Jeni Jones and Brandie Telfer have their biggest challenges of the season tonight -- figuratively and literally.
As the Bulldog post players prepare to play Longmont in their opening game of the 32-team state tournament, they know they are up against two of the best post players in the state of Colorado.
"From what we've been told, they have are taller and have ball-handling skills that we haven't faced this year," Jones said. "But at the same time, they aren't very fast."
The inside presence of 6'3" Annie Gorenstein and 6'2" Marilynn Moulton earned the Trojans a top-three preseason ranking in pre-season polls and they finished the year ranked fifth in the state. Both players have signed to play D-1 basketball after their prep careers, a talent level that Telfer is anxious to face.
"Our league is a guard-dominated league," she said.
"So it will be interesting to see how we can do against the best posts in the state."
Coach Craig Mortensen said his team's focus in practice Monday was to get the ball up and down the court quickly in an attempt to neutralize the size of Longmont.
"We can't get into a half-court game with them because of their size," he said. "So we will press a lot and try to get points in the transition."
While the Bulldogs' focus is on the post play of Longmont, Mortensen expects the Trojans' focus to be on the Bulldogs' guard play.
"I'm sure their scouting report says 'stop Laurel,'" he said. "The only team that has been able to do that was Steamboat and even then we played them close. It comes down to the other girls hitting their shots."
Hitting shots and rebounding is what Jones and Telfer said they must focus on in order to give their team a chance.
"We worked on boxing out in order to just keep who we're guarding from the ball," Jones said. "Mort said as long as we keep them from getting the ball, we need to worry about getting the rebound ourselves as much."
This year is the first for Longmont in Class 4A as they moved down from 5A last year. They compete in the Northern Conference with five 5A schools. Their record is 18-4, which is the same as the Bulldogs, and they also finished third in their district.
Coach Mortensen was still puzzled Monday after practice about how his team was given the 24 seed with a third-place finish in their district and an 18-4 record and Longmont earned a ninth seed.
"Every year, the Western Slope gets the short end of the stick," he said.
"They tell me I need to go out and 'play somebody' to get a higher seed, but we've beat teams ranked higher than us the last two year in the tournament, so what do we have to do?"
Mortensen called the Western Slope district representative to talk about the seeds and why the teams from the Western Slope district were seeded so low. While he said he didn't get any good reasons, he did learn much about the ranking process.
"Basically, they rank the top eight seeds and then the bottom eight seeds and then everybody else," he said. "I know that it comes down to us needing to win our district, but our seeds, especially Steamboat's 23 doesn't make sense to me."
Mortensen had had a piece a paper with all of the teams that got into state with him and had written what their records were and what place they finished in their districts.
He pointed out teams that had finished fourth in their districts and had records just above .500 that were ranked above Steamboat Springs, the second-place team in their district and a 17-5 record.
"I didn't even have to call coaches to get a scouting report for the Longmont game," he said. "I had coaches call me to tell me how we should have gotten a better seed and then they told me what to expect from Longmont.
"I still thnk of us as a top-eight seed. We just have to go out and prove that we are this week."
The game will start at 6 p.m. The winner will face the winner of Pueblo County and Rifle Friday.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.