Times Staff Writer
GHS Basketball — Two more wins secured and that much closer to doing something that hasn’t been done in the Gunnison High School (GHS) boys basketball program since 2001.
That is, win a Western Slope League (WSL) title.
“It feels really good to be one step closer and every day I get to spend with these guys feels good too,” said head coach Matt Smith.
With the victories over Cedaredge and Olathe the Cowboys remain atop the WSL, moving to a 6-1 WSL league record (13-2 overall).
Senior Pascual Lerma called Saturday’s dominating performance over Cedaredge, where the Cowboys jumped out to a 20-point lead in the first quarter, an “amazing team win.”
“Our togetherness as a team is strong and that’s what makes us dangerous,” he added.
GHS went on to pound the Bruins, 78-40. Braden Wood led the way in scoring with 20 points, with several of the junior varsity regulars getting action in the second half and contributing to the point total — including three-pointers by Gabi Marmalejo and Spencer Dickey.
Aidan Hulbert and Hunter Wood pitched in with 17 and 16 points of their own against Cedaredge.
Tuesday’s road win against Olathe was even more dominating. GHS jumped out to a 44-11 lead by halftime, and cruised home with significant playing time from the bench en route to a 63-18 win.
Senior post player Quentin Richter came out with extra intensity against Olathe, recording at least five blocked shots — in the first half alone. He finished with 12 points.
Despite sitting for a large portion of the second half, Hunter Wood led the way with 19 points. Hulbert had 11 while Braden Wood (9), Lerma (6), Geoff McDougal (6), Dickey (3) and Tate Hicks (2) also got into the scorer’s column.
Path to the title
While the Cowboys are currently in first place in the WSL (6-1) , they’ll need at least one favor in order to win the WSL: They need Moffat County to lose one league game.
The Bulldogs are currently tied for second place with Coal Ridge, holding a 4-1 league record. But they also hold an important tie-breaker victory over GHS. That victory came for Moffat County on Friday, Jan. 17, when the Cowboys fell 65-61 on the road.
However, winning out won’t be easy for the Bulldogs, as they still have to face Delta (4-2, WSL), Aspen (4-2,WSL), Roaring Fork (2-2, WSL) and Coal Ridge.
The same could be said for GHS, as they also have two tough games left in league play. On Valentines Day, Friday, Feb.14, the Cowboys will take on Grand Valley (2-2,WSL) at home. The Cardinals have been up-and-down this season, but they have big wins under their belts — including beating a University team that defeated GHS early in the season. Grand Valley also has wins over Moffat County (65-60) and Delta (58-43).
GHS hosts Delta — last year’s league champions — on Thursday, Feb. 20. A regular season WSL title and a No. 1 seed for the District Playoffs could be on the line.
“The special thing about this team is that you get to have it all,” coach Smith continued. “You get to have a bunch of guys you enjoy to be around and watch them be successful together. They depend on one another, which has led to them learning how to be even more successful together. It is a fun thing to watch.”
Playoffs right around the corner
Following the Delta game, GHS will most likely host the quarterfinal round of the district tournament. Should they win that, they’d travel to Grand Junction for the semifinals and potentially championship round.
How the Cowboys do in districts will determine where they are seeded come state championship playoff time. Last season they entered state ranked No. 20.
Currently, GHS is ranked No. 14 in the Colorado High School Activities Association RPI standings with Coal Ridge right in front of them ranked No. 12 (despite the Cowboys having beaten Coal Ridge on the road earlier this season).
Additionally, the highest the Cowboys have been ranked in the RPI standings this season was at No.10 — which came after they beat Aspen on Friday, Jan. 24.
The top 32 ranked teams in class 3A make the state tournament and the top eight seeds host the first and second rounds in their quadrant.
GHS will be back on the court Friday, hosting Del Norte (3-9) in non-league action at 7 p.m.
(Brandon Warr can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)