”

Basalt has raced out to a perfect 5-0 start in the delayed and shortened “Season B” that includes the traditional winter sports. BHS has tallied wins over Glenwood Springs, Gunnison, Grand Junction, Roaring Fork and Grand Valley, with a trip to Meeker coming Thursday.

Identifying the source of this unbeaten run should begin with the five seniors. Contini, who is in her third season as the head varsity coach, was the C team coach when these seniors were freshmen and they’ve grown together into the team they are this season.

“This group of seniors has been together for so long working for this and we knew we had such good chemistry,” Basalt senior Gracie Reardon said. “We couldn’t really figure it out until now. We’ve been working really hard to work together and find our chemistry and put it into use now. But I think it’s always been there. We just struggled to have the confidence to show it on the floor.”

That confidence is certainly present now, and Reardon is leading that charge. She wasn’t a factor on varsity her freshman season, but she’s led the team in scoring each of the past two years. As a sophomore, Reardon averaged 8.3 points per game, according to her MaxPreps stats, and averaged 10.1 points per game as a junior, when BHS finished 9-10 overall.

Through five games this season, Reardon is averaging 12.2 points per game to again lead the team. This includes a career-high 22 points scored in a 67-33 rout of Gunnison on Jan. 30.

“They are so, so supportive. They treat you like equals and they get you involved,” sophomore Ava Lane said of Reardon and the senior class. “Off the court, we’ve been bonding with some of the upperclassmen and it’s been so fun to get to know them more personally. As a team, there is a lot of support going on. Due to COVID everything’s been so chaotic, so we’ve been forced to come together as a team, which is so awesome.”

Reardon’s main accomplice on the offensive end is senior Riley Dolan, who is averaging 8.8 points per game and is the team’s best rebounder outside of the Bohannan sisters, seniors Katie and Chandra. Kaitlin Boothe is the fifth senior, averaging 5.5 points per game and, according to Contini, brings the sort of speed the team has lacked in recent years.

“I definitely feel a big weight lifted off,” Reardon said of having others who can score. “Against Grand Valley, I didn’t have my best game, but Ava totally stepped in and brought us right back up. Same with Riley, she is down there scoring, too.”

Lane has been a big boost to the varsity squad this year. The underclassman is third on the team in scoring, most coming in a breakout 17-point performance the last time out in a 52-41 win over Grand Valley on Saturday.

“They are a really good group of girls,” Dolan said of the younger players like Lane. “They are all very dedicated to basketball. They help us a lot and they are all gaining their confidence and it is showing on the floor.”

Stats aside, the general consensus is the team is simply happy to be playing. While BHS had completed its season by the time the pandemic shut things down last March, the few teams still going did not finish after the last couple of rounds of the state tournament were called off.

Then, the entire 2020 spring sports season was eventually canceled, paving the way for this year’s somewhat discombobulated fall and winter seasons.

Still, this group of Longhorns is making the most of it. At 5-0, they are certainly a threat in the Class 3A Western Slope League, although will face a back-loaded schedule with powerhouse programs like Delta and Coal Ridge waiting their turn in the coming weeks.

“It was so hard to be excited about the season. It just felt like it was never going to happen and you didn’t want to get your hopes up. But when we finally had our first game, it was so exciting. We just wanted to keep going,” Reardon said. “We definitely have the potential to do something really special, even though we already kind of have. We want to push ourselves to leave Basalt with a mark and show them what we’ve been working for all these years.”