Irreplaceable and unbreakable: Carolyn Esh aiding LCS’ sparse roster with resilient play

By EDDIE HERZ | eherz@prairiemountainmedia.com

The senior is averaging 17 points while never taking a break from the action

Each night when the Loveland Classical girls basketball team tips off, Carolyn Esh instantaneously accepts responsibilities as a heavily relied-on scorer.

There are no exceptions. If the senior isn’t on her game offensively, the Lions don’t come out on top. Aware of her pivotal impact, the four-year starter begins attacking opposing defenses in various ways from the beginning of every match to the moment the final buzzer sounds.

Pouring in 48 percent of the Lions’ average total with 17 points per contest, 2A’s sixth-leading scorer certainly represents an irreplaceable asset on head coach Justin King’s squad.

“Carolyn has been our most productive player point-wise over the last four years,” King said. “She can shoot the lights out, she’s a deep threat and she’s aggressive offensively. So, she has no problem going to the basket and either drawing a foul or finishing.”

The guard’s lights-out stroke from 3-point range coupled with her knack for putting the ball on the floor and driving to the lane makes her a threat which LCS’ competition has yet to contain this season –– or in previous years for that matter.

Considering the importance of her contributions, giving Esh a break every so often to keep her performance at peak level would serve the Lions beneficially.

However, Esh taking a breather will never be an option as LCS possesses as depleted of a bench as imaginable. Currently, the Lions boast just a seven-player rotation while managing to stay afloat this year –– standing at 6-6 having won four of their last five games overall.

One may ask how in the world LCS has maintained competitiveness despite its substantial lack of depth. Well, a significant reason pertains to Esh’s ability to not only play for all 32 minutes, but to rise above fatigue and consistently execute through the pain.

“The first eight or nine games of the season, I didn’t get subbed out once,” Esh said. “So, I definitely understand how to play full games.”

Her capacity to dominate late in games while experiencing exhaustion surely relates to her elite physique. From working out extra to preserving a healthy diet, Esh guarantees physical shape that grants necessary endurance to overcome the challenge at hand.

Even more so, the senior’s steady, quarter-by-quarter success is a product of her resilient mentality. No matter how she feels on the court, Esh stays locked in.

Evidently, the guard’s invaluable significance to the Lions is a result of her mental indestructibility. In other words, Esh is prosperous to such an extent because she’s simply unbreakable.

“It’s tough to go four quarters at full blast, and we have them man-to-man pressing,” King said. “So, you can tell she physically gets tired. But mentally, she never really breaks. She’s always capable of making the next great play because, mentally, she knows where she needs to be on the court.”

Though the circumstance isn’t ideal, Esh sees the bright side in LCS’ sparse roster.

Struggles, either minimal or substantial, obviously arise for the Lions throughout every clash. Instead of finding a place on the bench when a miscue occurs, LCS players typically must remain on the hardwood and conquer the issue –– which the senior believes is a crucial enabler of growth for both her and the Lions as a whole.

LOVELAND, CO – JANUARY 20, 2020: Loveland Classical High School basketball player Carolyn Esh runs through a drill Friday, Jan. 20, 2020, during practice at the school in Loveland. (Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

The constant grind each athlete has simultaneously experienced this season has also vastly improved the group’s chemistry. More than ever before, the Lions are truly in it together –– making Esh’s senior campaign the most enjoyable of her high school career.

“We are definitely more fatigued. But being able to play entire games, you get to work through things that before you would have just been put on the bench for,” Esh said. “You just have to keep pushing. We’ve gotten a lot closer through that. So, this year has probably been my favorite just because we’ve drawn closer as a team.”

Adding to why Esh’s conclusive stint marks a uniquely special one, the senior has visibly evolved her sense of selflessness.

As apparent by now, the senior rightfully still shoots and frequently looks to score during the action. However, Esh has consciously enhanced her willingness to facilitate and create opportunities for others –– such as junior Paige Miller, who is operating as an efficient second option to Esh offensively with her eight-point average.

Upon becoming a complete contributor, Esh’s 1.6 assists per game lead the Lions. Comparing past years, it used to be all about Esh. Now, she’s learned how focusing on getting her teammates involved is the way to go.

“I feel like this year, it’s honestly been helping me more even in scoring to rely on teammates and trusting the coaches and the offense,” Esh said. “I still do put a lot of the load on myself, but I feel like it has gotten lighter.”

“This year, she’s taken on the role of facilitating more of the offense,” King said. “She definitely has gone from a score-first mentality, which is what we needed in years past, to facilitate and get other players involved –– which has helped round out the scoring.”

Additionally, Esh’s expanded list of priorities includes maturing into an admirable vocal leader and a team captain who always strives to set the best example in all phases.

Beyond her proficient expertise with the ball in her hand, the guard sets LCS’ defensive tone. Utilizing exemplary energy in the Lions’ full-court pressure, Esh deploys fierce intensity that fellow Lions follow amid averaging 3.4 steals per game.

“She’s aggressive and a confident player,” King said. “That goes a long way to her taking the lead on defense and trying to make things happen throughout the game in all facets.”

As for the senior’s verbal mentorship, when the going gets tough for the seven-girl bunch, Esh speaks out and attempts to guide LCS over the hump in unison.

Though she has a few individual objectives to settle –– like entering the prestigious 1,000-career points realm –– acting in the Lions’ overall interest will come first down the stretch while LCS aims at its second consecutive postseason run.

“I definitely wanted to be a better leader this year and include everyone, not try to do everything by myself,” Esh said. “Because, in previous years, I wanted it to be all about me, and that shouldn’t be the focus. So, I tried to focus on more team goals, like making it to the playoffs and going a little ways in that.”