Arvada West girls hoops off to best start in 5 years

ARVADA — It wasn’t the prettiest of victories, but Arvada West’s home-opener victory Wednesday night marked the best start for the program in five years.

The Wildcats (3-1 record) held Boulder (1-4) to just eight made field goals in A-West’s 35-30 victory. Still, A-West coach Brady Meeks knows there is plenty of room for improvement as the Wildcats struggled offensively.

Arvada West sophomore Jasmyn Williams (1) drives on Boulder junior Abbie Gillach (10) in front of the Panthers' bench Wednesday. Williams scored a team-high 9 points in the Wildcats' 35-30 win. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“Sometimes winning ugly is a good thing,” said Meeks, who is in his third year at the helm of the program. “We just need to learn from this and get better because when we start playing more talented teams we aren’t going to get away with that.”

A-West held a 19-12 lead at halftime, but couldn’t extend its lead in the third quarter. Both teams sputtered offensively after halftime. The lone field goal made in the third quarter came by A-West junior Alexis Folks with less than a minute to play in the period.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” Meeks admitted. “Sometimes when you don’t shoot the ball well you have to do the little things.”

The biggest offensive play for A-West came with just less than 2:30 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. A-West’s leading scorer — sophomore Amanda Neff — on the season had a nifty pass inside to senior Calayia Vickles for an easy layup.

Arvada West sophomore Amanda Neff (13) dumps a pass down low during the Wildcats' 35-30 victory over Boulder. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“That was a monster play,” Meeks said of the assist from Neff to Vickles that put the Wildcats up 31-25 with 2:26 to play. “That play from Amanda to Calaiya was monster for us.”

Sophomore Jasmyn Williams finished with a team-high 9 points for A-West, including going 4-for-5 from the free-throw line in the second half. Freshman Payton Reed had a pair of big free throws with 35 seconds left seal the victory.

“It was important because I felt after last season a lot of people doubted us,” Vickles said. “To get a home win was really important for us.”

Boulder senior Tessa Van Bussum hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer, but it wasn’t enough for the Panthers. Sophomore Ella Bartsch led all scorers with 11 points. Junior Abbie Gillach was held below her 11.5 points per game average.

Boulder sophomore Karina Ontiveros (23) takes a jumper over Arvada West freshman Payton Reed (5) during the second half Wednesday night. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“We really worked on shutting down (Abbie Gillach) that was our main goal,” Vickles said of holding Gillach to 9 points.

A-West has three straight road games ahead. The Wildcats begin with a trip to Fort Collins to face Rocky Mountain on Tuesday, Dec. 17. A-West already has a win over the Lobos this season. The Wildcats took a 52-37 win over Rocky Mountain in A-West’s season opener Dec. 4 at the Mountain Vista/Rock Canyon Tournament.

“It’s a win, but we’ve got to get back to work tomorrow,” Meeks said.

Vickles said a big focus this season is to improve in conference play. The Wildcats haven’t been above .500 in Class 5A Jeffco League play since going 14-2 back in the 2011-12 season. A-West has just won one league game the past two years.

“It all starts on how we play during pre-season,” Vickles said preparing for conference play after Winter Break. “Building our team camaraderie for sure is our biggest thing this year.”

Arvada West senior Calaiya Vickles (23) guards Boulder sophomore Ella Bartsch (22) during the non-league game Wednesday night at Arvada West High School. The Wildcats held the Panthers to eight field goals to give A-West a 35-30. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)