Veteran Pine Creek boys basketball team seeing benefits of hard work

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

FOUNTAIN — Ever since Peyton Westfall and the other 10 seniors on the Pine Creek boys basketball roster were in middle school, they've felt like they could turn the program around.

A far cry from their football counterpoints, the Eagles basketball squad has struggled for several years on the hardwood. The 2018-19 season marked the first time that coach Joe Rausch led the Eagles to winning season since he took the program over in 2014.

After Saturday's 70-58 win over Fountain-Fort Carson, the Eagles (6-1 overall, 1-0 Class 5A Colorado Springs Metro League) feel like a league title might be in play. It's a completely different outlook from where this team sat just two years ago.

"Our focus is just trying to get better each practice and each game," Rausch said. "We may have set some goals the last couple of years where once we knew we couldn't achieve a certain goal, then we kind of maybe lost a little focus. We're just trying to get better every single game and I think they've really embraced that and they're doing a good job."

The roster makeup for the Eagles lists 11 seniors and one junior. After suffering through several disappointing seasons, it's a veteran group that takes the floor each game and that experience certainly showed against the defending 5A CSML champs.

Westfall scored 14 points in the win, with all but three of his points coming in the second half. That's when they were needed the most.

"We all knew that we were going to do this," he said. "We all knew we were going to do this together. And that's what (Rausch) asked us at the start of the season is do we want to do it together? And we said yeah."

Rausch couldn't talk for long before pointing out his team's toughness in the win. The Trojans (6-5, 0-1) went with a simple plan of attack early. Get the ball to 6-foot-9 Isaiah Thompson and let him work in the post. On the first two possessions of the game he had been fouled twice and sank all of his free throws. The Eagles were going to have their work cut out for them on the inside, but they were up to the tough challenge.

They limited Thompson to just two field made field goals. He scored the other eight of his 12 points from the free throw line.

"I think the biggest thing is we stopped moving the ball," Trojans coach Paul Mileto said. "The ball stayed on one side before pretty much every possession and it's hard to score. It's hard to move the defense."

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

It was the mark of a veteran team. Thompson was by far the biggest player on the floor and the Eagles had to find a way to counter his presence in the lane. Keeping Fountain Fort-Carson from effectively moving the ball turned out to be a solid game plan.

And it was backed up with plenty of offense. Perry Guirdy scored a game-high 18 points for the Eagles. He has struggled at times this season, but he's kept his head down and just tried to put himself in the right spots at the right time.

"That's usually how I play," Guirdy said. "I usually go to the one open spot that I see and our guards did a great job of giving me the ball."

The win is sure to get the attention of teams from across the league. Guirdy said that it might serve the Eagles better to stay under the radar, but knocking off the Trojans on the road is sure to get noticed.

If it is indeed the Eagles' time to make noise in the CSML, Rausch is hoping that this senior-laden team is ready for it.

"It would have been a victory to come out of here even if we didn't win the game with how tough we played today," Rausch siad. "But yeah, it's huge way to start off the league season just because Fountain is the team to beat; league champs and so it still goes through them until they don't have it anymore."

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)