Coaches heading into big seasons

Column by Jim Benton
Posted 11/19/19

It’s getting down to crunch time for the high school football playoffs just as the season for the winter sports teams is starting. Practice for boys and girls basketball, ice hockey, girls swimming …

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Coaches heading into big seasons


It’s getting down to crunch time for the high school football playoffs just as the season for the winter sports teams is starting.

Practice for boys and girls basketball, ice hockey, girls swimming and wrestling started Nov. 18, and the upcoming season will be meaningful for at least two basketball coaches.

Samantha Martin Gillmore is starting her second season as the head girls basketball coach at ThunderRidge, where she is starting to bring back the program to its prosperous past.

Brian Wood will be starting his first season as head boys basketball coach at Mountain Vista, taking over for his dad, Bob, who will slide over and be Brian’s assistant.

Between 2003-04 and 2015-16, ThunderRidge girls basketball teams averaged 19.3 wins a season and captured four 5A state championships. The Grizzlies then hit a dry spell with losing records of 10-15 and 9-15.

But in her first season as head coach after two seasons as an assistant, Gillmore launched ThunderRidge’s climb back to respectability with a 12-12 record last season.

“ThunderRidge has a great history,” said Gillmore “Something we are working real hard on is trying to get our community to come back and back ThunderRidge girls basketball. We’re trying to build our feeder program and we’ve built that up a little bit and added teams to it. I’m just trying to get girls to want to play for ThunderRidge basketball.”

Gillmore believes in and wants to create a culture of team bonding, positive competiveness in the gym, unselfish play, and playing hard with a family atmosphere

“When you rate these great cultures, winning is going to come,” said Gillmore. “This group we have with nine seniors is really close. They have taken on great leadership roles. One of our big things this year is: What is your legacy going to be? In a school as rich as ThunderRidge that has had all these huge successes, now it is our turn.

“I think this team is going to be real special.”

Brian Wood is in his 12th year at Mountain Vista, both as a basketball coach and AP calculus teacher.

“It’s been a real smooth transition, switching spots with my father, and he has been amazing in helping me through some of the new responsibilities while giving me some space to do thing my own way,” said Brian, who was a former standout player at Buena Vista while playing for his dad before joining the Vista program, where he has been an assistant for the past 11 seasons. “We had hoped we’d have the opportunity to make this switch when we started, so it’s pretty cool to see it come to fruition.”

Wood doesn’t plans to change much of the Vista style of fast-paced, high-pressure, high-scoring basketball, which will follow in the footsteps of his father, who won 198 games in 11 seasons at Vista’s head coach.

“You can expect many things to be the same this year and into the future as my dad and I have philosophies that are aligned,” said Brian. “We will play fast, high-pressure, and try to score a lot of points. We believe basketball should, at its core, be fun. With this group, you will see some new things, especially on offense, but that is more because of personnel, not so much because of me being head coach. Many of the changes I plan to implement won’t be seen by anymore outside the program because they are things we will do in practice or with team-building... If we work hard, I think we have a chance to be really good again.”

State record holder

Castle View senior volleyball player Leanne Lowry had 15 digs against Ralston Valley on Nov. 8 in what turned out to be the Sabercats’ final match of the season. Those 15 digs gave Lowry a career total of 2,177 digs, a new state career record, eclipsing the old mark of 2,174 set by Fruita Monument’s MacKenzie Wells, who played between from 2014-17.

Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at jbenton@coloradocommunitymedia.com or at 303-566-4083.


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