CHS paige drives (copy)

Cedaredge High School will be without Elizabeth Gilmore, who graduated and is pictured here attempting to drive past Del Norte sophomore Abby Rivera in a tournament game last season. But the new seniors are ready to take the lead.

This year’s seniors for the Cedaredge High School girls basketball team learned a lot during their junior year. They saw Kammie Henderson earn second-team all-state honors — the only 2A player on the Western Slope in the top 10 spots. They won the 2A/1A Western Slope League and beat several future playoff teams in the process.

They earned the No. 2 seed in the playoff bracket and were upset in the quarterfinals by No. 10 Limon who eventually won a state championship.

For the team’s central figures, returning combo guards Megan Gastineau and Paige McGovern, that game is fuel. But for an extended roster mostly new to varsity basketball, this season is about finding their roles.

“I think in other seasons where we had more returners from the core group, that game would definitely be something to motivate a team,” Bruins coach Russell Coleman said of the loss during the state tournament. “But a lot of the girls we have this year, some of them were there, a lot of them were around it, but they didn’t experience the full force of it. They’re trying to find their spots and build a new culture and identity.”

The Bruins feature seven seniors and at least one junior in the varsity rotation. Although most don’t have extended varsity experience, Coleman said this class went undefeated as freshmen on a C team and lost only a handful of games on junior varsity over the next two years.

“Their program knowledge will give us a lot of versatility and space to be creative,” Coleman said. “This is the first time in a few years where I’ll be able to run 10, 11, 12 girls out there. That gap from that five or six spot down to 11 or 12 is really small and that’s important because we want to press the whole time and run it up the court. This might not be the most athletic team we’ve had, but in terms of work ethic, determination and program knowledge, this is as strong as we’ve had.”

The offense and defense will largely center around Gastineau, who earned all-state honorable mention honors last season after averaging 9.5 points per game and McGovern, a two-time all-league selection who averaged 8.5 points and a team-high 4.3 assists per game.

Coleman called Gastineau “a tremendous player” and credited McGovern’s leadership, adding that she’ll be playing in her first full season since her freshman year. A knee injury wiped out her sophomore season and she returned to a junior campaign shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They’re both combo guards who can run the one or the two,” Coleman said. “Our whole and defense will run around them.”

The Bruins open their season on Dec. 2 against Durango at the Centauri Tournament.

“It’s by far the toughest beginning to a season we’ve seen,” Coleman said. “We get a 4A team in Durango. Then, if we win, we get Centauri, a 3A final four team. If we lose, we get Rocky Ford, a 2A elite eight team. It helps for these girls to see a higher level of basketball, though. We’ve gone to the Vail Christian Tournament and won going away, but you don’t get a good feel for the level of basketball if you’re starting the season with blowouts.”

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