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Bulldogs defend turf, win league on Senior Night

Dove Creek seniors Kylie (34) and Kalie (33) Gatlin and Halee Beanland (23) enjoy an inside joke while awaiting the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Feb. 12.Joel Priest/Special to The Journal
Dove Creek Class of 2024 continues legacy of dominance

DOVE CREEK – The Dawg House is more than a home court advantage – it’s a fortress.

For the past four-plus seasons, no one has been able to step onto the Dove Creek girls’ basketball court and walk away with a victory. Few have even come close.

In their Monday night celebration of Senior Night, the Bulldogs continued to cement an already-ironclad legacy, officially capturing their fourth straight San Juan Basin League crown, while also posting their eye-popping 36th consecutive win on their home floor. Their 64-16 thumping of Telluride served as a victory lap on a night where the Bulldogs held a small pregame ceremony to honor their three seniors, who have full intentions of making sure that their final home game won’t come until March.

“We don’t feel like it’s OK for other people to win on our court,” said senior Halee Beanland. “And we want to keep it going – we don’t want let it go after this year.”

Looking ahead at the district tournament on Feb. 23-24, the Bulldogs will hold the top seed when they travel to Olathe, where a district title would entitle the Bulldogs to host a 1A regional site.

Dove Creek coach Julie Kibel congratulates seniors Halee Beanland (23) and Kalie Gatlin (33) on Senior/Parent Appreciation Day after the Bulldogs defeated Telluride on Feb. 12. Joel Priest/Special to The Journal

The three seniors – Kalie and Kylie Gatlin, and Beanland – have formed the backbone of a program that has posted a record of 72-9 in their four seasons under head coach Julie Kibel, a run that has included back-to-back trips to the 1A state tournament.

Their latest ongoing ambition, the home winning streak that dates to January 2020, shows signs of the resilience of the program, even as they’ve had a target on their backs the entire stretch. Extending the streak to 38 straight would mean they’re on their way to a third consecutive trip to Greeley.

“I love the grit of this team – even if we have a letdown, we just keep going,” said Beanland. “We’re so driven to do all the things that will get us ready for the next play.”

The Gatlin twins undoubtedly have been the focal point of every scouting report – and for good reason. Kylie tops the league in scoring average while Kalie, like she did on the volleyball court, leads the team in assists. Yet, it’s the balance of the Bulldogs that make them so dangerous.

Junior Ralynn Hickman is averaging double figures, while sophomores Taylor Hampton and Hadley Hatfield have upped their scoring prowess throughout the season. Hampton matched a career-high 16 points against the Miners, just two days after Hatfield boasted a career-high 12 points against Dolores.

“We’ve spent so much time together, now it’s like we’re a family, rather than just a team,” added Beanland. “Tt’s exciting for me to be able to be with these girls.”

Beanland, meanwhile, does just about everything else for Kibel’s squad, providing sturdy defense and rebounding – and just like every teammate, is encouraged to look to score. “I was told before the season that I was going to have to step up,” said Beanland, who played junior varsity last year, “and I’ve been so excited to take on this new role.”

The road back to the promised land requires the Bulldogs head through Nucla for their final regular season game on Friday, Feb. 16, before making the trip to Olathe for the 1A District 1 tournament. If all goes to plan, the Bulldogs would find themselves back on their home floor to host another regional on March 1-2.