The annual two-day San Juan Basin League Tournament positioned teams from Ouray, Ridgway, Norwood and Nucla in a quest for the tournament title.
In the final round on Saturday, the Ouray boys defeated the Ridgway boys, 52-39, securing a tournament win. The girl’s championship game posed Norwood against Ridgway, with Norwood clenching the victory, 42-30. Both teams from Ridgway secured second place standings and the Norwood boys and Ouray girls came in third. The Nucla Mustangs ended the tournament in last place.
While the game results don’t count in league standings, the tournament serves as a preview of regular season action and will also act as a tiebreaker, if necessary, at the end of the season.
“[The tournament] will probably set a tone for league play. There will be someone who is looking to catch up and someone who is making sure they don’t get caught,” said the Ouray girl’s coach, Bernie Pearce.
Although the Ouray Trojans and Ridgway Demons faired well in the tournament, the matches didn’t include the league’s 2A schools. The teams will also face Mancos, Telluride, Dolores and Ignacio – who is expected to be a powerhouse in the boy’s division. While there are sure to be tough games in the future, the tournament results have provided an extra bit of confidence for the Trojans and Demons.
“Overall I’ve been impressed by the smooth play for all the teams. It was a notch above what I was expecting,” said Pearce.
For the Ouray boys, Coach Jim Blennis is relying on extra effort from seniors, Chris Blansett and Kenneth Wilson. Pearce says the girl’s team is counting on a strong group effort and leadership from the three captains: Stephanie Ficco, Geordyn MacDougall and Mickala Palmer.
The Ridgway boys are hoping for a strong season with tight play by the team’s core of juniors under the leadership of senior and captain, Jake Coulter. The Lady Demons’ strong finish in the tournament was the result of superb play by senior, Montana Pizzarusso and sophomore, Candace Yengst, who Pearce calls, “one of the true budding talents in the league.”
With both schools showcasing so much talent, it’s looking to be another exciting season for the two long-time opponents. The heated rivalry is sure to bring fiery play in the coming months, but for now the teams are focused on their next challenge, the first league game of the season on Dec. 15, when the Trojans face the Norwood Mavericks and the Demons face the Nucla Mustangs.