This year's First Colorado National Bank basketball tournament began its sponsorship under the initial format of all four Delta County schools participating in a pre-Christmas tournament in Delta. In 1994, the tournament was known as the Bank of the West Basketball Tournament with all four schools in the county playing at Delta High School on two consecutive days (Thursday and Friday) before Christmas break began.
This year's tournament resumed that format with games played in both boys and girls divisions for all county schools. Even though the four schools are not in the same classification, competition proved to be keen in many ways. Hotchkiss and Paonia are in Class 2A while Cedaredge (moved up from 2A this season) and Delta (dropped from 4A) play in Class 3A.
Paonia's Eagles were this year's champions in both the boys and girls divisions as a new era of pre-Christmas tournament play had its inauguration Dec. 16-17 at Delta High School.
The Eagles earned double accolades for the tournament with Emily Pieper and Dagan Rienks selected as the tournament's Most Valuable Players for 2016. Their names will be added to the previous 20 winners, dating back to 1994 when the county tournament, with this year's format, began.
First Round - Dec. 16
Bruins 54, HHS 18
These two teams would see each other multiple times in previous seasons. Last Thursday's encounter in tournament play will be the only time they will meet in 2016-17.
Play wasn't especially smooth for either team as the first quarter unfolded. Cedaredge had the upper hand, however, with a 13-2 edge that had the Bruins' Hannah Gilmore score six of her game-high 12 points.
The Bruins had more evenly spaced scoring in the second quarter, as did the Bulldogs, with Cedaredge moving ahead, 27-10 after a 14-8 run.
Callie Wasser scored four of Cedaredge's 11 points in the third quarter and the Bruins cruised to a 54-18 victory following a 16-2 fourth quarter.
Wasser finished the game with 10 points giving the Bruins two players in double figures for the game. Hotchkiss' Carson Collins had six points to pace the Bulldogs offense.
Paonia 48, Delta 28
There wasn't much offense in the first eight minutes of play in this game. The two teams were cautious on offense, with the Eagles taking an 8-6 lead to the second quarter. Delta's Emily Baier scored four points in the quarter, and the game-high 12 points in the period for her team.
Paonia began pulling away in the second quarter, with five players scoring points. Brianna Van Vleet had four of her team-high 10 points coming in the period.
A 20-10 halftime lead blossomed to 35-17 by the end of third-quarter play.
The Eagles outscored Delta by two points, 13-11, in the final stanza for a 48-28 win. Joyclie Webb had five points and Baier another four to help the Panthers stay with Paonia in the quarter. Mckenna Hartigan had four points in the period for Paonia.
Van Vleet's 10 points paced Paonia's scoring with Pieper and Sophia Anderson next with nine points each.
First Round - Dec. 16
This game was fairly even with each team taking turns making offensive runs.
Cedaredge fell behind by six after a 13-7 run from the Bulldogs. Sam Rodriguez had seven of the 13 points for Hotchkiss and Christian Reynolds had four of the Bruins' seven.
The Bruins' offensive pace picked up in second quarter play, with Peter Carlson leading a charge with six of his team's 14 points in the period. Isaac Swoffer and Christian Reynolds had four points each in the run.
Sam Rodriguez finished the quarter with another eight points for the Bulldogs, keeping Hotchkiss ahead 25-21 at halftime.
Someone let the air out of the ball to begin the second half and Hotchkiss' offense was left with just two points in eight minutes of play. Meanwhile, the Bruins picked up a lot of lost ground with 16 points to take a 37-27 lead. Carlson's six counters, and five from Jared Reynolds, gave the Bruins a spark.
That third-quarter spark, for the Bruins, fizzled in the fourth period as Hotchkiss found the range for 21 points, with nine coming from beyond the arc. Cedaredge's seven points left the Bruins on the short side of a 48-44 decision.
Hotchkiss' Sam Rodriguez finished with 19 points to lead all scorers in the game. Teammate, and brother, Gabe Rodriguez was next high with 10 counters.
Cedaredge's Carlson finished with 15 points and Christian Reynolds had 12 to lead the Bruins. The Bruins had a miserable showing from the free throw line with just five of 16 shots falling from the stripe.
Paonia 55, Delta 40
The Eagles set the tone early in Thursday night's final game. A 23-5 start was a hole too deep to climb out of for the Panthers.
Slater Podgorny, Colby Simpson and Dagan Rienks all netted five points in the running start for the Eagles.
A second quarter mini-run for the Panthers produced a 13-9 advantage for Delta, but was far from a cure as the Panthers trailed 31-18 at the break.
In a game of runs, the third quarter was Paonia's turn and it delivered a 14-8 edge to take a 46-26 lead. Rienks' 10 points came on a variety of shots from different angles.
Logan Freed got his game going in the final stanza to score six of Delta's 14 points, which was five more than the Eagles scored.
For the first time all season, Delta did not have a player in double figures. Freed and Kyle Mock finished with nine points each and Beau Byers had seven.
Paonia had two players in double figures, led by Rienks' 19 and Simpson's 12.
Saturday, Dec. 17
Delta 55, Hotchkiss 32
Emily Nortnik and Emily Baier scored four points each in Delta's 19-5 first quarter. Five other Panthers had two points in the big run.
Hotchkiss did not let up in the second quarter and kept the Panthers off balance to outscore Delta 10-8 and a 27-15 halftime lead for the host team.
Saydee Culver had a solid third quarter offensively with seven points to lead Delta on a 13-7 run.
The Panthers finished strong in the fourth quarter with nine of 13 shooting at the charity stripe. Megan Sandoval finished the period with six points, four of seven from the line, to pace Delta shooters. Delta outscored the Bulldogs 15-10 in the quarter for a final score of 55-32.
Nortnik and Culver led Delta scoring with 12 and 11 points respectively. Collins finished with 12 counters to lead Hotchkiss.
Delta head coach Kyle Crowder was happy with the win but not with some of his team's play. "It was ugly. We've got to do better executing and stop turnovers."
Paonia 58, Bruins 35
A closely contested game left speculation as to who might claim the FCNB basketball's first tournament title after the first two periods of play.
The Eagles led 13-8 after one quarter and a Cedaredge run in the second period made the score at halftime 25-23.
Brittany Kendall paced Paonia with eight points in the first half and Hannah Gilmore's 12 kept the Bruins close after 16 minutes of play. Gilmore was seven of 10 from the free throw line in the second quarter.
Halftime breaks can sometimes change the complexity of a game and Saturday's title game was proof. Paonia was the aggressor and had more firepower than the Bruins during a 20-7 run that, more or less, determined the outcome of the game in third quarter action.
Mckenna Hartigan scored six points in the run with Brianna Van in the same time span for the Eagles.
Cedaredge was two of seven from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, and finished 11 of 28 for the game.
Paonia had four players in double figures offensively. Emily Pieper led the way with 13 points followed by Kendall and Van Vleet with 11 each and Mckenna Palmer adding an additional 10 points.
Gilmore's 15 points lead all scorers in the game.
Paonia head coach Scott Rienks was pleased with the win but knows there's more that can be done. "We've been getting kids in the gym but we need to do things in a game to get better. We have a lot of new girls this year. We've got some growing up to do still. There's only a small number of girls who have state game experience."
Rienks also knows his team's athleticism is an asset to build on as the season progresses.
Cedaredge head coach Ryan Hilbig was complimentary following the title game. "Their other girls (bench) stepped up and played really well. Paonia got us with a strong start in the third. Now we know what it takes to be a good team."
Saturday, Dec. 17
Delta 90, Bruins 74
Both teams found the running game a good fit for their purposes. Delta scored 20 or more points in three quarters of action and the Bruins topped the 20-mark twice.
Jaspar Carmichael and Dylan Hollenbeck canned six points to lead the Panthers on a 24-14 opening quarter. The Panthers shot 11 free throws in the first frame and made seven of them. In all, Delta finished with 22 points on 31 free throw attempts.
Carlson paced the Bruins with five points in the first quarter.
There were 45 points scored in the second quarter, 23 by the Bruins, making the halftime score 46-37.
Cedaredge shot 13 free throws in the second quarter and made nine of them. Carlson's four field goals accounted for eight of the Bruins' 23 counters.
Kyle Mock had eight second-quarter points for Delta and Jonathan Robinson canned six.
Third quarter play produced 50 points combined between the two teams, 26 from Delta.
Carmichael found the range from beyond the arc for three straight 3-pointers to ignite the 26-point surge for the Panthers. Carmichael finished the third period with 12 points and Mock had six.
Christian Reynolds also had a great third quarter with 14 of the Bruins' 24 points.
Carmichael and Byers scored five points each in the final stanza helping Delta to an 18-13 advantage and a 90-74 win.
Carmichael led Delta with 24 points and Mock had 20. Next on the list was Byers' 14 points followed by Robinson with 13 and Hollenbeck with 11.
Christian Reynolds led the Bruins with 22 points with Carlson finishing with 16 and Jacob Lewis chipping in 11.
Paonia 44, Bulldogs 40
The first half of this title contest was slow moving offensively. The Eagles managed to take a 9-5 lead to the second quarter.
Hotchkiss' defense gave up a number of fouls in the second period, sending the Eagles to the free throw line 11 times. Paonia converted on six of those shots to win the quarter 10-6.
Dagan Rienks had four field goals and a free throw in the third period expanding Paonia's lead to 35-23.
Sam Rodriguez led Hotchkiss on a 17-9 run in the fourth quarter where the Eagles' lead was reduced to two points late in the game. Rienks scored on a driving layup to put Paonia on top with a final score of 44-40.
Rienks was the game's leading scorer with 21 points and Sam Rodriguez tossed in 15 points to pace Hotchkiss' offense.