After title heartbreak, Vanguard’s star leads march back to Denver

View original KKTV article here.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Vanguard High School seniors are ready to re-write last year’s agonizing loss in the 3A state title game.

“All they’ve been talking about is getting back,” head coach Joe Wetters said.

Nearly a year removed from an 80-68 championship defeat to Manual, the Coursers have a re-loaded roster with experienced seniors and promising underclassmen. Leading the charge is guard Dominique Clifford, one of the top-ranked high school prospects in the state of Colorado.

“We have the experience now from doing it last year,” Clifford said Thursday at practice. “We talk about just playing hard every game, taking every game seriously. We just have to stay focused mentally, up until we get to playoffs where every game is goring to be tough.”

Clifford and the Coursers have locked in early, starting the season 11-1 with a 7-0 league record at the midpoint of the year. Part of Vanguard’s success is the chemistry in the starting lineup. Point guard Joe Padilla grew up with Clifford, and the two players know each other’s tendencies from their years of experience.

I’ve known [Clifford] since kindergarten,” Padilla said. “He’s my best friend.”

They can read each other’s minds,” coach Wetters says. “They can give each other that brotherly love. I think they look to each other in times of frustration or stress, and they can see that…’you know we’ll get through this, we’ve been doing this since we’ve 5 years old.'”

Clifford is already committed to play collegiate basketball at Colorado, but his focus is on ending his high school career back in Denver, with a different trophy in his hand.

“I have business to take care of first. But I think I’m ready to play at that level.”

The Coursers next game is at Florence High School on Friday, Jan. 31st.