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New coach, infusion of multisport athletes bring big turnaround at Cheyenne Mountain girls' hoops

February 24, 2014 Updated: February 24, 2014 at 9:25 pm

On the heels of a rock-bottom, 2-21 season in 2012-13, Anna Hortik wasn't demoralized enough to pack it in.

"I've played basketball all my life," the Cheyenne Mountain sophomore said. "I wasn't going to quit because we weren't very successful last year. I still had a lot of fun."

So how much fun is Hortik having now? With new leadership from first-year coach Mike Armentrout and the infusion of athletes from different sports, the Indians quickly transformed themselves from a doormat into an automatic qualifier as fourth-place finisher from the Pikes Peak Athletic Conference.

At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Cheyenne Mountain (11-12) returns to 4A girls' basketball playoff scene after a season away, playing host to Durango (9-13).

"A lot of last year's girls who stuck it out are doing good things," Armentrout said. "I like to think of our team as a high-character team, with integrity and character right there. They stuck it out and honored their commitments, and hats off to them."

Armentrout, once an assistant under former longtime girls' coach Jamie Mueller and later J'on St. Clair of the boys' team, was tasked with rebuilding a team that won just one of 14 PPAC games last season. He got reinforcements from multisport athletes who decided to go out for the team.

That infusion of talent, led by volleyball player Anna Johnson and soccer players Sara Walters, Tori Burnett and Hunter Peifer, brought an added element to the basketball court. They joined a small but dedicated core from last season.

But even Armentrout couldn't have imagined hitting double digits in the win column this quickly.

"I think when you go into a season, you don't expect that," said Armentrout, a graduate of Northern Colorado. "I don't think anybody was. I knew we'd be halfway decent and knew we'd play hard. Whether it would be quality basketball, that was dependent on how hard the kids were willing to work. They worked their tails off. Now, they've played more than just hard, it's pretty good basketball."

Walters, a starting forward on last season's 4A state-champion soccer team, leads the basketball team in scoring with 8.3 points. Peifer, a goalkeeper, controls the boards with 8.8 rebounds per contest. Converted center-midfielder Burnett and Hortik both average nearly two steals.

The ride has gone on longer than expected; the soccer trio missed the first day of spring practice Monday but didn't seem too concerned with losing their spots.

"Tomas (Martinez), our coach, is very supportive and comes to all of our games," Walters said. "All along, our goal was just to come together as a team, to learn how to play together. We've done that, and we were able to make the playoffs."

On Tuesday, a once unrealistic goal becomes reality. And if the Indians win, they'll take their best shot Friday at reigning 4A state champion Pueblo South (21-2).

"We have the mindset that we can play with anybody," Armentrout said. "A lot of people might consider us underdogs, but the kids are confident, and I'm proud of their effort. I know we'll be a tough out for anyone who we go against."



All first-round games Tuesday

Sharon Wilch Region

No. 1 Fossil Ridge (22-1), bye

No. 9 Palmer (8-15) at No. 8 Rangeview (15-8), 7 p.m.

No. 4 Denver East (16-4), bye

No. 12 Douglas County (9-14) at No. 5 Fairview (15-8), 6 p.m.

No. 2 Thunder Ridge (17-6), bye

No. 10 Chatfield (7-16) AT No. 7 Legacy (9-14), TBA

No. 3 Pine Creek (21-2), bye

No. 11 Smoky Hill (5-18) at No. 6 Dakota Ridge (16-7), 7 p.m.

Rhonda Blandford-Green Region

No. 1 Regis Jesuit (21-2), bye

No. 9 Bear Creek (11-12) at No. 8 Rocky Mountain (9-14), 6:30 p.m.

No. 4 Brighton (17-6), bye

No. 12 Eaglecrest (5-18) at No. 5 Ralston Valley (18-5), TBA

No. 2 Lakewood (22-1), bye

No. 10 Mountain Range (8-15) at No. 7 Doherty (10-12), 7 p.m.

No. 3 Highlands Ranch (19-4), bye

No. 11 Montbello (12-11) at No. 6 Cherokee Trail (10-13), TBA

Kaye Garms Region

No. 1 Grandview (21-2), bye

No. 9 Loveland (11-12) at No. 8 Chaparral (9-14), 7 p.m.

No. 4 Horizon (18-5), bye

No. 12 Fruita Monument (10-13) at No. 5 Castle View (16-7), 7 p.m.

No. 2 Rampart (18-5), bye

No. 10 Gateway (12-11) at No. 7 George Washington (18-5), 7 p.m.

No. 3 Mountain Vista (19-4), bye

No. 11 Overland (8-15) at No. 6 Fort Collins (10-13), 6 p.m.

Alice Barron Region

No. 1 Cherry Creek (20-3), bye

No. 9 Columbine (11-12) at Littleton (14-9), 7 p.m.

No. 4 Rock Canyon (16-7), bye

No. 12 Liberty (8-15) at No. 5 Arapahoe (14-9), 7 p.m.

No. 2 Poudre (18-5), bye

No. 10 Standley Lake (9-13) at Legend (12-11), 7 p.m.

No. 3 Grand Junction (21-2), bye

No. 11 Westminster (12-11) at No. 6 Monarch (16-7), TBA


All first-round games Tuesday

Tracy Hill Region

No. 1 Broomfield (23-0), bye

No. 9 Rifle (10-11) at No. 8 Sierra (15-8), TBA

No. 4 Thomas Jefferson (9-14), bye

No. 12 Harrison (11-12) at No. 5 Pueblo East (14-8), 7 p.m.

No. 2 Glenwood Springs (22-1), bye

No. 10 Kennedy (12-11) at No. 7 Golden (12-11), TBA

No. 3 Palmer Ridge (20-3), bye

No. 11 Mountain View (8-15) at No. 6 Weld Central (16-7), TBA

Donald Wilson Region

No. 1 Mesa Ridge (23-0), bye

No. 9 Erie (12-11) at Greeley Central (13-10), 6:30 p.m.

No. 4 Longmont (17-6), bye

No. 12 Denver North (8-15) at No. 5 Berthoud (18-5), 6:30 p.m.

No. 2 D'Evelyn (19-4), bye

No. 10 Delta (9-13) at No. 7 Ca?n City (11-12), TBA

No. 3 Pueblo West (16-7), bye

No. 11 Niwot (7-16) at No. 6 Palisade (15-8), 6 p.m.

Tanya Haave Region

No. 1 Sand Creek (20-3), bye

No. 9 Conifer (12-11) at No. 8 Mead (14-9), 6:30 p.m.

No. 4 Windsor (18-5), bye

No. 12 Eagle Valley (12-10) at No. 5 Evergreen (15-8), 6 p.m.

No. 2 Valor Christian (20-3), bye

No. 10 Steamboat Springs (12-11) at No. 7 Falcon (11-12), 6 p.m.

No. 3 Silver Creek (18-5), bye

No. 11 Vista Peak Prep (12-11) at No. 6 Pueblo County (14-9), 7 p.m.

Carol Callan Region

No. 1 Pueblo South (21-2), bye

No. 9 Durango (9-12) at No. 8 Cheyenne Mountain (11-12), 5:30 p.m.

No. 4 Green Mountain (19-4), bye

No. 12 Fort Morgan (7-16) at No. 5 Thompson Valley (11-12), 7 p.m.

No. 2 Elizabeth (21-2), bye

No. 10 Widefield (11-12) at No. 7 Air Academy (12-10), 6 p.m.

No. 3 Mullen (13-10), bye

No. 11 Denver South (5-18) at No. 6 Montrose (15-8), 7 p.m.

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