Stability has long been one of the traits of the Fairview girls basketball program under head coach Rod Beauchamp.

For the 2016-17 Knights, keeping a nice streak of playoff appearances alive begins with having a trio of experienced players that are about as steady as a heartbeat.

Senior Grace O'Neill and juniors Ashley Panem and Denali Pinto are in their third year working together as starters for Fairview — a group of girls that have dazzled in some ways and have been gritty in others as the Knights have strung consecutive 16-win seasons together.

While last season saw a large group of seniors bidding adieu to the FHS program, Panem, Pinto and O'Neill also represent one of the strongest returning groups in the Front Range League.

Needless to say, the potential is overflowing.

"I'm just really excited to get after it this year especially because we have been playing together for so long so we'll definitely have that chemistry," Pinto said. "The experiences of the past two years have been great, so I think we're really excited to make it even farther this year."

To make it even as far as last year would be an accomplishment, as Fairview made its way to the Class 5A Sweet 16. Many thought the team would suffer without the scoring of Annika Lai (now a sophomore at Montana State), but Panem, Pinto and O'Neill formed a threatening threesome both inside and out.


Advertisement

Pinto, the slasher, shot 37 percent from the floor and averaged 8.5 points a game; Panem, the shooter, hit 41 percent of her 3-point attempts on her way to a team-best 12.3 scoring average; and O'Neill, who will buckle down inside but also has a bit of range, scored double digits in half the team's games including 10 games of 12 points or more.

"They're even more veteran players now that they're going on their third year, and they all bring something to the table," Beauchamp said. "Ashley and Denali both have great basketball I.Q. and Grace is just flat out a competitor. It'll be fun to see what they can do."

It's already been a fun summer and fall for Pinto and Panem. The two were teammates on the BC Denver 2018 Elite Club squad that went 3-0 at the USJN Battle of the Programs tournament in Wisconsin — a heavyweight seasonal showdown nationally.

The two have already received offers from Division I programs as top recruits out of the state of Colorado. Panem was offered by Montana State, which recently signed Ralston Valley's Ashley Van Sickle, too.

The time on the court for BC Denver was short, but it only strengthened an already good relationship between them.

Junior Denali Pinto is a three-year starter for Fairview, which is looking to make a return trip to the playoffs this season.
Junior Denali Pinto is a three-year starter for Fairview, which is looking to make a return trip to the playoffs this season. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

"We are almost the same person," Panem said, referring to their similar style of play and skill set. "But I think Denali has always been a good leader and I'm trying to follow in her footsteps that way. She talks to everybody and I think that now that we're older the other girls might look up to us. Hopefully they see something in us."

"We complement each other well, I think, so when one of us gets double-teamed or whatever the other one is capable of handling the ball," Pinto said. "We have four returning players from varsity, so we'll be the leaders this year and it's something I'm looking forward to."

Beauchamp can only expect other girls to fill key roles with the team starting Thursday night against Pine Creek and all the way into the league portion of the schedule. Kelsey Webster played in 19 games last year as the only other girl on the roster with varsity experience.

The rotation will definitely be tighter than perhaps it was last year, as well.

"We're not entirely sure of where we sit right now, and a lot of our success depends on who emerges as the fourth and fifth starters and our sixth and seventh girls that will give key minutes," Beauchamp said. "I would imagine this year that those three starters will see a lot more minutes, because our rotation will not be as deep.

"We'll certainly rely on nine girls to contribute one way or the other."

Adam Dunivan: dunivana@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/AdamDunivan24