Teams are taking a break from the 2016-17 hoops season to enjoy the Christmas holidays. Several Delta County basketball teams are putting up excellent numbers in the early stages of a long and challenging season.
There are two teams from Delta County that compete in Class 2A and the other two, Cedaredge and Delta, play in Class 3A.
Paonia and Hotchkiss are members of Class 2A play with the Eagles having great success to begin their seasons. Hotchkiss' girls are improving and its boys team will be a squad to contend with all season long.
Cedaredge's Bruins are currently 5-2 for the season, with losses to Delta and Paonia the only blemishes on their record.
Paonia's girls have the best record in the 2A District 5 standings with a 6-0 mark. Three teams, (Rangely, Soroco and West Grand) are close behind the Eagles with 5-1 records. Records drop off after that with Vail Christian next at 3-3 and Hotchkiss with its 3-4 record.
Rangely's only loss was to Cedaredge (46-34) on Dec. 1. Soroco came up short against Moffat County (51-46) and West Grand's lone setback was to Clear Creek, 37-32.
Cedaredge moved up to Class 3A and competes with another 3A opponent, Moffat County, which defeated Soroco. Clear Creek is a member of 2A District 7.
With Paonia returning a number of talented players who gained valuable experience with last year's team, the Eagles are looking at making another strong run for the 2A state title in March.
There are many reasons why Paonia has started its season 6-0. Senior Sophia Anderson, according to the most recent statistics published by MaxPreps, is near the top in several statistical categories in 2A District 5 standings. Anderson leads the league in scoring (18.4), is second in free throw percentage (68) and 3-point goals percentage (44, 7-16), third in field goals made (32-59, 54%), fifth in rebounds (30) and seventh in assists (11) and steals (17).
Joining Anderson with top 10 performances, in statistical categories, is senior Emily Pieper. Pieper is first in the league with 33 steals, sixth in assists with 11, sixth in field goals made (22-50, 44%) and eighth in scoring with 11.2 points per game.
Other top contributors for Paonia are Mckenna Hartigan (seventh rebounding, eighth field goals made and ninth in steals); Brianna Van Vleet (ninth rebounds and 10th in field goals made) and Brittany Kendall (ninth in assists).
With a 3-4 record going to the break, Hotchkiss is getting excellent play from several athletes. Carson Collins leads the league in free throws made with 25 of 41 attempts and is 16th in scoring and 18th in rebounding.
Sophomore Kaiya Firor is making a name for herself and is currently fourth in steals with 27 for a 3.9 average per game.
Freshman Shay Glaser is first in blocks with 13 for the Bulldogs and 12th in steals, with Lacey Rodriguez fifth in free throw shooting. Makayla Helm is 10th in free throw shooting and Josie Hiatt is 11th in free throw shooting.
Except for a 63-60 loss in New Castle to Coal Ridge, Paonia's Eagles are off to a good start. Coal Ridge, a Class 3A team, was hard-pressed to get the win against Paonia.
The Eagles are averaging 53.5 points per game, 17.3 rebounds, 14 assists and six steals.
Paonia's only loss of the season was on Dec. 9 to Coal Ridge (Class 3A) by a 63-60 decision. It's been fair sailing the rest of the way, except for the hard fought 44-40 win over Hotchkiss in the finals of last weekend's First Colorado National Bank tournament in Delta.
Senior Dagan Rienks is leading the way for Paonia with top five performances in five statistical categories for 2A District 5 players.
Rienks is first in scoring (25.7), third in rebounding (27) and assists (11), fourth in field goals (31-53, 58%) and fifth in free throw shooting (14-22).
Rienks' teammate Colby Simpson has also been a factor in the Eagles' success this season. He is first in assists (14), third in steals (7), fifth in scoring (17/game) and ninth in field goals scored (18-30).
The ability to pass the ball has helped Colten Godwin earn second place in the assists category with 12.
Statistical numbers for Hotchkiss were not available.
The Bruins are 4-2 this season with losses to Soroco (42-38) and Paonia (58-35).
Cedaredge has played well, for the most part, and is still looking for consistency from its younger players as the season progresses.
Senior Hannah Gilmore leads the scrappy Bruins with top-five numbers in several categories. She is third in 3A WSL statistics in scoring (12.8), rebounds (35), field goals made (23-25, 92%) and steals (14). She is fifth in blocks with four.
The Bruins have a team that generates a lot of offense with their defense. A variety of players contribute to the success of the Bruins and their numbers aren't as high as some players.
Makayla Mckinney is one player who has broken into the top 10 in a pair of categories for Cedaredge. She is listed sixth in rebounds with 30 and is seventh in blocks with three.
Sophomore Courtney Freeman is contributing more to the Bruins each game played. Freeman is currently seventh in assists, for 3A WSL players, with nine.
There aren't many stats available for the Panthers in all possible categories.
Senior Emily Baier, according to posted numbers, is fourth in 3A WSL scoring with an 11.4 game average.
Delta is 4-1, behind 6-1 Moffat County, in league standings. Third place belongs to Cedaredge with its 4-2 record. Roaring Fork, Gunnison and Grand Valley have the next three spots with identical 3-3 records.
At the break, Basalt is leading a very competitive 3A WSL with its 6-1 record. Roaring Fork is one game back at 5-1 and Coal Ridge is 5-2 resting in third place. Aspen and Delta are next with records of 3-2 and Cedaredge is sixth at 3-3.
Cedaredge's losses have come at the hands of a salty Fruita junior varsity squad, Hotchkiss and league foe Delta.
The Bruins have talented athletes who contribute to Cedaredge's success in many ways.
Junior Peter Carlson leads the Bruins in a number of categories. His 74 rebounds is also tops in 3A WSL players. He is second in double-doubles (4) and blocks (11) with fifth place numbers in field goal s (36/86). Carlson is sixth in scoring (14.7) and seventh in free throws made (14-21).
Senior Christian Reynolds is another major contributor who is ranked second in field goals (40/79) and third in scoring (15.2), rebounds (51), steals (17) and double-doubles (3).
Craig Claunch has 18 assists for the Bruins and is ranked sixth in that category.
Senior Isaac Swoffer is ninth in assists (16) and 10th in field goals (20/51).
Sophomore Jared Reynolds is 10 of 13 from the free throw line and is ranked 10th in league statistics for free throw shooting.
Two fatal accidents occurred in Delta County within a two-day span last week.
Casey Gillenwater, 25, of Delta was killed the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 13, in a single-vehicle rollover on Highway 133 outside of Hotchkiss.