Eye on the prize

Eye on the prize

State playoffs main goal for Cotopaxi girls basketball team

A berth in the Class 1A state playoffs is the primary goal for the Cotopaxi High School girls basketball team as it tips off the 2019–20 season on Friday afternoon against nonleague foe Cripple Creek at the Cotopaxi Tournament.

The Pirates, 19-4 overall last season, return an experienced group of players who advanced to the regional tournament last season; they lost to McClave in overtime.

“Our top six played a ton last year and the year before,” Pirates coach Troy Thornton said. “We lost three seniors who started on and off for three years, so we are rebuilding our depth.”

Cotopaxi’s main threat in the 11-team District 6 field figures to once again be Sangre de Cristo, which advanced to the state playoffs last season. The Thunderbirds lost just one senior to graduation from last year’s state team, according to Max Preps. They return five seniors under a new head coach. Sangre de Cristo hosts Cotopaxi on Jan 24.

“Mentally, we have to know we can beat them,” Thornton said of the Thunderbirds. “Every time we’ve stepped on the floor with them, we were beat before the game started. They press full court. We saw them over the summer. They are athletic and they are going to press.”

Thornton believes his team will be better equipped to handle that pressure with a surplus of experienced ballhandlers. The Pirates will also face full-court pressure from Rye, which they are likely to see at the ECA Tournament early in the season.

“We need to get, especially the younger girls, to handle that [pressure] and not panic,” Thornton said.

Pirate seniors Alex Cole, Claire Carlson (8.3 ppg.), Jamie Sanchez (2.7 ppg.) and Sage Laymon
(4.6 ppg.)  will be counted on to play significant roles this season, Thornton said.

“Having those four is huge,” Thornton said. “Every year Alex seems to have an injury which keeps her out. I’d like her to be able to finish the season. Claire at times can score 20 points a game with her quickness and defense. Jamie is the same way; defensively she’s huge. Sage stepped up last season and won a couple of games for us.”

Juniors Koylynn Gulliford (14.6 ppg./8.8 rpg) and Shealee Coleman (12.5 ppg), who missed half of last season with a knee injury, are also expected to be major contributors.

Sophomores Annalise Walker, Abbie Baker and Roxan Koch will all need to elevate their play, Thornton said.

The offense, Thornton said, will stay the same but he wants the team to be more aggressive on defense.

“We have a little more quickness this year than in the past at all five spots,” he said. “So we’ll try to be a little more aggressive pressuring the ball and forcing turnovers.”

This season, the top two seeds from District 6 and the top two seeds from District 1 will be paired up at one of the three Class 1A regionals. DeBeque, Dove Creek, North Park, Nucla and Ouray make up District 1.

The top two teams from the District 6/District 1 regional will advance to the eight-team state tournament.