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Girls basketball: Monarch’s Natalie Guanella named BoCoPreps.com player of the year

Monarch High School's Natalie Guanella poses ...
Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
Monarch High School’s Natalie Guanella poses for a portrait in Louisville on Monday, March 28, 2022.

Monarch’s Natalie Guanella took another step up the high school basketball tiers, improving on her sensational sophomore campaign with a dominant junior season that left little doubt for who the area’s best player was.

Guanella was named the Class 5A Front Range League player of the year by the conference’s coaches after she led her team with 18.3 points and three steals per game en route to the Coyotes’ one-loss regular season and a trip to the Sweet 16. Her seamless navigation carried off the court too, finding a strong voice for her team and community as they wrestled with the destruction left by the Marshall Fire.

Coyotes coach Mike Blakely recalled just days after the Dec. 30 fire, which destroyed more than 1,000 homes and caused more than half a billion dollars in destruction, Guanella and the team’s other captains spoke to him about the bigger picture. He said the high schoolers discussed what was best for the team and community.

“We had a practice as soon as we could find gym space, I think it was at Holy Family, and they came to me and said, ‘Coach, we can’t play. We’re not really in this right now, we’re not ready for that. Can we postpone these games?’ And we did that,” Blakely said. “It was a captain-type move to have them step up and talk to the coach and be the voice of the team.”

With Guanella helping to lead the way, the Coyotes persevered on the court and instilled themselves as one of Colorado’s top teams.

Even after losing junior sensation Amelia Rosin Jan. 25 against Rocky Mountain — the lone loss of their regular season — the Coyotes marched to a Front Range League title and a fourth seed in the state postseason.

Their run finally ended with a loss to Fossil Ridge in the 5A Sweet 16.

“I think what I’ll remember most about this year is how close our team was and how special our connection was,” the BoCoPreps.com player of the year said. “Through it all, we had each other’s back.”

For Guanella, her points (18.3 scoring average), assists (2.3) and 3-pointers (42 made) were all up from last season when she also nabbed a first team spot on BoCoPreps’ all-region list.

In 16 of her 24 games, she scored at least 15 points. In nine of them, she had more than 20.

“She’s a tough kid,” Blakely said. “She works really hard, and she just wants to win. I know you can say that about a lot of kids, but you add to that fact that she’s a talented player, she knows the game, she thinks the game. She’s become over the course of three years she’s played for us at Monarch our floor general. … She all-around makes us better.”

Monarch will be eligible to return its five scoring leaders from this past winter, including captains Guanella, Rosin and Arezo Safi.

The Coyotes finished in the top 10 in Class 5A in field goal percentage (41%), free throws made (301) and free throw percentage (67%). Guanella, who was named second team all-state in 5A by CHSAA, was seventh in the classification in points per game and fourth in free throws (91).

“We sort of fell short of where we had dreamed of being, but we were the four seed this year and I think we have a lot to prove still,” Guanella said. “And we hope to make an even deeper run in the playoffs next year, which we totally can with Amelia back and (all those players) returning.”

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