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Fleming, Cheyenne Mountain start from scratch
Jennifer Fleming once enjoyed great success while on the sidelines in the Doherty gym. As an assistant girls’ basketball coach from 2000-02, she helped the Spartans to berths in back-to-back 5A title games.
On Friday, she walked up and down those same sidelines as first-year head coach for Cheyenne Mountain, but with much different prospects. She managed a smile, despite knowing the daunting and challenging task ahead of rebuilding a proud team from scratch.
Upon being hired to replace Janie Mueller, who retired following last year’s 16-9 season that ended in the second round of the 4A state playoffs, Fleming inherited a team with no returning starters, and just four players back who scored a combined 39 points last year.
The Indians are taking their lumps. They’ve lost their first three games by scores of 57-27, 81-18 and, most recently, 82-27 to Mesa Ridge on Friday.
“Every game is a new experience for us,” said Fleming, a former UCCS assistant coach who also was head coach at the University of Dallas from 2007-10. “In our first game, we didn’t know how to do introductions, and at halftime, we didn’t know you went to the locker room. It’s all those little things that come with game experience and getting that basketball IQ."
Fleming isn’t new to rebuilding projects. In her first season at Dallas, her team that included 10 freshmen set the school record for most wins in a season. The improvement continued, resetting that mark two seasons later and watching the Crusaders lose a heartbreaker in their conference championship game.
Now amid the growing pains as a first-year high school coach, Fleming already has observed steady improvement, and more importantly, leadership. Freshman Anna Hortik scored 19 of her team’s 27 points on Friday, also grabbing nine rebounds and giving her team a spark with her hustle and constant encouragement.
Not looking at certain parts of the gym help team morale, too.
“I never look at the scoreboard,” Hortik said. “We know we’re nowhere close where we need to be, but we’re all starting from ground zero. It can be really frustrating, but we’re doing our best to take it step by step and game by game.”