By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff
The first Brenda Patch Tournament in 1987, a year after 16-year-old Brenda and her mother, Loretta, were killed in a car accident on Thanksgiving Day, was a solemn affair.
“It was devastating for the community, and it was a way to kind of keep her memory alive,” recalled Larry Williams, who was an assistant basketball coach for the girls at the time and now coaches the boys’ team. “I knew Brenda, so I know what a special person she was,” he added.
As the school prepares to host the 30th event, many of the key players on and off the court won’t have that personal connection, but that won’t stop her memory from going on.
For one thing, the gate proceeds will go towards scholarships for Roaring Fork kids — Hayden Bernot, Aldo Pinela and Jasmine Lopez were last year’s beneficiaries.
For another, junior Kendall Bernot will be representing #33 in her aunt’s place.
“One of the best things is to wear her jersey in her tournament. It makes me really want to push myself and show how I’ve grown,” she said. “I didn’t know my aunt Brenda, but I have the stories about what great a student athlete she was. She’s really my role model and I want to be as good as she was on and off the court.”
For Athletic Director and Girls’ Coach Jade Bath, a former Ram who “basically grew up in the Roaring Fork Gym” it’s the perfect start to the season.
“We play teams we normally wouldn’t,” she said. “By the time we dive into league play we’ve had a chance to kinda figure things out.”
Of course, some of that momentum gets lost over holiday break, but it’s still a chance for the team to figure out how to work together. The potential for a seamless group dynamic on both offense and defense as well as the nonstop action is really what sets the sport aside for Bath.
“It’s a really new team, but the girls coming up from JV are ready,” she said. If we can get them clicking together and figuring out their roles, it’s gonna be fun to watch.”
They have a proud heritage to live up to. Some of Brenda’s teammates had been part of the 1984 state champion season, while others would go on to kick off what became known as the “threepeat” — back to back to back state titles in ’89, ’90 and ’91.
The boys have had their share of glory days, and are an important part of the mix as well.
“There’s a great chemistry between the programs,” Bath said. “We travel together and play together.”
And Williams thinks the team has a pretty good chance of improving on last year’s performance, which ended with a two point loss in the Sweet Sixteen. Three of those starters will return, though there’s not a lot of varsity experience beyond that.
“Our focus needs to improve, but we’re pretty athletic and we have a bunch of gym rats,” he said.
Thursday, Nov. 30
Basalt vs. Coal Ridge (Girls JV) 3 p.m.
Coal Ridge vs. Basalt (Boys JV) 4:30 p.m.
RFHS vs. Rifle (Girls JV) 6 p.m.
RFHS vs. Rifle (Boys JV) 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 1
Rifle vs. Durango (Girls V) 3 p.m.
Rifle vs. Ponderosa (Boys V) 4:30 p.m.
RFHS vs. Steamboat (Girls V) 6 p.m.
RFHS vs. Steamboat (Boys V) 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 2
Rifle vs. Basalt (Boys JV) 9 a.m.
Basalt vs. Rifle (Girls JV) 10:30 a.m.
Durango vs. Steamboat (Girls V) 12 p.m.
Steamboat vs. Ponderosa (Boys V) 1:30 p.m.
RFHS vs. Cedaredge (Girls JV) 3 p.m.
RFHS vs. Cedaredge (Boys JV) 4:30 p.m.
RFHS vs. Rifle (Girls V) 6 p.m.
RFHS vs. Rifle (Boys V) 7:30 p.m.