Senior septet has Glenwood Springs boys basketball poised for postseason run
Down 14 points to a league rival hungry to improve its lot in the postseason state tournament, a lot of teams might have folded.
Not the Glenwood Springs High School boys basketball team.
Behind the leadership of seven senior members of this season’s cast of Demons, and under the direction of second-year Demon alumnus coach Fred Heisel, the Glenwood boys are on a mission.
Case in point was the final regular-season game for the 2019-20 campaign at storied Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium on Friday night. Glenwood had to battle back from a double-digit deficit early in the second quarter against the Palisade Bulldogs to win it in overtime, 55-47.
The result: An impressive 20-3 overall record, the state’s No. 2 power ranking behind 22-1 Mead going into the 4A playoffs this week, where they are the No. 2 seed, and a perfect 12-0 to win the 4A Western Slope League outright.
Eye on the big prize
Patrick Young, one of four senior co-captains on the team, remembers a hastily called secret junior team meeting toward the end of last season.
“We had one thing written up on the board,” Young recalled a day before the Palisade game, as he sat with his fellow co-captains Mitchell Burt, Will Narvaez and John Iuele.
“And that was ‘state championship,’” Young said.
Rounding out the group are senior team members A.J. Adams, Gabe Kimbrough and Adam Schrader.
“We’ve been doubted as a class for our entire lives, so coming out and securing a 12-0 league record is huge, and a big confidence boost going into the playoffs,” Young said.
Glenwood Springs has finished at the top of the league or with a share of the title each year of the Class of 2020’s time in high school.
But that’s not the end of it.
“We still have our eyes on a bigger prize,” Young said.
“It’s a pretty big deal, yeah,” Iuele added. “We’ve all worked pretty hard throughout the years, so it’s just been really fun to see us come from little freshmen to compete as well as we have.
“I feel like we’ve all put in so much work, and that’s what motivates us … all the work you’ve ever put in, and you don’t want it to go to waste,” he said.
Coming of age
Iuele joined the class in seventh grade, but Young, Burt and Narvaez have been playing basketball and growing up together since the third grade.
“We didn’t used to be all that good, honestly,” Narvaez said. “But we all worked together and got in better shape, and put in the time during the summers to get to where we are now.
“Off the court, we’re all really good friends, and we just try to look out for each other,” he added.
Burt thinks back to the last loss for the Demons, a 61-45 decision in favor of the Longmont Trojans at their home tournament before the holiday break on Dec. 19, and how that served to motivate the team.
“That was a great experience for us, because that’s the type of team we’re going to have to play in the playoffs,” Burt said of Longmont, which has traded the No. 2 and No. 3 RPI ranking with Glenwood in recent weeks.
“At that point in the season, it kind of showed us where we were and what we had to improve on,” he said. “Going undefeated in league is a big step to show we can stay consistent and keep the wins coming.”
Added Young, “We’ve put ourselves in a really great position to be competitive in the playoffs. It’s all been about holding everyone accountable and keeping that competitive spirit. That’s what makes this team so great.”
Coach Heisel acknowledges that it’s been a bit of a luxury to have so many committed seniors on the team who’ve brought the younger ranks along for a special ride.
Friday night’s win was a perfect example of how that plays out on the court.
“When it shows up is in those tight games — encouraging someone when they didn’t make a free throw, and ensuring we’re not making the mental mistakes late in the game,” Heisel said. “Our seniors just have the experience to take care of those things.
“We have seven seniors on this team, and every one of them has contributed strongly to our success, and will continue to do so for the playoffs, I’m sure,” he said. “It’s a tough road ahead, but this group of boys is ready to take it on.”
How ‘bout those Lady Demons!
The icing on the cake for the Glenwood Springs High School basketball program has been the girls team, which has enjoyed parallel success with its own core group of six seniors — Qwynn Massie, Hadley Yellico, Natalya Taylor, Kate Shanahan, Michelle Marshall and Zeva Carruth.
The Lady Demons held up their end of the bargain Friday night to also go undefeated atop the 4A WSL at 12-0 and finish with an identical 20-3 overall record.
“It’s pretty cool, because we’re all friends with the girls and have spent a lot of time together at tournaments and games,” Burt said. “It’s fun to see them have the same success.”
The Glenwood girls are the No. 12 seed in the 4A state tournament.
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Basalt volleyball improved to 8-4 overall after a 3-0 sweep of Grand Valley on Saturday. BHS, which started the season 0-3, had won seven straight before a 3-2 loss to Cedaredge on Friday. The Longhorns next play Tuesday in Aspen.