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By Jocelyn Rowley

Girls Basketball Preview: Athletic Cougars could be a surprise in the Northern League


November 28, 2018

Jocelyn Rowley

Speedy senior Elise Crall will help boost the Cougars’ athleticism this season, according to head coach Terri Ward.

There will be quite a few new faces on the Cougars’ varsity bench this season, so head girls basketball coach Terri Ward will be relying on a time-tested strategy to get Niwot back to the top of the Northern League.

“We’re just going to have to bust it playing defense,” Ward said of the 2018-19 team, which is returning just a handful of varsity players from last year’s roster. “Whether we’re matching up player to player, or doing a zone press, that’s what our identity is going to have to be this year, because we’re young, but we’re athletic again, which is nice.”

Graduation didn’t leave Ward’s cupboard completely bare, but she did have to fill some significant vacancies. Gone are four of last season’s top five scorers (Mary Gillett, Sophie Grant, Allie Colvin and Rosie Setter), who averaged a combined 30 points per game last season. They were also significant weapons on the other end of the court, with a combined 11 defensive rebounds per game.

“It’s really, really hard to replace that athleticism, but now we have some athleticism with some basketball ability,” Ward said.

Back with the varsity this season are seniors Brynn Beaton and Elise Crall, along with juniors Nikki Sims, Lily Sieben, and Marlow Baines, who will handle most of the post duties. Baines scored 70 points for Niwot as a sophomore, going 31-of-67 from the floor. She also had 65 rebounds, and led the Cougars in blocks, with 18.

They will be joined by senior Bitzy Archibald, who Ward said makes up for her lack of size by being “smart and strong.” She will see time at forward and center, along with Baines, Beaton, and sophomore MacKenzie Demmel, another newcomer making the jump from last year’s junior varsity. Brand new to the program are Brenda Luna, who moved to the area from Estes Park, and freshman Rachel Nobel, whose sister Kayla was a standout guard at Silver Creek.

Ward will also have Julia Wilson and Grace Wardle swing up to the varsity from time to time, but hopes to see them play predominantly on the JV, where they will get more time on the court.

“We’ve talked about it, and they feel good about that too,” Ward said of the sophomores. “That’s a big jump from C-team to varsity, and I’ve honestly only had one kid in 26 years jump from C-team to varsity, because it’s just a different game.”

Ward admits that she is less sure of her team’s offensive potential this season, though she does look for them to be more productive. Last year’s squad shot just 22 percent from three-point range, and was sometimes hard-pressed to score unless directly underneath the basket. “We have some better shooters overall,” she said. “Lily’s a shooter, Brenda’s going to be a shooter for us. So we’ve got some kids that can shoot from the outside, we just have to figure out when’s the right time, what’s a good shot or bad shot.”

Ward is wary of the team’s tendency towards perfectionism, which often puts a damper on their offensive output.

“We have to get the mentality that it’s ok to miss shots. For some reason, we have the mentality that if we don’t make nine out of ten, it’s bad….This is not a sport where you can be 100 percent, except, maybe, from the free throw line. We’ve got to get that through our heads.”

There are also some new faces on Ward’s staff this season. Former Longmont player Ella Fallon is the new JV coach, replacing longtime assistant Kelly Gray. Also on the staff this season is Jack Olson, who previously coached with Ward.

Last year’s Cougars went 9-14 on the season and missed qualifying for the postseason for a fourth straight year. However, the Northern League’s competitive landscape is much different in 2018-19, according to Ward.

Jocelyn Rowley

Junior Marlow Baines will be the Cougars’ center this season.

“Greeley Central is going to walk away with it,” she said. “But after that it’s wide open.”

Ward was hesitant to predict a playoff run for this year’s youthful team, but said that’s not necessarily her final measure of success.

“I just want to see us get better every time on the floor,” she said. “Are we mentally into every game, and are we playing from start to finish? From tip-off until the buzzer goes off, is everyone on the court and on the bench fully engaged and giving 100 percent? Really, that’s all I want to see.”

Niwot kicks off the 2018-19 season at home against Frederick on Nov. 28. Tip-off is at 5:30 p.m. On Dec. 5, the Cougars head to Fort Lupton for the first of up to three games in the Santiago’s Shootout kickoff tournament.


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