Valley basketball preview
Girls basketball ramps up in the Valley
SANFORD High looks to get back to the state tournament after losing in the state championship game a year ago. Alamosa High wants to get another taste of the state tournament and returns a veteran team to make it happen. Those are some of the preseason storylines as girls basketball ramps up across the San Luis Valley. Here’s a team-by-team preview:
Last season: 12-10, 6-2 in league play; qualified for state playoff
Coach: Erik Melgoza, third season
Players to watch: Miranda Geringer, Sydney Jackson, Morgan Ortega
First game: Dec. 2, Ellicott
The Mean Moose qualified for the state playoffs this year, but lost their first game against Delta, 48-35. Alamosa will look to their roster made up of six seniors to help lead the team. “We really feel like a big strength we have is senior leadership,” said Head Coach Erik Melgoza. Alamosa features Miranda Geringer, the team’s leading scorer from a year ago.
Last season: 5-9; 2-4 in league play
Coach: Joseph Guenther, second season
Players to watch: Patricia Silvas, Zanita Garcia
First game: Dec. 1, at Sargent
The Trojans will look to improve on their tough season last year, which saw them finish fifth in league play. Patricia Silvas, who led the team in scoring last season, is back to lead the Trojans.
Last season: 14-9; 7-1 in League; qualified for state playoffs
Coach: Troy Reynolds, fifth season
Players to watch: Abbey Smith, Lacey Johnson, Kailyn Polzin
First game: Dec. 1, Brush
The Falcons were able to win their league for the second straight season last year. “We have the same goal as every year, we’re out to win a championship.” said Centauri Head Coach Troy Reynolds. Abbey Smith will look to pace the Falcons once again this year, after leading the team in points per game and assists a year ago.
Last season: 9-12; 4-4 in league play
Coach: Jan Vigil, eighth season
Players to watch: Alicia Rios, Yanelli Garcia, Alexia Badachi
First game: Nov. 29, Salida
The Vikings will be looking for a bounce back this season and turning toward their young players to step up. “We played about 26 games in June. We’re gonna have a lot of freshmen and sophomores but they stepped up,” said Center Head Coach Jan Vigil of his team’s youth. The Vikings will look to Alicia Rios, who finished second on the team in scoring to lead them along.
Last season: 10-13; 6-2 in league play
Coach: Gilbert Sanchez, ninth season
Players to watch: Kelci Madrid, Baylie Laymon, Abigail Rivera
First game: Dec. 3, Ellicott
The Tigers will look to bounce back this season after an uncharacteristically down year. Returning is Kelci Madrid, who led the Tigers in points and steals last season.
Last season: 4-10; 0-6 in league play
Coach: Alyssa Hammel, first season
Players to watch: Paige Hammel, Karmyn Hauger
First game: Dec. 2, Cotopaxi Tournament
The Cowboys will have their core group of players back this season to try and improve on their 4-10 record from a year ago. Leading the charge will be Paige Hammel, who led Moffat in points per game and blocks per game last season.
Last season: 13-10; 5-3 in league play
Coach: Shawna Larson, first season
Players to watch: Syriah Bernal, Rose Rodriguez, Zoriah Archuleta
First game: Dec. 1, Rocky Ford
The Pirates will look to build on their solid season from a year ago. “Our girls really stick together and back each other up,” said Head Coach Shawna Larson of her team’s biggest strength. Monte Vista will rely on Syriah Bernal this season, who finished third on the team on points per game a year ago.
Last season: 25-2; 8-0 in League; lost in state championship game
Coach: Keith Caldon, seventh season
Players to Watch: Alyssa Edgar, Makenzie Reynolds
First Game: Dec. 2, at Salida
The Mustangs continued their usual success last season, making it to the state championship before losing to Holyoke, 39-34. “We’re just trying to build a new season, last season is gone and it’s a new season now,” said Sanford Head Coach Keith Caldon. The Mustangs’ Alyssa Edgar is a key returner from a team that graduated six seniors.
Sangre de Cristo
Last season: 19-4; 6-0 in league play; qualified for state playoff
Coach: Hunter Powell, second season
Players to watch: Peyton Metz, Idahlia Garcia, Palma Enriquez
First game: Dec. 1, Creede
The Thunderbirds had a very strong year last season, winning their district and regional championships. “We’re really trying to turn our young players into leaders,” said Sangre Head Coach Hunter Powell. Powell will look to Peyton Metz, who finished third on the team in scoring last year.
Last season: 19-5; 7-1 in league play
Coach: Cameron King, second season
Players to watch: Bailey Asbell, Megan Peterson, Stephanie Johnson
First game: Dec. 1, Antonito
The Farmers are coming off a big season last year that saw them advance all the way to the regional championship. Sargent will have a big hole to fill this season, as they lost Gabby Jones who led in all major stats last season. Bailey Asbell, who finished third on the team in scoring with 150 points last season, will be relied on to lead the team.
Last season: 12-11; 3-2 in league play
Coach: Dave Forster, third season
Players to watch: Mariana Loya, Lindsy Paine, Aracely Minchaca
First game: Dec. 3, at Springfield
The Panthers will be trying to change their fortunes from a year ago. “We have a shot to be a lot better, we’ve got some good youth coming and we’re excited about what we have,” said Head Coach Dave Forster. Sierra Grande will look to their scoring and rebound leader Mariana Loya to play quality minutes this year.
Sanford, Centauri look to return to state title games
WITH Sanford and Centauri looking to return the state championship games of their respective classifications and win it this time, and Alamosa, Del Norte, and Sierra Grande hoping to build on their successes from a year ago, boys basketball in the San Luis Valley looks hotter than ever. Here’s a team-by-team preview:
Last season: 13-9; 5-3 in league play; qualified for state tournament
Coach: Myles Baker, fourth season
Players to watch: Jayr Almeida, Luke Christensen, Kade Jones, Kasey Jones, Brant Jackson, Michael Motz
First game: Dec. 2, Ellicott
The Mean Moose are coming off a state tournament berth last season. “We’ve got a good group of players coming back this year,” said Alamosa Head Coach Myles Baker. “You always hate to lose seniors but you hope for growth from your underclassmen.” The Mean Moose will have to replace three seniors this year, including rebound leader Damian Orozco, who finished last year with 26. This season, Baker will look for continuity from his team. “They play well together, they all enjoy playing basketball,” he said.
Last season: 2-12; 1-6 in league play
Coach: Ricardo Romero, seventh season
Players to watch: Jasiah Jiron, Darius Gomez, EJ Maestas
First Game: TBD
The Trojans return two of their top players in scoring leader Jasiah Jiron, and assist and steals leader Darius Gomez. The biggest hole Antonito will need to fill this year is that of rebound leader Dalton Romero, who finished last season with 10 rebounds per game.
Last season: 24-2; 7-1 in league play; lost state championship game
Coach: Larry Mortensen, third season
Players to watch: Chaz Holman, Kaleb Anderson, Mason Sowards, Leighton Curtis
First game: Dec. 1, Brush
The Falcons are coming off their best season in school history, going all the way to the state championship game before losing to Aspen, 50-40. “More than anything it was fun. It’ll be a lasting memory for those young men and myself,” said Falcons Head Coach Larry Mortensen. This will also be the first season that Mortensen will be able to create a culture for his team. “My first year we had COVID, then last year our football team won state, so we haven’t had this much time to get together,” said Mortensen of his preparation for the upcoming season. A key returning player for Centauri will be Chaz Holman, who was second on the team last season in scoring and steals.
Last season: 10-11, 3-5 in league play
Coach: Mark Jones, thirteenth season
Players to watch: Alan Gonzalez, Joaquin Moreno, Cruz Reyes
First game: Dec. 8, at Lake County
The Vikings were competitive once again last season under veteran coach Mark Jones, and that was largely due to Center’s defense. Last year, the Vikings were able to hold opponents to 47 points a game but only managed to score 45. “You can’t win in this league unless you score in the high 50s,” said Jones. Center lost its top four scorers, but will retain its fifth, Alan Gonzalez, who averaged seven points per game last season.
Last season: 13-10, 5-3 in league play
Coach: Austin Dillion, second season
Players to watch: Ben Parra, T.J. Sanchez, Jace Pacheco, Tyler Gallegos
First game: Dec. 8, Buena Vista, 7:30 p.m.
The Tigers are coming off a solid year that saw them fall in the first round of regionals last season. “We had a lot of really good kids that adapted well to a change of system,” said second year head coach Austin Dillion. Del Norte returns league scoring leader Ben Parra, who averaged 22 points per game last season.
Last season: 8-9; 4-3 in league play
Coach: Michael Roberts, fourth season
Players to watch: Noble Cole, Ziah Pesqueria, Jacob Martinez
First game: Dec. 2, TBD
The Cowboys were able to be competitive last season with only eight players on varsity. Moffat was able to reach the regional tournament before falling to Kim/Branson. The Cowboys will have to replace three seniors this season, including leading scorer Dylan Wingate.
Last season: 9-11, 6-2 in league play
Coach: Presley Garcia, first season
Players to watch: Memphis Garcia, Alex Felix, Addan Heredia
First game: Dec. 2, SCA
The Pirates were able to reach the district tournament last season before falling to Lake County. “We’re getting some guys back this year that will hopefully take us a little bit farther than last season,” said Pirates Head Coach Presley Garcia. Monte Vista retained two key players this season in scoring leader Memphis Garcia and rebound leader Alex Felix.
Last season: 1-16; 0-8 in league play
Coach: T.J. Peterson, first season
Players to watch: Fernando Venzor, AJ Garcia
First game: Dec. 10, at Sangre de Cristo
The Farmers welcome new coach TJ Peterson. “I’m coming in with a different approach. I’m getting them to understand it’s about being in shape and the fundamentals,” he said. Peterson also feels like the Farmers will be able to play with more versatility this season, as he hopes his boys will be able to guard and play multiple positions. Fernando Venzor, who led Sargent in scoring last season will look to lead the Farmers.
Last season: 22-5, 8-0 in league play; district champs; Lost state championship game
Coach: Brice Crowther, second season
Players to watch: McCray Larsen, Cash Caldon, Justin McCarroll
First game: Dec. 2, at Salida
The Mustangs are coming off a state championship appearance and are looking to finish the job this season. “It felt like we peaked at the right time last season and we were able to get to the state championship,” said Sanford Head Coach Brice Crowther. The Mustangs return McCray Larsen, who led Sanford in points, rebounds and blocks per game last season.
Sangre de Cristo
Last season: 2-16; 2-5 in league play
Coach: Will Shellabarger, first season
Players to Watch: Kaiden Smit
First game: Dec. 1, Creede
The Thunderbirds are looking to change their luck this season with a young team. Sangre returns Kaiden Smit, who led the Thunderbirds in scoring and rebounding this season. Outside of Smit, Sangre will only have four returning players from the previous season. Head Coach Will Shellabarger says he hopes his team will continue to work hard and learn to play together.
Last season: 24-2; 6-0 in league play; qualified state tournament
Head Coach: Matt Lucero, eighteenth season
Players to watch: Brian Ontiveros, Manuel Miranda, Tyler Kester
First game: Dec. 2, Springfield
The Panthers are coming off one of their best seasons in school history, and are looking for their young players to step up this season. “A lot of the young kids coming back got experience last year and we’re just looking for continued success,” said Head Coach Matt Lucero. The Panthers will have a hard time replacing Isiah Chairez, who led the team in points, rebounds, steals and points, but do retain their second leading scorer, Brian Ontiveros.