CLEARMONT — Adversity weaves its way into the sporting world in all shapes and sizes, and the Arvada-Clearmont High School basketball programs have seen the various forms of adversity this season.
“I think that dealing with adversity in Clearmont is sort of the nature of beast a little bit,” AC girls basketball head coach Sarah Walker said.
Whether it’s a significant injury or a bout of the flu or a senior starter moving away, the Panthers and Lady Panthers have had to endure and push forward.
During a game against Meeteetse Jan. 12, the AC girls saw a sight all too familiar. They watched standout Ashlynn Fennema wince in pain on the floor, grasping at her knee.
“Everyone in the gym felt it,” Walker said.
Fennema — who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee as a freshman — went down in a heap, but this time she was holding her left knee. Fennema had torn her ACL in her left knee, leaving the Lady Panthers heartbroken and in search of answers.
“I love playing with Ashlynn. She’s one of my best friends, so it was really hard to see her go down like that,” AC’s Kristin Klaahsen said. “It really broke my heart because I know how much she loves the sport and how much she loves our team.”
When Fennema went down, she was averaging a team-high 13.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. While her rebounding numbers would suggest a post-oriented position, Fennema was extremely versatile.
She had the ability to stretch the defense all the way out to the 3-point line, as Fennema connected on a team-best 38 percent of her shots from deep.
“We were just finding out our identity with Ashlynn being such a threat on the outside, but also being a big threat on the inside,” Walker said. “… So missing that piece we’ve had to figure out who can step into the role of not only the outside game she played, but who can step into the role of the inside game.”
The Lady Panthers didn’t truly have a player as versatile as Fenemma, so multiple players have had to step up and contribute. And they have.
Klaahsen and McKenna Auzqui, who both played large roles last season, have produced even more. Klaahsen averages 11 points per game to go alongside her team-best 3.5 assists per contest, while Auzqui adds 10.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.
Other players have assumed larger roles in Fennema’s absence, and the Lady Panthers haven’t missed a beat. AC lays claim to a 16-5 overall record and a perfect 7-0 mark in conference.
The Lady Panthers can claim their second consecutive conference crown at home Friday against Kaycee, which owns a 5-2 conference record.
The AC boys find themselves at the other end of the spectrum. The Panthers have just one win on the season (1-18) and reside at the bottom of the conference at 0-8.
“We’ve had a lot of adversity as a team,” AC’s Tanner Handy said. “A lot of people have been sick. I broke my ankle early in the year. The win-to-loss ratio is not where we want it. It is how it is. There’s not much you can do about it.”
Handy averages six points and a team-high 8.5 rebounds per game. He stands as the only senior on the team after fellow senior Mason Beam moved to Florida after seven games.
AC dealt with disappointment last season in a three-win campaign, and it hasn’t gotten any better this time around. The Panthers will face off against the Buckaroos Friday, looking to snap a 17-game losing streak.