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Bayfield believes

Wolverines aim to continue a Cinderella run

To a man, the Bayfield High School boys basketball team believed it still would be playing right now.

Even through the gut-wrenching three-point league road losses.

Even through the flu bug that forced several players to miss multiple games.

Even through the eight-point first quarter deficit against Eaton in the Sweet 16, the Wolverines believed and persevered.

Now they’re playing in the CHSAA Class 3A State Championships Great 8 for the first time in nearly 30 years.

“You could make excuses for sickness, but all we did was we kept believing. The only word we used was just keep believing,” said BHS senior Preston Hardy, son of Garth and Monna Hardy. “Even during the lowest slump of the league season, the coaches preached belief because the tournament’s all that matters.”

The Wolverines have been lights out in tournament play.

They lost the Intermountain League semifinal to Alamosa but haven’t played a one-possession game since, beating Centauri in the IML third-place game, No. 5 The Pinnacle in the first round of the state tournament and No. 12 Eaton in the Sweet 16.

The success has brought a team that’s been playing together since fourth grade even closer.

“It’s a lot of fun just to have this unexpected turnaround in the season,” said BHS freshman Ryan Phelps, son of Nancy and Trent Phelps.

BHS (13-10) already has achieved one of its preseason goals by reaching the state tournament’s last eight.

That would have been enough at the beginning of the year.

Now that the Wolverines are preparing to play No. 4 Colorado Academy at 10:15 a.m. in Lockridge Arena on the Colorado School of Mines campus in Golden, though?

They want more.

“It’s crazy not to want more. That’s why you get to the dance,” said BHS head coach Jeff Lehnus. “I know they’re hungry. They’re not going to be satisfied. We view it as an opportunity to go compete.”

Bayfield’s toughest test of the season stands in the way.

Colorado Academy will be the highest ranked team BHS has played all season at No. 4, though the Wolverines did take down No. 5 The Pinnacle in the Timberwolves’ own gym.

The Mustangs have advanced to three consecutive Great 8s and lost in the state championship game by one point last season.

They feature three guards who average more than 16 points per game, led by junior phenom Justin Bassey.

Bassey scores 23.8 points per game, which ranks fourth in the state of Colorado across all classifications and leads Class 3A.

He also grabs nine rebounds, dishes out 5.7 assists and takes 2.5 steals per contest.

“They play the Denver-type of (Amateur Athletic Union) type of offense. I don’t think they’ve seen defense like we have and intensity like we have,” Hardy said. Hardy leads BHS in scoring at 10.6 points per game.

He and the rest of the Wolverines relish the opportunity to face such talented opposition.

“It makes us play at a higher level,” Hardy said. “Teams tend to play down to their level of competition, but you can also definitely play up to the level of competition. We’re ready for them.”

No Wolverine will be an island defensively, either.

They don’t call their man defense “man-to-man.”

It’s team-man defense.

“That’s not just a word. It means something,” Lehnus said. “We’ve preached to them from day one that offense wins, but defense and team-ness win championships. That’s what we focus on.”

kgrabowski@durangoherald.com

Mar 11, 2015
Have fun. Play hard. Win.


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