Record-wise, Delta's Panthers weren't the shining jewel in the basketball display case with its 13-11 overall record. The Panthers did finish fourth (6-3) in a highly competitive 3A WSL conference which landed five teams in last year's state tournament. Coal Ridge, seeded seventh at state, finished as the league champion (8-1 and 18-6) with Basalt, seeded ninth at state, (8-1 and 21-4) placing second and Roaring Fork, seeded 18th at state, (7-2 and 18-6) finishing third. Grand Valley also made the state tournament, seeded 30th, with its 5-4 and 10-11 overall record.
The Panthers took their state-bound 28th seeded team to Bayfield for opening round play in a hostile environment. A 20-plus point lead going to the final period ended in a 78-75 victory for Delta sending the Panthers to the Sweet 16 to play Alamosa (seeded 12th). A 50-38 loss eliminated Delta from the state playoffs.
Basalt advanced the farthest with wins in its first two games before losing to number one Kent Denver in Great 8 play.
In 2017, Delta has a new coach at the reins who begins his 25th season of basketball coaching at Delta High School. Rob Ames, the boys freshman coach for the past 24 years, has a talented core of players which wants to be league champions and play in the state tournament.
Ames will be joined by assistant coach Matt Hamm (15th season overall-JV and varsity) at the junior varsity level and Matt Cano (first season) as the freshman coach.
The Panthers practice 35 players, freshman through seniors.
Though Ames is reluctant to name players who might be key to the Panthers' success, there are several athletes standing in the limelight. Seniors Jaspar Carmichael and Logan Freed head the list based on time on the court last season and their contributions. Carmichael is the team's returning scorer with 11.5 points per game, 2.1 assists per game and nearly four rebounds each game. Freed scored at a clip of eight points per game a year ago with an ability to top that this season.
Senior Dylan Hollenbeck will be a force on the boards with nearly five rebounds a game a year ago and is more savvy and physical this season. Junior Jonathan Robinson scored at a 9.7 clip a year ago and snagged nearly seven rebounds a game for the Panthers.
Junior, Andrew Baier, will be yet another force on the inside for Delta with size and strength to dominate in the rebounding department. He is also a scoring threat around the rim.
Joe Bules' work ethic inside will also pay dividends for the Panthers this season. The big junior can rebound with the best.
Delta's perimeter players are quick and possess a willingness to shoot. Look for John Ames (JR) and Eli Farmer (JR) to compliment the Panthers attack with sophomores Alex Fausto and Felipe Bedoy adding to the mix.
Like most coaches in the league, Coal Ridge seems to be the top contender in 2017-18. Ames sees the Titans as, "the class of a solid league."
Delta opens its season with a non-conference game against Hotchkiss on Dec. 5 in Delta. Varsity action begins at 6 p.m. with girls action and the boys take the floor at 7:30 p.m. The Panthers are in Basalt on Dec. 7 for games beginning at 5:30 and 7 p.m.
Next week's schedule has Olathe visiting Delta on Dec. 12 for games at 6 and 7:30 p.m.
The annual First Colorado National Bank tournament takes place on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 15 and 16.
Cedaredge and Hotchkiss' girls take the floor at 3 p.m. on Friday; Cedaredge and Hotchkiss' boys play at 4:30 p.m.; Delta and Paonia's girls tipoff at 6 p.m. and Delta and Paonia's boys have the nightcap at 7 p.m.