The Hotchkiss girls' basketball team opened the season at home last Thursday with a 44-25 win over Nucla. At the annual San Juan/Western Slope League Shootout tournament at Paonia, Hotchkiss handily defeated Ridgway, 67-11 on Friday, and on Saturday defeated Norwood, 61-38.
The team has already surpassed the level of play at the end of last season, said second year head coach Haillie Taylor. It's a good start for a team that very much wants to step up its game this year and silence anyone who doubts them. Hotchkiss hasn't had a winning season since 2014.
Taylor used the early-season games to get every player out on the court. Due to injuries the team didn't have enough players to put together a JV team last week. To give them some time on the court, she brought all the healthy JV players, including three freshmen, into the tournament. Competing against players like Courtney Lemon, an all-conference senior from Norwood who scored 20 points against Hotchkiss, was a good experience for the team, and especially for the JV players, said Taylor.
Starters this season are juniors Kaiya Firor and Carson Collins and seniors Yasmine Gaub, Jenny McDonald and Josie Hiatt. Collins averaged more than nine points per game as a sophomore. A six-one center, she is playing with a lot of confidence, said Taylor. Against Ridgway she scored 22 points and was two-for-two from the line. "She worked really hard this summer to gain that confidence at post," said Taylor.
At point guard, Firor averaged 7.6 points per game last season and led the team in steals. She is both quick and tireless and has an uncanny ability to deflect passes, steal the ball, and make the assists needed to win games. Taylor sees the two juniors combining to make a "dynamic guard-post duo" this season, and carrying the momentum into their senior year.
Junior Kaleigh Little will also see a lot of time on the court, and Mariah Griffith, a transfer from Paonia, will play the second half of the season. Sophomores include Elsie Vasquez, Shay Glaser, Jade Miller and Augumn Luginbyhl and incoming freshmen include Amelia Hickam, Candace Siebler and Jazmyn Hart.
Hotchkiss also has a new assistant coach. Tammy Smith is a life-long Hotchkiss resident who played volleyball and basketball at Hotchkiss and attended Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University) on a basketball scholarship.
The team put a lot of practice time in last summer and attended team camps. It also hosted a youth skills camp. Not only did the camp allow them to play with the younger kids, it also gave them the opportunity to teach the fundamentals of the game and gain a better understanding of the sport, said Taylor.
Hotchkiss set several goals for the season, among them, playing strong in the third quarter. "That was our big struggle last year," said Taylor.
They also want to finish the season strong, play well at districts, and get to regionals. "I think the ability for them to do it is there, if they really push themselves to do it," said Taylor.