• Lamar Holiday Tournament: Girls Preview
McClave’s Anna Beckett returns as one of the key players for the Lady Cardinals heading into the 2021 Lamar Holiday Tournament this week. The Lady Cardinals (2-1) enter the tournament as the No. 3 seed.
John Contreras

Lamar Holiday Tournament: Girls Preview

By John Contreras

2021-12-15 16:47:59

Each December, Southeast Colorado celebrates the holidays with three days of basketball in the annual Lamar Holiday Basketball Tournament held at the Lamar Community Building,

After a one-year absence in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic, the prestigious tournament makes it return this week.

The iconic event is truly a one-of-a-kind tournament. It is a reunion of former players and fans. It is an event where special moments and memories have been created through the years.

The tournament features eight local schools and is considered one of the top small school tournaments in the state.

The main event is set to tipoff on Thursday, Dec. 16 and runs through Saturday, Dec. 18 with Championship Saturday Night.

A total of 24 games will be contested over the three days with 12 games in the girl’s bracket and 12 games in the boy’s bracket.

For the first time in five years, new champions emerged in both the girl’s and boy’s divisions in the 2019 tournament.

The Kit Carson girls and the Holly boys were both the previous five-time tournament champions but suffered losses in the championship semifinals.

In the girl’s title game, Springfield defeated Holly, 38-29, to capture the tournament crown for the first time since 2013.

In the boy’s championship game, Kit Carson defeated Walsh, 57-52, to claim the top hardware.

It was the first time since 2006 that Kit Carson had won the tournament title.

In the girl’s bracket this year, Springfield comes in as the No. 1 seed and followed by No. 2 Kit Carson, No. 3 McClave, No. 4 Wiley, No. 5 Granada, No. 6 Holly, No. 7 Eads, and No. 8 Walsh.

The first session of the tournament on Thursday morning will be in the girl’s bracket.

The schedule will be as follows:

  • GAME 1 – #4 Wiley (2-1) vs. # 5 Granada (0-3), 9:00
  • GAME 2–#3 McClave (2-1) vs. #6 Holly (0-3), 10:30
  • GAME 3–#1 Springfield (3-0) vs. #8 Walsh (0-3), 12:00
  • GAME 4–#2 Kit Carson (2-0) vs. #7 Eads (0-4), 1:30 p.m.

In the CHSAANow.com state rankings, the McClave girls are ranked No. 5 and Kit Carson is ranked No. 9 in Class 1A.

Springfield comes into the tournament under new head coach Tom Jacobs who is no stranger to Southeast Colorado coaching circles.

Jacobs was the head coach for the South Baca girls program the last eight years. In that span, he complied a record of 145-37.

It has come to full circle for Jacobs.

He will be making his first coaching appearance in the Lamar tournament since 2008-09 when he was the head coach of the Springfield girl’s program.

Springfield comes in with victories over Sierra Grande (64-36), Las Animas (60-33), and Wiley (35-31 in OT).

The Lady Longhorns graduated four seniors from a team that posted a 6-7 overall record.

“With a new coach and not a lot of experience coming back, the girls are anxious to see how the season goes,” said Jacobs. “Our girls are working hard to be competitive.”

Jacobs starts one senior, two juniors, and two sophomores.

Alayah Meltabarger, a 5-4 senior point guard, returns as the floor leader for the Lady Longhorns and brings back a ton of experience. She is averaging 10 points in three games.

Other starters include:

  • Brakelle Westphal, Kendall Myers, Lainee Leathers, and Aliyah Cohoon
  • Westphal, a 5-10 junior forward, is averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds so far this season
  • Myers, a 5-10 junior forward, chips in with 7 points a game
  • Leathers, a 5-7 sophomore guard, contributes 7 points a game
  • Cohoon, a 5-5 sophomore guard, adds 2 points a game

Coming off the bench for the Lady Longhorns will be junior Savana Abrams, sophomore Karina Garcia, and freshman Bay Ellis.

“It’s been a while since I’ve coach in this tournament and I’m happy to be back,” said Jacobs. “It was kind of depressing not having the Lamar tournament last year. This tournament offers a good experience for every team. Playing before a big crowd especially on Saturday night provides the teams an atmosphere that is priceless.”

Head Coach Sara Crawford is entering her 18th season with the Kit Carson Lady Wildcats’ program.

Crawford graduated five key seniors from last years’ team that had a strong run with a 15-1 season and qualified for the 1A State Tournament before losing in the first round to Fleming in a close contest, 55-48.

Another obvious loss will be sophomore Sedonia Isenbart who started as a freshman at the point guard position a year ago. She is now at Stratton.

The Lady Wildcats return two seniors including post Stephanie Framel and Faye Buttry.

Those two will be surrounded by a nice group of underclassmen that Crawford would rather focus on as a team and not as individuals.

Crawford said that her team’s strength is their athleticism as they will have some excellent size and good speed at the guard positions.

Kit Carson has posted wins against Holly (63-37) and Idalia (32-31).

“All last week, we battled sickness,” said head coach Sara Crawford. “So, I’m praying for a healthy Lamar Holiday Tournament.”

McClave head coach Brianne Howe said her team is anxious to play in the tournament.

“We are excited to have the Holiday Tournament back this year,” she said. “There is something special about the atmosphere there–it’s the closest experience you can have to a state tournament.”

Looking at this year’s tournament field, the Wiley coach said, “Kit Carson, Springfield, and Wiley will all be tough. Granada might not have a winning record but could beat you on any given night. Right now, our focus is to prepare for Holly. We need to show up ready to play!”

The Lady Cardinals went 2-1 in the Border Wars Tournament held last week in Syracuse, Ks. to start their 2021-22 campaign.

McClave lost to Elkhart, Ks., (56-48) in its opener and saddled with many turnovers. The Lady Cardinals bounced back with victories against Stanton County (45-29) and Greeley County (52-21).

The Lady Cardianls features two of the top guards in Class 1A in seniors Maggie Chase and Anna Beckett.

Chase is averaging 10.6 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals a game through three games.

Beckett chips in with 10.3 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2.6 steals per game.

Kennedy Vallejos, a junior guard, adds 8.3 points and 4 steals a game.

McKayla Kiniston, a sophomore post, averages 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals a game.

Chole Weber, a freshman, contributes 6.3 points and 5 rebounds a contest and Cassidy Jagers, a senior, is averaging 2 points and 4.6 rebounds a game.

Wiley, under new head coach Nick O’Loughlin, defeated Hi-Plains (33-27); lost to Springfield (35-31 OT), and won over Hanover (56-19).

“Our girls are learning a new style of play and have shown improvement as a team from one game to the next,” said O’Loughlin. “Throughout the season we plan to see growth in our offensive understanding and scoring. We shot 3-of-11 and 6-of-22 from the free throw line in our first two games but bounced back with a 7-of-8 free throw shooting against Hanover.”

The Lady Panthers lean on Demi Wollert, a 5-8 senior guard; Grace Pendleton, a 5-10 senior post; and Lupita Marquez, a 5-6 senior guard.

O’Loughlin also counts on juniors Grace White, Jackie Salgado, Fatima Gomez, and Wayttyn Wollert to provide quality minutes.

Pendleton is leading team in scoring with 15 ppg. D. Wollert follows with 7 ppg., Marquez and White with 5 ppg. each, and Salgado and Joanna Brown with 3 ppg. apiece.

Despite their 0-3 record, a much-improved Granada team, under second-year head coach Tanner Grasmick, hopes to make some noise in the tournament.

Granada is coming off an 0-3 record in the Border Wars Tournament.

The Lady Bobcats lost to Syracuse, 57-45; lost to Elkhart, 64-11, and lost to Stanton County, 56-53.

“During the Border Wars Tournament, our girls fought hard!” said Grasmick. “Though things didn’t go the way we wanted, we saw a lot of improvement and are hopefully going to carry that into the Holiday Basketball Tournament. We’re confident in our skills and abilities and looking forward to a great weekend of basketball!”

The Lady Bobcats return a handful of guards in senior Katie Baca and senior Alice Pete. Other guards returning include sophomore Marissa Valenzuela and junior Vanessa Ayala who leads the team in steals.

Trinidie Quintana, a junior, and sophomore ToriLin Riddle are both the team’s leading rebounders.

In the game against Syracuse, Quintana had 4 points and crashed the boards for 17 rebounds. Against Stanton County, she recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Riddle had 12 points and 9 rebounds against Syracuse and four points and eight rebounds against Stanton County.

Also returning to the lineup from an injury last year is Kiana Herrera, a junior guard. She averaged 8.8 points and 4.3 rebounds through four games last season.

Herrera is currently the team’s leading scorer. She tallied 15 points in the game with Syracuse and knocked down 20 points against Stanton County including three 3’s.

Ayala also contributed 8 points against Syracuse and 12 points against Stanton County.

The Holly Lady Wildcats continue to show progress with each game.

The three losses for Holly came at the hands of Swink (40-21), Kit Carson (63-37), and Rocky Ford (42-35).

Eads remains winless after falling to Hi-Plains (27-19) and then suffered three losses in the Border Wars Tournament with setbacks to Greeley County (56-27), Syracuse (42-7), and Elkhart (60-21).

Walsh under new head coach Halbert Alvarez has limped to a 0-3 start following losses to Stanton County (54-9), Greeley County (51-3), and Syracuse (64-5) in the recent Border Wars Tournament.

The young Lady Eagles have just eight players on the roster including one junior, two sophomores, and five freshmen.

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