The West Grand High School basketball teams took it on the chin during the weekend as both the boys and girls team dropped contests to Meeker and Rangely.
The boys lost a couple of heartbreakers, 60-54, at Meeker and, 37-33, to Rangely in a home contest on Saturday. The girls lost to a tough squad from Meeker, 68-28, and to Rangely, 50-33.
The schedule provides no breathers for either team as they host Paonia and Hotchkiss in games on Friday and Saturday this weekend.
Meeker has historically been a tough place for West Grand to play and this past Friday was no different. The Mustangs rallied from an early deficit to cut the Meeker lead to three points going into the fourth quarter. In a hard-fought final frame, the Cowboys were able to extend that lead to the final difference of six points.
Nick Ritschard led the team in scoring with 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds to tie Casey Gore for the team lead in that category. Dillon Willson and Leo Pesch scored eight points apiece, Gore scored six and Aron Melendez scored five points in the game.
In the Rangely game, the Mustangs employed a strong brand of defense to gradually build an eight-point lead, 29-21, going into the fourth and final frame. The third quarter was a defensive struggle as West Grand outscored Rangely, 8-2. The Panthers didn't get their field goal until the 1:36 mark of the third quarter.
In the final frame, however, Rangely took advantage of a couple of turnovers and the benefit of some judgment calls being ruled in their favor to outscore West Grand, 16-4, in the fourth quarter.
Pesch and Gore led the team in scoring with eight points apiece, while Ritschard added six points. Ritschard and Pesch led in rebounding, grabbing eight each, while Melendez grabbed six rebounds.
The team is going through a frustrating stage of the season, Coach Leo Pesch said.
"I need my juniors to be the leaders for this team," Coach Pesch said. "All of the early-season expectations are out the window."
As the league shakes out, it appears that the Hayden boys are establishing themselves as the team to beat and Vail Mountain will likely have trouble getting league wins. The remainder of the teams appear to fall in the, "on any given night, any team could win"category.
Meeker is fielding a strong girls basketball team this season and figure to battle Paonia and Hotchkiss for league supremacy.
"Against Meeker, we played well, Coach Davin Boydstun said. "We kept our composure to the end against a tremendous team. We ran our offense and took several great shots. We just couldn't get enough of them to
The girls started a bit slowly against Rangely, trailing 13-5, after the first quarter. However a strong defensive effort in the second quarter had the Mustangs rally to within four points as time wound down in the first half. Unfortunately, Leslie Hernandez of Rangely found the bottom of the net with a three-pointer at the buzzer that increased the Panther halftime lead to 25-16. The two teams battled in the second half, with Rangely slowly increasing its advantage to the final 44-30 score.
"The girls played solid defense," Coach Boydstun said, "we just allowed too many second shots. Offensively we ran some very good sets, but the ball just wouldn't fall for us. Once we start hitting some shots these games will start falling our way."
Kaitlyn Adams scored eight points to lead the Lady Mustangs, with Payton Coleman, Anna Cunnico and Sarah Vance each contributing six points. Coleman led the team in rebounds with eight, while Adams pulled down seven caroms.
The Mustangs enter a tough stretch of games, playing Paonia and Hotchkiss this weekend, Middle Park next Tuesday and North Park, Plateau Valley and Vail Christian the following Thursday, Friday and Saturday.