After losing to Gunnison 39-30 in the Class 3A Western Slope League district play-in game, it’d be easy for the Cedaredge High School girls basketball team to pack it in.
But for Bruins coach Russell Coleman, beyond being a self-professed “eternal optimist,” there was the math problem in front of him, and the numbers favored Cedaredge.
They kept practicing.
“I told the girls after that we might’ve been better off losing that game than winning and then losing twice,” the coach said. “Silver linings in everything. We kept practicing and the day after that loss, we said that nobody is quitting. I’m not quitting, you’re not quitting. I think we’re going to be in.”
Coleman’s faith was rewarded with at least one more week with his team. The Bruins qualified for the state playoffs and will travel to face Centauri in the first round of the playoffs on Friday. The winner of the matchup will face the winner of Olathe and Brush.
A more pessimistic person could point out that the Bruins are a young team on a five-game losing streak, staring at the No. 2-seeded team on their home court.
Coleman is not that person.
“We know we’re better than the five-game skid we’ve been on,” he said. “We have no pressure. We can let loose and go play our best. (Centauri is) supposed to win. They’re on their home court and they have all the pressure. We know we’re lucky to be where we’re at, so we can just go play and enjoy it.”
The youth on the Bruins means this week of practice and at least one more game is extremely valuable, Coleman said. There’s more time to iron out hiccups, both on offense and defense, plus the added experience of playing in a playoff atmosphere.
“It just feels different,” the coach said. “That experience is something you can’t replicate.”
Against Gunnison, the Bruins held down their opponents in the first quarter for an 8-5 lead. The Cowboys flipped the scoreboard with a 16-9 second quarter, then 9-3 in the third, before an even fourth quarter closed out proceedings.
Libby Brooks led Cedaredge with seven points and Carlie Malinowski had six.
Coleman said his team came into the game with a good gameplan, but got away from it later on, something that has hurt the squad this season.
“We had a similar experience in the third quarter against North Fork,” he said. “We were confident coming in against Gunnison that we game planned well and we did. But then we started missing some shots, got a little lazy on defense and if you lose shooters against Gunnison, well, they have two good ones and they were able to knock down shots late in the second and into the third quarter.”
Lucas Vader is the managing editor at the Delta County Independent.
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