Senior guards lead Warriors’ charge

Arapahoe is rebounding this year after losing seasons

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New Arapahoe boys basketball coach Troy Pachner doesn’t hesitate to point out that senior guards Bryson Stephens and Korey Hess have been the foundation for what has been a turnaround of the Warriors’ fortunes.

Arapahoe went into the holiday break with a 6-1 record, which matched last season’s win total. The Warriors have had five straight losing seasons and won only a combined 10 games the past two years.

And, this was a basketball program that averaged 20.6 wins a season over the eight previous campaigns.

“I needed buy-in from the senior group,” said Pachner, who resurfaced at Arapahoe after the past four seasons coaching at Valor Christian. “We have seven seniors. We had to get Bryson and Korey on the same page. From day one they have been supportive.

“They have been the foundation of our good start. We know it was time for Arapahoe to make a change and we needed to get back to being competitive. I feel revitalized after my last position. This has been really a great thing for me.”

Stephens, who averaged 13.6 points per game last season for the Warriors, has scored 17.7 points and averaged 4.4 rebounds, three assists and 2.9 steals a game in the first seven contests.

“I had better hopes because I knew we had a great coach coming in,” said the 6-foot-2 Stephens. “I had to be a leader for sure not only for the team but for the program to set the stage. We want to be a powerhouse program and bring that winning culture to the school.”

Hess, son of former Denver Nuggets trainer Steve Hess, missed all of last season with an ACL injury. In the initial seven games in the 2019-20 season, the 6-foot point guard has averaged 18.7 points, 3.1 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 2.6 steals.

“My expectations were to get better and grow the program,” said Hess. “The past two years have been tough, but we just want as senior leaders to turn the program around. I learned a whole bunch last season because I sat out. I saw the games from a whole different perspective. Coming back the game is slower. I see things I didn’t before. “

Pachner hailed both his guards.

“Having that combo of those two kids getting almost 40 points a night for us makes a big difference,” said Pachner. “Bryson is an incredible slash scorer. He can kind of score in multiple ways. He can shoot the ball but he is really outstanding going to the basket. He can finish with either hand. And he has come a long way as a defender.

“Korey grew up around the Nuggets and been exposed to some pretty high level basketball.”

Pachner knows his team still has work to do in the Centennial League.

“I believe we can make this a top five program in the state,” he admitted. “There are a lot of great kids and the community is super supportive. We have to get back to understanding what it is to be winners and what that takes. We have not won a lot of league games at this school in the last three years.

“We are having a great non-league schedule but our league play will really define where we are at. The seniors have been partners along with my staff in kind of rebranding the culture and our expectations. Our league will be a great challenge. It is like 14 state tournament games. We want to get to the point where that (playing in Centennial League) doesn’t keep us out of the state tournament. We need to be a competitive league team.”

Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at jbenton@coloradocommunitymedia.com or at 303-566-4083.

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