As of Thursday afternoon, the Colorado High School Coaches Association’s website still showed a photo of Bayfield’s expressive basketball force Ryan Phelps elevating through a double-team headlining its All-State Games page.
That will soon change.
Though the burly center is now a year-plus graduated, a more recently-graduated Wolverine will be in Alamosa carrying the Wolverines’ proverbial banner at this week’s summer showcase, the 63rd edition of the Games.
Guard Keyon Prior will suit up for the ASG-White squad coached by Ault-based Highland’s Pete Freeman and assisted by Longmont’s Jeff Kloster, father of former Fort Lewis College basketball star Cade Kloster. 2A Sanford guard Jakob Peterson will be his only geographically-close teammate (3A Intermountain League familiar Chad Jackson of Alamosa, however, will dress for the Blue Team while 2A Del Norte’s Kade Glover will play with the Red).
White will face off against Red in the first semifinal at 4 p.m. Friday at in-town Ortega Middle School, with the Black-Blue battle beginning at about 5:15 p.m. The third-place test is to commence at about 11 a.m. Saturday with first place to be decided at about 2 p.m.
First among local athletes to see action at the Games, however, will be 2A Ignacio wrestler Skieler Grooms. He’s listed to compete in the All-State Dual Friday at 2 p.m. inside Adams State University’s Plachy Hall, with 3A Pagosa Springs’ Caleb Janowsky and Ian Reinhardt also set to represent the southwest.
Coached by Castle Rock-based Castle View’s Matt Hema and Leadville Lake County’s Albert Rodriguez, 4A Durango post Tayler Dossey will wear White Team togs in the Games’ girls basketball tournament, with her only teammates hailing from anywhere near La Plata County being 2A Sargent guard Lainie Dillon and 3A Cedaredge guard Courtney Freeman.
White will square off against Red in one semifinal Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. inside Plachy (the contest follows the wrestling action), with Blue and Black tipping off at about 5:15. The third-place game is listed to begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday inside Plachy with the championship to start at about 12:30 p.m.
Having already checked in on campus Tuesday, as compared to later arrivals within the past two days, BHS’ Daniel Westbrook will play in Friday’s 7:30 p.m. football feature, likely at defensive end, for the South Team, coached by Harrison High School’s Al Melo and assisted by La Veta’s Ron Ortivez, Monte Vista’s Manny Wassinger and Palmer Ridge’s Zach Carlton.
And stepping out onto Rex Field will have added meaning; he’ll join older brother Sam in having worn South red.
“It means a lot because for me in high school, ever since I was a freshman, I’ve tried to fill his shoes,” Westbrook said Thursday afternoon, “and work my hardest, get to that point. He’s one of the best football players I ever knew, so knowing that I accomplished something he did is great.
“When you first get here, everything seems a little crazy. But once you get to know everybody, everything kind of mellows out. The coaches are great, everybody else is pretty nice, and it’s just nice to work and play another football game.”
The North Team will fall under the guidance of Sterling’s Rob Busmente, with Wayne McGinn (Loveland), Paul Lowe (Front Range Christian), Jerry Browne (Smoky Hill) and Todd Tonche (Sterling) assisting.
“You know, coming here I thought these coaches were going to be, like, super hard on us, pushing us, you know, trying to win this game and everything,” said Westbrook, the only La Plata County athlete able to be contacted by press time. “But the coaches have been great; they’ve been pushing us, obviously, but know we’re here to have fun. I’m enjoying them.”