OURAY – It was a tough weekend for Ouray High School basketball athletes and their fans. The Trojans met defeat on all fronts in their first home games of the season against the Telluride Miners and Dolores Bears on Friday, Jan. 6 and Saturday, Jan. 7. All three schools play in the San Juan League, a mixture of 1A and 2A schools, which also includes Ignacio, Norwood, Ridgway, Mancos, Nucla and Dove Creek.
In varsity boys action, Friday’s game saw the Miners coming out aggressively, racking up a solid lead over the Trojans that grew to over 20 points by half-time. But as Ouray High School varsity boys Coach Craig Kaminski observed, “In the second half the we did a really excellent job of fighting back and outworking them. Even when we were down, the boys still worked hard to get back into the game.”
Indeed, in the fourth quarter, Ouray outscored Telluride 22 points to 13, amidst a flurry of fouls. But the effort fell short. The 1A Trojans lost Friday's league test against the 2A Telluride Miners by a score of 57-45. Junior Jacob Fedel led scoring for the Trojans, with 17 points. Steve Duce, a senior and the varsity boys’ team captain, led defensive rebounds with seven. Senior Derek Green had five offensive rebounds and scored 11 points throughout the game.
Last year, the Trojans seized the District 1A Championship and went all the way to state. But that team’s starting players all graduated last spring. This year, the team has a more balanced mixture of ages and abilities. “We have three sophomores who until just a few weeks ago, had never even played varsity,” Kaminski said. “We’re trying to get a better knack for the now, but are really excited about where these young kids are growing and how they’re developing.”
As for the Miners, who now own a 4-0 win-loss record, “The two-week holiday layoff was very apparent; we were really rusty,” commented Richard Clark, the Miners’ assistant coach for 32 years, after Friday’s victory against the Trojans. “We didn’t protect the ball. We had too many turnovers. But we won a league game so that’s a big plus for us.”
At first glance, Telluride’s varsity boys appear well matched to Ouray’s, with three seniors and a promising group of sophomores. Point guard Fischer Hazen (#33), recently back from a student-exchange trip to Spain, is one of Telluride’s best players. “You need a point guard in this league to be successful,” Hart said. “Having him back is a major factor.”
Another notable Telluride player is Roger Liljegren (#50), the Miners’ biggest kid. An All-State football player for two years in a row, Liljegren “does the job out on the basketball court for us too,” Coach Hart said.
On Saturday, in varsity boys’ action in Ouray, the 2A Dolores Bears thwarted the host Trojans 46-29. In contrast to the up-and-down excitement of the game against Telluride the previous evening, this was “sort of a plodding affair,” said Kaminski. “Both teams were cold offensively.”
But on the bright side for the Trojans, Kaminski added, “It was our best overall defensive effort of the year. We were looking to improve our defense and left the weekend having met that goal. As this young team looks to improve, we now have to match our offense and defense, and learn to do both of them well in the game.”
It was the Trojans’ junior varsity boys who really shone last weekend, in an exciting game against Dolores on Saturday. The Trojans, with just six players coached by Ben DeGear, led for the whole game. Senior Jaxon Gaita fouled out in the first half, and was joined on the bench by sophomore Justin Clark in the fourth quarter. With just four boys on the court, the Trojans clung to their tenacious lead, but the Bears eeked out the narrowest of victories in the end, with a final score of 43 to 42. The last points of the game were scored with just seconds to spare, and some grumbling among Ouray fans about the refereeing. The JV boys fell to Telluride, 46 to 34, on Friday.
The lady Trojans had a tough go of it, too, losing to Telluride 79-15 on Friday, and to Dolores 58-29 on Saturday. “We are a young team,” said coach Shawn Carroll of his varsity girls. “Literally half the team is comprised of freshmen. Typically two to three of our starters are freshmen. We have introduced a totally new conceptual offense and defense scheme to the team. We are improving, despite the scores! I anticipate a much improved second half of the season.”
Varsity boys and girls from Ouray hit the road this weekend to face off against Nucla on Friday, Jan. 13, with games at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Varsity girls then travel to Dove Creek for another match-up at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14. On Tuesday, Jan. 17, catch small-town rivalry at its best, as the Ouray Trojans host the Ridgway Demons at the Ouray School Gym, with games at 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The Trojans varsity boys’ overall record now stands at one win, seven losses and zero ties, while varsity girls stand at 0-5-0.
Other league standings and scheduled games can be found at www.maxpreps.com