The boys' basketball team from Paonia High School keeps putting up big wins and is moving up rapidly in state polls.
The Eagles were ranked No. 5 in 2A in the most recent CHSAA online poll, and they might go higher after posting two big victories last week.
The Eagles are 9-1 overall and 3-0 in 1A/2A Western Slope League play.
Paonia 74, HHS 42
The Eagles renewed the long rivalry against their North Fork Valley neighbor in the Paonia gym on Jan. 12.
Hotchkiss kept it close in the first quarter before Dagan Rienks led a 26-point outburst from Paonia's offense in the second quarter and the Eagles cruised to the big win.
Alex Lozano started the Eagles' big run in the second with a steal, then ran the floor and scored. He quickly stole the ball again, this time setting up Rienks for a 3-point play and a 20-13 lead.
"We played excited, with some energy," Paonia coach Chase Roeber said. "We got up and down the floor in a hurry. That was the big way we built our lead."
Rienks scored the next 12 points for the Eagles. He showed a variety of post moves, dominated above the rim and finished plays from the paint and the baseline. He tallied a game-high 22 points in the win.
"Dagan's muscled up some, he's gotten a little stouter," Roeber said. "That's the biggest difference between this year and last year. He's spent a lot of time in the weight room and that's really helped him in the post and being able to finish with contact."
Colby Simpson collected a loose ball late in the second quarter and scored at the buzzer to put the Eagles in command at halftime 39-16. Simpson finished with 15 points and Eagles senior Taylor Walters threw in 11 for the winners.
"It's good for us to get out and run against teams," Roeber said. "Early in the season we had to slow it down a little, but now we're more in control of our fast break and doing a better job getting out and running."
The free-flowing offense suited all the Eagles, as nine different players scored in the contest. Enoch Kropp and Colton Godwin both had a bucket. Francisco Lopez had six points, including a 3-pointer. Lozano and Sean Devlin both scored four points, and Triston Mautz scored eight.
Rienks brought the house down with a thunderous dunk in the third as the Eagles upped their advantage to 59-28 going into the final frame.
Roeber was pleased with the outcome but doesn't want the Eagles to rest on their laurels.
"We're off to a pretty good start to the year," Roeber said. "It all comes down to the next game so we're not looking too far ahead right now."
Paonia 60, Rangely 40
That next game turned out to be at Rangely last Friday, the first of five straight road games for the Eagles.
Rienks led the way again with a game-high 20 points as Paonia led 12-7 after one quarter and 33-17 at halftime.
Colby Simpson scored 18 points for the winners while Francisco Lopez netted 12. The Eagles upped their advantage to 47-27 after three quarters of play.
Paonia faced Caprock last night and is on the road Friday night in Cedaredge.