Berthoud girls defense lassos lady ‘Riders

By Dan Karpiel
The Surveyor

Defense has been their bread-and-butter all year. Defense has actually been the Berthoud High School (BHS) girls basketball team’s bread-and-butter for years now.

Yet, as Berthoud head coach Randy Earl explained after his team trounced Tri-Valley Conference (TVC) rival Roosevelt by a 50-28 final Tuesday night in the BHS gym, the defensive scheme his Lady Spartans employ dates back even further than his long tenure as Berthoud’s head coach.

“It goes way back to my wife’s cousin … Fred Litzenberger,” Earl said of his team’s man-to-man scheme. “He came up with this whole defensive system when he was an assistant at Fresno State, and we teach all that stuff the way he taught it … I think that’s why we’re successful at it.” The scheme has some local roots, as Litzenberger coached under Boyd Grant at Colorado State in late 1980s and early 1990s, while Earl has employed it for years, racking up well over 300 career wins as head coach.

The tried-and-true defensive system proved it stands the test of time, as Berthoud held the Lady ‘Riders without a field goal for more than half of the game’s 32 minutes. Roosevelt’s Elyssa Crespin hit a three-pointer with 1:07 on the first quarter clock that briefly gave her team a 9-8 lead. After that, Roosevelt did not make another shot from the floor until Kaleya Corke’s hook shot found the bottom of the net with just 21 seconds left in the third period, at which point the Lady Spartans had built a commanding 20-point lead.

“I think it works because it’s something that some teams can’t handle as well as a zone, it doesn’t allow the other team to get out and open and hit those threes, it makes them have to go inside, and on the inside is where we have our help,” Berthoud sophomore Sydney Meis said when asked why her team’s defense is so effective. “When we go man-to-man the entire time it tires them out … it flusters them.”

Standout freshman Emily Cavey quickly scored five points for Berthoud and senior Maddie Decker added another four to turn a one-point deficit into a seven-point lead early in the second period. Meis drained one from downtown with 2:51 left before halftime to push Berthoud’s lead to 20-10, a double-digit lead they would retain for the remainder of the game.

Between Crespin’s trey late in the first quarter and Corke’s jumper in the waning seconds of the third, Roosevelt made six of 15 from the free-throw line, scores that marked the visitor’s only points in the intervening 17 minutes of play. During the same time frame, Berthoud scored 27 points from the floor with six of the team’s eight players tallying points.

Berthoud’s depth is something Earl pointed to after the game, saying, “It really helps us being able to rotate people in when we have problems … so we’re okay when that happens and we have to take someone out.” Cavey paced Berthoud with 14 points and seven boards and Kyleigh Milan scored eight, but suffered a slight tweak to her ankle and was replaced by Decker, who scored six and grabbed five rebounds in the starting senior center’s stead.

Berthoud (12-8, 6-5 conf.) currently sits in fourth place in the TVC and are ranked 23rd in 4A RPI, a spot that would give the Lady Spartans hosting-rights for the opening round of the 48-team state tournament. Berthoud will close out the regular season with home tilts against Frederick and Windsor before traveling to Mead for the regular season finale on Feb. 17.