Berthoud basketball making strides

By Dan Karpiel
The Surveyor

Berthoud’s McCallan Castles dunks the ball during the Berthoud Spartans’ matchup with Littleton on Dec. 11 at the annual Spartan Classic. Angie Purdy / The Surveyor

Berthoud’s McCallan Castles dunks the ball during the Berthoud Spartans’
matchup with Littleton on Dec. 11 at the annual Spartan Classic.
Angie Purdy / The Surveyor

Real change does not happen overnight, it takes a long time and a lot of hard work. That is, in effect, the message Berthoud High boys basketball coach, Mike Burkett, is working to impart to his team, one that has struggled mightily in recent years.

After losing the opening game of the Spartan Classic on Dec. 9 in heart-breaking fashion, 52-51 to Greeley Central, Berthoud came back two nights later to grind out a 39-37 win over Littleton. Even though the Spartans ended up falling 58-42 to 3A powerhouse Lutheran in the tournament’s final game, Burkett explained he has been impressed with the strides his team has made over the opening two weeks of the season.

“I really think that they’re starting to grow, and we see the steps, they don’t always see them because all they see at the end of the day is the scoreboard,” Burkett said. “But when I watch the film and see where we were last week and where we are today, we’re not anywhere close to the same team. We’ve made some huge strides in just a week.”

Berthoud took a 30-23 lead into halftime against Greeley Central but were out-scored 19-9 in the third quarter by the visiting Wildcats. A back-and-forth battle in the fourth quarter appeared as though it had turned slightly in Berthoud’s favor after a pair of free throws from Patrick Barron and a jumper from Dylan Adaza gave the Spartans a 51-48 lead with 2:40 left on the clock.

Yet, on the game’s final possession, Wildcat guard Dakota Pace went backdoor to score the game-winning lay-up as the game clock hit triple-zero. Burkett explained it was not the last-second lay-up where Berthoud lost the game, but rather in the first quarter.

“One of the things about the game … we missed four layups in the first quarter, we had seven turnovers, we committed nine fouls, and we missed five free throws and we’re still up 18-9. When we break down how Greeley Central got their nine points, they were off our defensive break downs,” Burkett said. “I told them they didn’t lose it on a last-second shot; they lost it in the first quarter.”

In the following game, Dec. 11, against Littleton, the young Spartan squad took the floor even younger than usual as Barron and Jade Ream, both seniors, were out with injuries. A pair of young players – sophomore Wyatt Stratmeyer and junior Josh Doyle – filled their shoes nicely.

After a low-scoring opening three quarters, the Spartans got their legs under them and started draining shots and making stops. A jumper off Stratmeyer’s hands found the bottom of the net and subsequent steal and slam dunk from sophomore McCallan Castles gave the Spartans a 32-29 lead with 4:53 left in the game.

The Lions were able to retake the lead, but an and-one from senior Jamie Gray was followed by a trey from Doyle that put Berthoud up 38-34 with 2:12 left. Doyle made good on a pair of free-throws down the stretch, part of his team high 11 points, eight of which came in the fourth quarter, and the Spartans held on for the 39-37 victory.

Asked after the game about his clutch play in the game’s decisive final quarter, Stratmeyer said, “I just got the ball in rhythm and started playing where the ball took me.” The sophomore said his coaches told him he needed to start being more aggressive with the ball in his hands and to “attack the hoop,” and said of his ability to stay focused at the free-throw line in crunch time, “I just take a deep breath, try to block everything out and just take my time.”

The strong play of a pair of his young players were not lost on Burkett who said, “Josh [Doyle] comes today, he plays really good defense, he hits a huge three for us. And Wyatt Stratmeyer really played well; he had eight points in the fourth quarter, he was guarding their guys all night, he was shutting them down.”

Berthoud, now a respectable 3-4 after the Spartan Classic, will play their final game before Christmas break on Dec. 18 when they travel to Loveland to take on Thompson Valley.