Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
High school teams across the state of Colorado can return to official practices and will play in upcoming games soon with winter break coming to an end.
For the Longmont Christian girls basketball team, returning to the court can’t come soon enough.
The Warriors (4-1) will open Mile High League play Friday versus the No. 7 ranked Heritage Christian Eagles (7-0, 1-0). In doing so, it will be the first game for the Warriors since a 54-29 win over the Front Range Baptist Falcons on Dec. 7.
“It has been a long break, but we have liked it this time,” Whitney Echols said. “We had a whole month to focus on our next game. The next two games are our biggest rivals, so we’ve focused and worked hard to get ready.”
Echols, who leads the team at 18.2 points per game, has found time during the winter break to get shots up in the gym at her house. She also invited teammates to come over and practice during the time off. On the select days during winter break that practice was allowed, the team would get together to work on live in-game situations, which have become the next closest thing to an actual game.
The work over the winter break has been enough for the team to break off some of the rust before returning to action this week.
“We’re constantly in the gym playing,” Echols said. “We have some rust, but we have less of it because of the amount of time we’ve spent in the gym.”
Head coach Zach Echols admitted he would have liked to have played at least one more time before winter break but felt the layoff would pay off in another way. With nearly a month before playing two of their biggest league games, the Warriors have been able to focus on their strengths and weaknesses seen in the first month of the season.
“We got those five games in and know what we need to work on,” coach Echols said. “It’s given us a whole month to work on that. I don’t know if it was done on purpose, but our first two games back are Heritage Christian and Dawson. Those are two of our biggest games.”
The Warriors come back from break riding a four-game win streak. Their season began with a preseason tournament in Meeker. A 40-39 loss to the Rangely Panthers in the first game was followed by wins over the Lotus School of Excellence Meteors and Aspen Skiers. The following week included two convincing wins over the Golden View Classical Academy Sentinels and the Front Range Baptist Falcons.
Friday’s game will be a much tougher task with a Heritage Christian team ranked in the top 10 polls and having won all three games against the Warriors last season. The mood in practice on Wednesday was one of excitement for the biggest game of the season so far.
“Coach (Echols) believes we can still make it to state even if we don’t win this game, but this would help us in the rankings,” Savannah Vrooman said. “It would be a big boost for our team morale. We played them three times last year and lost every single one, so it would be nice to finally win.”
A lengthy portion of practice Wednesday focused on press defense and playing a full-court style game, both to prepare for what could come Friday and to help get his team of eight girls in shape from break. A film session followed with the coach highlighting the good and bad from the three games against Heritage Christian last season.
With a month to prepare, the Warriors have a plan in place and hope to make Friday a statement day for their season.
“(Coach Echols) spends so much time intricately working out defenses and offenses for the team we are going to play,” Vrooman said. “If we can execute what he tells us to do, I think we can do it.”