Boys split final two games before holiday break

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

The often-used sports cliché that defense wins championships might be a bit over-blown, but that does not mean it is without merit.

Offensively, the Berthoud High School boys basketball team is as good as just about every team they have faced, but are not quite yet on par with most of their opponents on the defensive end of the floor. The Spartans split their final two games before the holiday break, gritting out a 66-61 overtime win in Niwot on Dec. 15 but then losing by a 79-68 final at Thompson Valley on Tuesday night.

“We can score, we’re hard to guard, we’re versatile with the guys we have. But we have to figure out, with the limited size, that we have how to do a better job of keeping other teams from scoring,” Berthoud Head Coach Mike Burkett said after Tuesday’s game. “Sixty-eight points is enough to win a high school basketball game, but we have to figure out how to play better defensively, how to rebound better.”

The Spartans fast-paced offense provides them plenty of scoring opportunities. Berthoud took 71 shot attempts, including 31 from three-point range, in the win at Niwot, but it was their defense that night that allowed the team to notch their second win of the season. Berthoud out-rebounded Niwot 44-37 and forced 18 Cougar turnovers. The win was not only important from a record and confidence perspective, but also provided an example how the under-sized Spartans need to play to win games.

“I think we’re pretty set offensively, points per game were around 70, which should win every game, but defensively we have to limit points and, like coach said, we’re undersized so we have to learn how to rebound more,” junior Cameron Poll explained.

The loss to Thompson Valley provided a clear example. The Eagles have substantially taller players than Berthoud, including six-foot-seven Jared Kazprzak, and made the best of that advantage on the way to the 11-point win. Defensively, Thompson Valley kept Berthoud from getting inside for lay-ups and close-range jumpers, forcing the Spartans to take shots from longer, and thus lower-percentage, range. On their end of the floor, the Eagles were able to attack Berthoud inside and score points in the paint.

“There were a lot of charges to be had that we just didn’t take tonight. Our guys have to understand how important that is because they’re momentum-changers, not only is it a turnover, it’s a foul, and we had a lot of opportunities that we didn’t take tonight,” Burkett said. “We have to be willing to sacrifice our bodies sometimes and take some contact.”

Berthoud was up to the task early in the game, using a man-to-man defense that was effective in keeping the Eagles outside, but the home team kept hitting their outside shots. Poll made a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter, but both times was answered on the next possession with threes from Eagle guard Paul Pomerleau.

The Spartans had battled in the first half and found themselves down only two, 35-33, at halftime. Thompson Valley came out of the locker room red-hot and assembled an 11-2 scoring run to take a 46-35 lead from which Berthoud proved unable to recover. Jake Lozinski made a pair from downtown in the second half and Poll made another three, but the Eagles kept Berthoud at arm’s length for the duration of the game.

Polls’ five three-pointers in the game give him a team-high 21 on the season and, as the junior explained, he has embraced his role as one of the team’s go-to outside shooters. “At the start of the season, coach set roles for all of us … and for me, the focus was shooting,” Poll said.  “All my life I’ve kind of always been a shooter on the team, I put in a lot of hard work and extra work and it’s helped me improve over the years and now it’s paying off.”

Even with the loss to Thompson Valley, Burkett and the team remain highly optimistic about their chances once conference play begins after Christmas break. Burkett said the team’s goal of finishing in the top four in the Tri-Valley is entirely attainable.

“Each week we come to practice we put in something new, we add another wrinkle, and they’re taking it all in and putting it in play,” Burkett said. “This group is resilient, and they’re strong, and they battle, and they fight, and they scrap and claw. There’s just some basketball knowledge things that we have to improve upon over the break.”

Peacock, who leads Berthoud with a scoring average of 15.7 points per game, said the Spartans know they can play with anyone they face, “Now that we’ve got a couple wins under our belt, we’ve got more confidence and we can go into games knowing we’re better than the other team.”

Berthoud (2-7) will take on Erie in their conference opener on Jan. 2.

 

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