AURORA - Chaparral is starting to get its swagger back.
The defending Class 5A boys state basketball champions got off to a slow start this season after seeing 74 percent of their scoring from last season lost because of graduation.
Chaparral lost four of its first six games but the Wolverines returned from the holiday break and notched a 61-47 non-league victory over Aurora Hinkley in the Thunderbirds’ gym.
The win improved Chaparral’s record to 6-5 and the Wolverines will need all the swagger they can muster since they faced top-ranked Denver East last night (Jan. 9) before opening Continental League play Jan. 18 at Highlands Ranch.
“We knew we were young and had a lot of new faces,” Chaparral coach Rob Johnson said. “We had a slow start. We played some good teams close. It was probably good for us because we responded.
“Our two sophomore starters (Jake Holtzmann and Chris Moody) have learned to be more efficient. As a team we started defending. We had some good wins against Rangeview and Lewis Palmer before the break. That was really good for our confidence and swagger.”
Another reason for the Wolverines confidence is the play of Brandon Malone, a 6-foot junior who started last season on the Wolverines championship team.
“He’s definitely our guy,” said Johnson. “He’s our playmaker. He does everything.
“He’ll continue to guard the other team’s best player. He’s kind of what we need to be successful.”
Malone leads the team with a 19.3 scoring average after 11 games.
He’s made 26 3-point field goals, leads the team with 2.3 assists per game and has a team high 17 steals.
“I can improve on everything,” said Malone.
“You need to get better during the season. I think we’re coming together as a team. Everything is going good, practices are going good and everybody is there for each other.”
Malone had 21 points against Aurora Hinkley but it took a big fourth quarter when Chaparral outscored Hinkley 19-8 to put away the Thunderbirds.
The 6-foot-5 Holtzmann, who is averaging 11.7 points and 7.5 rebounds, had 20 points against the Thunderbirds and 6-5 senior Mitch Parsons added 10 points.
Moody, another 6-5 forward, is scoring at an 11.5 clip this season with 7.5 rebounds a game.
He had six points and a team-high 10 rebounds in the victory over Aurora Hinkley.
“We’re pretty close to where we want to be but we have a ways to go,” Johnson said. “We’re excited. If we get more production from the bench, that will give guys like Brandon a little more of a break.”