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Niwot goes 2-0 to start conference play

Series: Niwot boys basketball | Story 5

January 15, 2020

Jocelyn Rowley

Senior Austin Rathburn was held to just two points on the night, but was solid on defense for Niwot against Thompson Valley on Jan. 9.

The Niwot boys basketball team improved to 7-4 on the year, after picking up another pair of wins as Northern League play got underway last week. The Cougars were considerably more effective on both sides of the ball in rousing home wins over Northridge (63-40) on Jan. 7 and Thompson Valley (48-39) on Jan. 10, but it was his team's return to form on defense that had head coach Clay Wittrock back in a positive frame of mind.

"Thompson Valley is a tough, big physical team, and I knew that was going to be a test of how much we've rebounded defensively," he said after Niwot's victory over the imposing Eagles. "A big point of emphasis in our discussions this week was our defense feeding our offense, and no matter what happens on the offensive end, how do we create opportunities. I really thought we saw it in the first half, and we started off slow in the third, but the defense picked back up again, and started creating opportunities and really put us in a position to win."

A trio of seniors accounted for 36 of Niwot's 48 points against Thompson Valley, including Milo Ostwald, who was 5-of-9 in field goal attempts and led the team with 13 points. Guard Cooper Sheldon added another 12 to his team-leading total (146), while Kyle Reeves followed up his 19-point performance against Northridge on Tuesday with another 11 points against the Eagles, and also led the team in assists (5), deflections (6), and steals (2).

"It wasn't falling for him at Roosevelt, and I don't think he was seeing his shot," Wittrock said of Reeves, who has 40 points in his last three games. "On Tuesday, and you saw it again tonight, I think it was a combination of him having that confidence and focus and finally finding a shot that was his."

Elsewhere for Niwot, senior Austin Rathburn was held to just two points on the night by Thompson Valley's big center, but had 12 rebounds and five blocks. He also scored 10 points for the Cougars against Northridge two nights before. Jarrett Noterman scored five points against the Eagles, while Noah Pena scored three to bring his weekly total to 11. Overall, the Cougars shot 44 percent (40-for-90) from the floor for the week, outpacing their average of 40%. They also posted higher than average totals in assists, rebounds, and steals.

Sheldon echoed his coach's sentiments about defense creating offense in Niwot's two wins, but also pointed to a less tangible factor that helped the Cougars get off to a 2-0 start in conference play.

Jocelyn Rowley

Seniors Kyle Reeves (21) and Cooper Sheldon (3) stepped up on defense for Niwot against Thompson Valley on Jan. 9.

"I truly believe it was just within us," he said. "Standing together as a team, and leading each other along the way also helps with the offense, and this past week we really came together. We're best friends off the court, but, as a group, we really fought and came together to make it as powerful as it was on the court. Honestly, if we just keep doing that, I think we're going to be in an ok spot."

Both Sheldon and Wittrock aren't anticipating any changes to Niwot's defensive-minded game plan heading into the second week of conference action, where they will face powerhouse Longmont (8-2), runner-up in last year's Class 4A championships. Though many of the stars from that team have moved on, the Trojans have just two losses so far this season, and seem to be the team to beat once again in the Northern League.

"They're disciplined, and they're well-coached, so it's going to be on us to find that defensive effort, and take advantage of opportunities," Wittrock said. "Against a disciplined team, you have to create more opportunities, and you have to make sure you're not beating yourself up. From where we were this week, I think we have to find that next gear for both those match ups."


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