SILVERTON – To play high school basketball in Silverton, expect to play with the opposite sex. Your coach will be the county assessor. Be aware that your final game of the season may be canceled because your opponent doesn’t want to make the drive.
The Silverton High School Miners basketball team was resurrected in 2012 after the gym was refurbished with a state grant. The school had not fielded a basketball team for a decade. When head coach Dan Salazar tested the shorts used by the old team, the elastic crumbled. So the team raised money for new uniforms.
Silverton enrolls only 15 pupils in grades 9-12. So the only way to have a basketball team was to combine the genders. The Miners field a roster of eight, including five boys and three girls.
“There are some unique challenges,” Salazar said. “The boys are scared to play against the girls’ teams. The girls face some unique challenges in that they have to play against boys who are sometimes very aggressive.”
The Miners don’t belong to a league, having lost recognition from the Colorado High School Activities Association in the early 2000s. If all goes well, Salazar plans to apply for reinstatement in two years. The Miners would join the San Juan Basin League.
This season, the Miners compiled a 3-8 record against boys and girls teams from Ignacio, Ouray, Mancos, Dolores and Grand Junction. Only senior Will Custer, the team’s tallest player at 6 feet 3 inches, had previously played organized basketball.
“It is starting from scratch,” said Salazar. “It’s how do you pass? How do you shoot? How do you dribble? Then it’s how do you run an offense? How do you run a defense?”
Salazar said other coaches and administrators have been accommodating, but it’s difficult to schedule games with one team while other schools have four – boys varsity and junior varsity, and girls varsity and JV.
The Miners practice four days a week. On Fridays, they ski at Purgatory – something about “expeditionary learning.”
At practice Tuesday, the team started off running the length of the court while dribbling. Pass-and-shoot drills and rebounding drills followed.
During one drill, Will knocked Alexis Gallegos, a freshman, to the ground while pursuing a rebound. He offered a helping hand up, but she shot back to her feet on her own.
Alexis, 15, said playing against boys makes the victories more meaningful.
“It’s intimidating because they are so much bigger than me, but at the same time, it does feel great when we win,” she said.
Hannah DeKay agreed. Also a freshman, Hannah is the youngest member of the team at 14.
“It’s fun because if we win it’s like, Ha! We beat you,” she said.
Talitha Gallegos, a 16-year-old sophomore, said playing with and against boys heightens the competition. “It makes us want to push ourselves,” she said.
Salazar said the boys sometimes are reluctant to get physical while defending the girls.
“They’re hesitant,” he said. “They don’t want to get in there. They’re scared to touch them. It’s kind of funny.”
Will admitted playing against girls was “a little different.”
The Miners were practicing for their final game of the season Saturday against Caprock Academy, a small charter school in Grand Junction. Unfortunately, the game was canceled Thursday because of Caprock’s concerns about the weather forecast and driving over mountain passes.
Practice on Tuesday ended with the team running stairs in the school – some of them had missed practice the day before. Salazar gathered them around in a huddle in the school’s hallway.
“There’s no reason to stop now, when there’s only a week left,” he said.
Salazar told the players they have a chance to leave a legacy in Silverton.
“Do you want it to mean something that you were here and you started this and helped build it?” he said.
The players answered with a resounding “yes.”
The team loses two seniors going into next season, but they will be replaced by two eighth-graders, Salazar said.
“We had a good year,” he said.