Shining Mountain (Boulder)
is out to be a shining example.
That selflessness is a becoming quality on the hardwood. That team concepts flourish when opposed to individual agendas. That, no matter what classification you play in, if you're a quality basketball program, it will shine through.
"Our senior class has been playing together since the fifth grade, so we have a lot of camaraderie," Shining Mountain forward Andrew Bremner
said. "This year, as seniors, we all want to win for two reasons. For the team and for each other."
The Lions are 13-0 this season, and while some might have chalked it up to a Class 1A team playing a 1A schedule, detractors don't have much ground to stand on now. That's because Shining Mountain, ranked No. 1 in 1A, knocked off Kent Denver 76-72 on Tuesday.
The Sun Devils are ranked No. 1 in 3A.
Lions coach Enoch Miller is making certain that his team doesn't overrate the win or get too heady about it. But the achievement said plenty about the prowess and championship aspirations of the Lions, who were 20-3 last season but feel much more polished and exhibit much more togetherness now.
"It gives them confidence, but I think it's about more than just beating Kent," Miller said. "I mean, obviously Kent is a really good team, but it's more of a thing where it's nice to know we can win close games."
Miller said that close-game savvy was lacking last season, with the Lions winning most their games by 25 or 30 points and not having much experience when it came down to the wire.
"We just weren't battle-tested," he said. "But we've been down in the fourth quarter in at least three, maybe four games this year and came back and won them."
Paced by senior leaders Bremner and Colin Cantwell
, the Lions have five players averaging in double digits and have gotten contributions from everyone. It was freshman reserve Landon Taliaferro
who drilled the key three-pointer in the win against Kent.
"I'd say the main difference from last year is we have a lot more trust in our teammates," said Cantwell, who averages a team-best 15.3 points a game. "We practice harder, we want it more and we do whatever we can to win."
Miller knows about winning. He was a guard on Belleview Christian's back-to-back 1A title teams in 1999 and 2000. Those squads were led by Jon Sanders, one of the classification's most dominant players of the past 15 years (he later played at Colorado State, St. Mary's and professionally overseas).
Miller, though, erupted for 14 points in the second quarter of the title win his senior season, draining a barrage of three-pointers. Players say Miller talked some about his Belleview days in his first season, but now in his third, he mentions it rarely, if at all.
That's because he now has a team built for a similar run, and that's his focus.
"We're a much better defensive team this year, and we're more focused overall on the day-to-day process," Miller said. "We're trying to get better and better every day and stay away from the big picture as much as we can. Of course we have a vision, but we just focus on today."
Another key change from last season is that Bremner has been moved from point guard to the wing, where he is a more dangerous scorer. That move was made possible by the emergence of sophomore Garrett Johnston
, who has admirably taken over at the point.
Johnston averages 10.4 points a game and has been a fluid facilitator.
"It's definitely made being on the floor a little easier for me," Bremner said. "Bringing the ball down the court is a lot of work and it's tiring. Now, I'm able to guard some of their best players a little more. Also, I can score in any way I want, because I'm still able to get the ball plenty. I can go inside or outside now and still create for everyone."
Bremner has registered one triple-double this season and was close on multiple other occasions. His plump season averages look like this: 14.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists.
The Lions start Cantwell in the middle, with Ray Feigal
at off-guard (Miller calls him a "glue guy") and Alex Beal
at power forward. Miller terms 6-foot-5 Beal, who averages 11.8 points a game, the Lions' most-improved player.
In sticking true to their mantra, Shining Mountain hasn't let the Kent Denver win A) surprise them, or B) get to their heads.
"Going in, we thought we could win that game," Bremner said. "We scouted the same, prepared the same, and this just shows what our team is capable of."
Added Cantwell: "It was pretty significant at the time, but at the end of the day it's just another game and we have to move on. We have to play every day to get better, see how good we can get, and see where that takes us this year."