Times Staff Writer
GHS Boys Basketball — Much has changed for the Gunnison High School (GHS) boys basketball team over the last year. That includes going from a 4-16 record and failing to make it past the “play in round” of the district tournament to a current 15-3 record while sitting in second place in the Western Slope League (WSL).
GHS defeated Grand Valley 70-52 on Friday and Hotchkiss 65-50 on Tuesday. Now the Cowboys will have a chance to put their progress to the test in a contest tonight, Feb. 14 for the WSL title.
“I think it was a challenge tonight, to come into a basketball game against an opponent you know you’re going to be better than in the long run,” head coach Matt Smith said of Tuesday’s win over Hotchkiss at home. “Especially when you have things like senior night and parent night.”
That might explain why the Cowboys got off to a slow start against Hotchkiss, which held the lead for the majority of the first quarter. That was until Hunter Wood drained a three pointer to give GHS an 11-10 lead.
The Bulldogs regained the lead before the quarter ended, but Braden Wood answered with a basket of his own, putting GHS ahead 13-12. The Cowboys picked things up on both sides of the ball in the second quarter, outscoring Hotchkiss 21-12.
Hunter Wood, Quenton Richter and Caleb Hulbert each made their presence felt in the quarter, scoring 14 of 21 points for the Cowboys. Wood and Richter each had five points, while Hulbert pitched in four.
At halftime, GHS led 34-24.
“We didn’t play great in the first half,” said Smith. “Our halftime message was, ‘We didn’t play great, but we’re up by 10. Now go play like you can.’”
The Cowboys followed the marching orders, with their offense exploding in the third quarter.
After the Bulldogs scored the first basket to start the third, GHS went on a 9-3 run. Two-point baskets from Kelita Baroumbaye and Hunter Wood and a three-pointer by Caleb Hulbert gave GHS the spark they needed to start firing on all cylinders.
Hotchkiss responded with a basket and free throw to follow. However, Braden Wood made sure their run ended there, scoring two quick baskets himself.
The Bulldogs called a timeout with 4:03 left in the third quarter. However, the Cowboys’ offense continued to dominate. The Wood brothers combined for five more points, while Pascual Lerma and Richter pitched in with two points each — extending GHS’ lead to 54-30.
The offense wasn’t the only bright spot in the quarter. GHS’ defense only allowed the Bulldogs to score six points in the third. With the game in hand, GHS pulled its starters in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys’ 7-1 league record puts them in second place behind Delta High School (8-0, WSL). The two teams will face off for the regular season league title tonight at 7 p.m. at GHS.
“It’s an incredible feeling to be able to compete for a league title,” said Caleb Hulbert. “We have had so many tough times the last three seasons. To me it feels like we have paid our dues and are prepared to bring it home for this city.”
If GHS were to lose, they could drop to third place in the WSL — if Roaring Fork (6-2, WSL) beats Grand Valley (6-2, WSL) today. That’s because Roaring Fork has the edge over the Cowboys in a tie situation, having defeated GHS earlier this season.
The last time the Cowboys won a league title was in 2001.
(Brandon Warr can be reached at 970.641.1414 or email@example.com.)
GHS VS. GRAND VALLEY HIGHLIGHTS (FEB. 8)
> Caleb Hulbert was on fire to start the game, draining four three-pointers.
> The Cardinals tried to keep up. However, the Cowboys’ defense was too much.
> At the end of the first period, GHS held a 25-11 lead.
> The Cowboys’ offense cooled down in the second quarter but maintained the lead.
> Grand Valley’s poor offensive performance in the second quarter handed GHS a 38-19 lead at halftime.
> The Cardinals tried to get back into the game in the third quarter, outscoring the Cowboys 19-14.
> However, GHS ultimately won 70-52.