Basalt girls basketball reloads
BASALT ” Melissa Stewart detests interviews.
When cornered Tuesday at practice, the Basalt point guard quickly spun her way out of the jam, calling over junior teammate Nicole Booth to answer questions.
Stewart, it seems, is the embodiment of a worn-out sports adage: She would rather let her play do the talking.
That’s fine by head coach Carolyn Compton, who will lean on Stewart early and often this winter while a new herd of Longhorns fills the holes left by the departure of five talented players to graduation.
“Melissa’s a little more quiet,” Compton said of her lone senior. “She tends to lead by example more than anything. She has the girls’ support and their respect because they know she can play this game.”
Compton’s program has certainly earned respect around the state after back-to-back runs to the Great 8. The Longhorns lost in the 3A championship game in 2007, then returned to Fort Collins last year as the state’s top seed before losing their opening game to Colorado Springs Christian and eventually finishing fifth overall.
Stewart and Booth are the only two players on Basalt’s current roster who saw significant playing time on both of those state teams, but the challenge of rebuilding doesn’t faze Compton.
“It’s a building year, but every year, it seems, we rebuild,” said the coach, who led Basalt to a 23-4 record last season. “It just happens we’re especially young this year. I’m excited. These girls have a lot of energy. I have a core group of girls who really just want basketball to be their main sport and that doesn’t happen very often. That’s exciting. I think we’re really going to surprise people.”
That’s not to say it’s going to be easy replacing the dynamic scoring trio of guards Kat Fitzpatrick and Emily Peetz and forward Dayne Toney. Toney averaged 14.3 points a game last season, while Fitzpatrick earned player of the year honors in the 3A Western Slope after racking up 13.4 points per game. Peetz was the team’s third-leading scorer and its best deep threat, connecting on 33 of 66 3-point attempts.
Making up for that lost offense will be one of the biggest questions facing Basalt when it tips off the season at home against Olathe on Dec. 12.
Compton expects Stewart and Booth to up their scoring production from last season, when they averaged 7.4 and 3.4 points, respectively. She also wants other players to emerge as the season unfolds.
One player the coach singled out is versatile guard Ashley Soucie, a junior who saw time off the bench last season while averaging nearly three points a game. Other reserves who expect to see increased playing time are juniors Mackenzie Buck and Katelyn Timroth and sophomore Jamie Matherly.
“Melissa and Nicole both might have to step their game up a little more, but everyone out here is capable of doing that,” Compton said. “It’s how I’ve built my program. I don’t put girls on the bench for decoration. I’ve always put them on the bench because I expect to use them and I have. I don’t think I have any games where every girl on my bench hasn’t played and scored. Hopefully, that’s going to pay off this year.”
While there are plenty of new faces, the strategy on the floor isn’t going to look any different to Longhorns fans. Compton expects her team to win games by playing aggressive defense, forcing turnovers, scoring in transition and being better conditioned than the opposition.
“I don’t expect [our philosophy] to change a whole lot,” the coach said. “I challenge them every day to push themselves. It’s not always about speed. It’s about smarts and playing the game smart. Before athletic ability and speed, that’s what we build on is learning how to play this game smart.
“We may not be quite as fast but we will still be well-conditioned.”
Booth is just excited to be back on the court running again after a freak injury in March put her on a long road to recovery. The junior was jet skiing with her brother in Florida in March when the two jet skis collided. Booth suffered a compound fracture in her left tibia that required surgery and months of rehab. She had to sit out the volleyball season this fall while the leg healed.
“[The doctors] said I’m basically lucky to be walking,” the junior said. “They were scared I was going to get an infection and stuff like that. I’m really happy to be back out here. I had to miss volleyball, but it’s definitely worth it being back out here.”
As for Stewart, she’s happy to be back on the court as well. Just don’t expect her to talk about it.
Her one quote on Tuesday?
“We’ve all played together,” the senior said. “All the juniors and seniors from last year are comfortable with each other. I think we should be OK.”
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