OURAY – “That was definitely fun,” said Ouray Trojan boys basketball coach Jim Blennis of the team’s trip to the state tournament last year.
In just his third year as coach of the Trojans, Blennis’ boys finished second behind 2A Ignacio in the San Juan Basin League regular season last year and just ahead of third-place Ridgway. Both Uncompahgre Valley teams made it through districts and regionals and met again, for the fifth time last season, in the consolation third-place game at state.
Ouray had lost its semi-final match to undefeated, No. 1-ranked Otis. (Otis couldn’t stay perfect, however, losing in the final to second-ranked, defending state champion Caliche.)
Ouray and Ridgway then squared off, and it was the downvalley Demons who came out on top. “Definitely fun,” repeated Blennis, who commutes from his home in Montrose to coach the Trojans. His day job is as a sixth-grade social studies teacher in Olathe.
Blennis said he “lost a bunch of graduating seniors, including two all-conference kids who were 6’ 3” and 6’ 4”.
“I lost my size,” he said. “We’re not going to be that big this year.”
He does have two starters returning, and “the other three spots will be filled by former junior varsity players. I think we’ll be competitive,” Blennis said, “but there are more question marks this year.”
Ouray Athletic Director Bernie Pearce reported that “the high school boys realistically should be in the upper third of the nine-team San Juan Basin League. They will be quick defensively, and have several players who can get hot. If those shooters are fully-loaded at the same time, they can pour on points in a hurry.”
Pearce mentioned four players to watch this season: senior point guard/shooting guard Chris Cramp, senior post player Jeff Rummel, senior shooting guard Eli Holmes, and junior defensive specialist Steven Duce.
Ouray’s 1A district competition will be come from Norwood, Nucla, and Dove Creek. From outside the league, the district tournament will also include 1A schools Plateau Valley and DeBeque.
As for the rivalry with Ridgway, now competing at the 2A level, Blennis said there was no chance of repeating the epic five-game series from last year, which Ouray took 3-2. “They’re on our schedule two times,” Blennis said. “Maybe three. We’ll be at their place for the pre-season tournament Dec. 3-4, with Nucla and Norwood.”