When walking into the Cheyenne Mountain gym as the girls’ basketball team is warming up, one question comes to mind — where are all the players?
Wednesday, Cheyenne Mountain was without two of its starters and had just five varsity players warming up before a 5A/4A PPAC game against Air Academy.
Thankfully for the Indians, JV players trickled in after tipoff to load up the bench, but it didn’t help Cheyenne Mountain’s nerves against a big, speedy Air Academy squad.
“I think we were second-guessing ourselves before the game even started,” said Cheyenne Mountain senior Selena Vargas after a 56-43 loss to Air Academy.
The Indians have just 14 players to fill the varsity and JV squads after 16 girls tried out for the team.
But first-year coach Kimberly Spellman and her husband Robert are trying to change that.
“From what I understand they don’t field a lot of girls out here so I am trying to change that culture,” Spellman said. “(My husband and I) have a ton of background in basketball — more years than I’d care to admit — so we’re trying to build a legacy, and it’s starting now.”
Kimberly and Robert run the girls varsity and JV programs, respectively, and have coached a travel team, Wreaking Havoc, for five years. They hope that more consistency and players coming up through the travel program will help increase the program’s numbers.
“We have a long-term plan,” Spellman said. “We want to go out into the community and meet some of the seventh- and eighth-graders and get them interested now and not later.”
The Cheyenne Mountain girls’ basketball program has filtered through a new coach in each of Vargas’ four years on varsity, but she said Spellman’s introduction has been the easiest.
“We’re kind of used to having to transition and it’s kind of normal for us to have to learn new plays and restart each year,” Vargas said. “I feel like everything is more consistent than we have had in the past with practices and drills and stuff. They’re definitely trying to implant something to get everyone involved. It has been a little easier this year than in the past so hopefully we can stick with this for years to come.”
Despite being without a pair of top-scoring starters for two games, the Indians are 9-4 — marking the program’s best start since 2011.
“I think the girls have done the besCheyt that they can with the new system and they have a positive attitude,” Spellman said.
Senior Katelynn Ralston and freshman Alena San Augustin, who average a combined 25.3 points per game, were out against Air Academy and in last week’s one-point win over Palmer Ridge.
Spellman said she hopes both will be back playing limited minutes Friday against Falcon.
In their absence Vargas tried to set a positive example, especially for the JV players subbing in.
“I tried to uplift our team as much as possible, especially with two of our starters out, so it is hard. I feel like next time we need to come out with a more positive mindset,” Vargas said.
She led the Indians with 17 points, followed by sophomore Lannon Hanson and senior Megan Stein with nine each.
Air Academy was led by Kylee Blacksten with 18 points and Annie Louthan had 13.