New Eagles coach leads young team

Rogers takes over Heritage girls basketball after years as assistant

Heritage senior Bethany Stuhlman drives to the hoop against a Cherokee Trail defender during the Dec. 20 consolation bracket game at the Heritage Memorial Hoopla Girls Basketball Tournament. Stuhlman made the basket and led the Eagles with 13 points but Cherokee Trail won the game, 70-38.
Players listen to Heritage High School girls basketball coach Stephanie Rogers detail a play she wants them to run. The first-year coach’s instruction came during a timeout in the Dec. 20 game against Cherokee Trail that was part of the Heritage Memorial Hoopla Girls Basketball Tournament. Cherokee Trail won the game.
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Heritage head girls basketball coach Stephanie Rogers worked with her players either individually or as part of the whole team, as the Eagles battled, but fell to Cherokee Trail Dec. 20 in the Heritage Memorial Hoopla Girls Basketball Tournament.

“We are a young team with two freshmen on the floor at times,” Rogers said after the 70-38 loss. “I am introducing the girls to some changes in how we play basketball. The girls are working hard and they are getting better.”

Statistics for the first five games show Bethany Stuhlman, the team’s only senior, has helped out with 45 points, is the leading rebounder with 36, and has 10 steals.

The freshman contributions also have been reflected early on. Haily Cechini has scored a team-high 47 points, has 17 rebounds and has made 10 steals, while fellow freshman Amanda Brenner has scored 28 points and hauled down 23 rebounds.

Following a nine-point loss to Montbello and the game with Cherokee Trail, Heritage played Gateway for seventh place in the tournament. The score for the Heritage-Gateway game has not been reported or posted on either school’s web site. After the holiday break, the Eagles return to action Jan. 4 at home against Doherty.

Against Cherokee Trail, Heritage struggled against the Cougars’ aggressive, pressing defense and fell behind 14-3 at the end of the first quarter. While Cherokee Trail went on to win by 32, Rogers said she was pleased the Eagles didn’t quit battling and working to put points on the scoreboard.

“It was a plus that the girls ignored the scoreboard and kept working to play good basketball,” she said. “I feel it helps the girls believe they can be competitive in every game we play. The fact we played and battled hard in this game are building blocks we can use to improve this season and in the future.”

Rogers said the team graduated four seniors last year so this year’s team is young and she looks on this as a rebuilding season.

“I coached junior varsity last season so I know the girls pretty well,” Rogers said. “We are trying to change to a motion offense plus play better defense so these are new things to learn.

“We don’t have girls with a lot of basketball experience and we don’t have a lot of height but this is a great group of girls who are working hard to play better basketball. Looking ahead, we do have good young players in our system so the future of the program looks strong.”

Rogers smiled and said being a head coach brings added responsibilities in addition to coaching basketball. “As head coach, you have to make sure everything is going well at all levels of the program while still spending the needed amount of time coaching the varsity girls,” she said.

The coach said basketball has always been her sport. She played three seasons at Thomas Jefferson before moving to Heritage for her senior season. She then attended Santa Clara College in California and played basketball for the Broncos.

After graduation, she returned to the Denver area, coached freshman girls basketball for one season at Mullen before becoming an assistant girls basketball coach at Heritage in the 2001-02 season.

“It is cool to be coaching at my alma mater,” Rogers said. “Since I have been in the program for 11 years, I am familiar with the facilities and with the community. It is great to be able to give back to the school that helped me with my basketball career.”

She said she tries to work with the high school players, plus stay in touch with the Littleton middle schools playing girls basketball as well as some of the girls who play in the Gold Crown program outside of school.

“We run a voluntary workout program in the spring and then are pretty busy in the month of June,” Rogers said. “We are in a summer league and we plan to go to a couple of team camps that month. We have open gym sessions in July that are voluntary.”