DENVER — D’Evelyn girls basketball will begin Class 4A Jeffco League play tomorrow coming off a winning note.
The Jaguars (7-4 record) defeated visiting Summit 60-32 on Tuesday night, on the eve of the start of conference play for D’Evelyn.
“We said that our league started tonight,” D’Evelyn coach Chris Olson said after the Jaguars ended their 2-game losing streak. “All of our (league) game are going to be pretty good games. It should be competitive every night.”
The non-league game Tuesday was actually the conclusion of the Jeffco Jungle Jam Tournament that started back on Dec. 11. A snowstorm prevented Summit to get down to the Metro Area for a scheduled game during the tournament, so the game was rescheduled right before the Jaguars start conference play.
“We are all excited,” D’Evelyn senior Rylee Waggoner said of getting into league play. “A lot of players haven’t experienced this league varsity level.”
D’Evelyn travels to Evergreen High School on Wednesday night to face the defending 4A Jeffco League champs — Evergreen Cougars (4-2).
It was a three-team race last season for the conference title. Evergreen, Green Mountain and D’Evelyn combined for a 30-6 mark in league play, leaving the rest of the field in their wake. The Cougars eventually finished a game ahead of the Rams to capture the league title.
“It’s definitely nice to start league with one of our tougher games,” Waggoner said of facing Evergreen to start the 12-game conference schedule that features home-and-away meeting for all seven teams in the league. “There are no easy teams in the league at all. We are all going to compete.”
Green Mountain — ranked No. 7 in the latest CHSAANow.com Class 4A girls basketball poll — looks to be the front-runner this season after getting out to a 8-1 non-league record. The Rams open their conference schedule tomorrow night at home against an improved Wheat Ridge (5-2) squad.
Olson believes that Green Mountain and Evergreen will be the teams to beat in the historically tough 4A Jeffco League.
D’Evelyn was tough in the opening minutes against Summit. A 3-pointer by sophomore Maddie Topping midway through the first quarter gave the Jaguars a 13-0 lead.
“She (Topping) is one of those kids that last year we wanted to play a little bit more, but development wise we just let her play JV,” Olson said. “We knew this year that she would start right from the beginning. She can shoot the 3. She can drive. She is a pretty good defender. She is just going to keep getting better.”
The Jaguars’ pressure defense early was key. Senior Peyton Balbin scored seven points in the first three minutes all off of turnovers created by D’Evelyn’s full-court pressure.
“We don’t have that height anymore, so we are going to have to depend on our defense to make our offense,” Waggoner said. “That full-court press we do a lot of a time it kills teams. We just have to all work together.”
D’Evelyn offense really got going in the second half. The Jaguars poured in 38 points after halftime to nearly double-up Summit. Ten different players scored for D’Evelyn, including junior Lexi Szathmary.
Szathmary had missed a few games due to an ankle injury, but got some spot time against Summit. She is the Jaguars’ leading scorer, but will get a chance to get back to near 100 percent hopefully with D’Evelyn having a week off after its league opener against Evergreen.
The Jaguars finished with nine 3-pointers on the night, but Olson knows success will come with defense this season.
“One of the things we’ve learned from the preseason is everything for us is going to be defense driven,” Olson said. “That is how we create good shots. When we’ve struggle to score we aren’t turning teams over and not forcing tempo.”