The last two state champions, Fleming and Holly, are both back in the field, looking for more hardware. This marks the fifth straight year that both squads of Wildcats have reached the Great 8. They will be joined by two more teams that made the field last year, Kit Carson and Ouray.
We look at all teams below and will follow the tournament with score updates and game recaps all three days of the tournament. The state quarterfinals on Thursday, semifinals on Friday and the championship and third place games on Saturday will all be shown at www.nfhsnetwork.com.
cond straight year, Holly begins the state tournament as the top overall seed. The Wildcats were upset last year by Shining Mountain in the semifinals, 63-59 in overtime. They would go on to beat Ouray in the third place game. Two years ago, Holly won the title as the #2 seed, beating Fleming, 33-32.
The Wildcats come in averaging 64 points a game and allowing just over 41 a contest. The Arkansas Valley and District 3 champions picked up an 81-42 victory over Genoa-Hugo last week in the regional finals. It was the fourth time this season that Holly scored at least 80 points in a game. Three of those have come in the last six games.
During the regular season, Yaniel Vidal led the team, scoring just under 21 points a game. The senior was also tops on the team in rebounding (8.6), assists (4.2) and steals (2.0). Fellow seniors Sigi Avalos (11,9 ppg) and Tack Neugebauer (8.2 ppg) round out the back court. That duo also combines for over six assists and 2.5 steals a game. Chandler Rushton,another senior guard, gives the team close to six points a night off the bench. Seniors Ricardo Juarez and Marshall Pierce, along with sophomore Kobe Davis, handle the inside portion of the offensive attack. That trio adds over 12 points and 14 boards each game.
Last year, the Trojans were the #3 seed, and they beat Rocky Mountain Lutheran, 71-54, in the quarterfinals. They lost a semifinal match-up with Fleming, 51-49. It was the second straight year that the Trojans lost to Fleming, as they were defeated 54-31 in the 2015 quarterfinals. That year, they made it to the consolation championship, eventually losing to South Baca.
Ouray had a five game winning streak snapped by North Park in the finals of the District 1 tournament, 49-42. The Trojans responded by downing the District 6 champion, Sangre de Cristo (44-40) in last week's Western Regional. That win avenged an early season loss to the Thunderbirds (64-24) which had been their only loss to a 1A opponent until the district loss to North Park.
Seniors Ravi Inmon, Brendon Olin and Lincoln Sackman have played large roles for the Trojans in their two previous state qualifying seasons, and this year has been no different. As of their most recent stat update, Inmon led the team in scoring at 19.6 points a game. Olin was third at 11.4 ppg, and Sackman was fourth at 10.2. Another senior, Kikito Meraz, is second on the squad at 11.6 ppg.
KIT CARSON (17-5)
The Wildcats lost in the quarterfinals last season, 45-34, to Shining Mountain. Kit Carson was the #5 seed in that match-up, and are one better this time around. They bounced back to beat Cheraw in the consolation semis, but dropped the conso championship game to Rocky Mountain Lutheran.
Kit Carson has won four straight games, avenging losses to Wiley and Cheyenne Wells in that stretch. The Wildcats lost to Wiley in the season-opener, but picked up a 53-46 victory over the Panthers in the regional final last week. They earned the District 2 title by beating Cheyenne Wells 45-39. A week earlier, the Tigers had defeated the Wildcats 41-28 to win the High Plains crown. During the regular season, the Wildcats dropped a pair of close contests against Holly, 47-39 and 39-33 in OT.
Jaxon Crawford is a well-rounded player for coach Jim Trahern. The senior averages 18.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and close to two steals a night. He has recorded a double-double in half of Kit Carson's games, and has drawn 17 charges. Fellow seniors Brad Johnson (9.6 ppg), Blake Dickey (7.8 ppg) and Trevor Medford (5.3 ppg), and sophomore William Hornung (5.3 ppg) provide Trahern with plenty of options on offense. Each averages between 4.3 and 6.1 rebounds a game, and Johnson hands out five assists a night.
LONGMONT CHRISTIAN (20-4)
Longmont Christian is making its first-ever state appearance, having won a Northeast Regional final over Flagler (65-54) after finishing third in District 4. The Warriors lost a district semifinal to Fleming (73-61) but responded to beat Weldon Valley (58-44) for third. Myron Huey's squad downed Arickaree/Woodlin 77-44 in the regional semifinals last week.
The Warriors have only lost once to a 1A opponent, and played 2A's #5 seed Highland to a four-point loss, 63-59. Their other losses were to 2A Dawson School (72-61) and 3A Battle Mountain (68-49). They are averaging over 68 points a game.
Luke Puchino leads the high-powered offense, scoring 20 points a game. The senior stuffs the stat sheet with 4.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.7 steals. Cameron Jauregui adds 13.1 points, 5.0 assists and 3.3 steals, while freshman Dominic Puchino contributes 12.7 points and 8.4 boards. Jackson Solem, the 4A state golf champion, is the fourth member of the squad in double figures, chipping in 10.4 points and five rebounds. Clayton Eldred leads the team with 5.3 assists, and he adds 3.3 steals.
FRONT RANGE BAPTIST (20-3)
Like Longmont Christian, Front Range Baptist is making its first-ever state appearance. The Falcons made a perfect run through the 5280 league and had not lost to an in-state opponent until the District 8 finals. Rocky Mountain Lutheran bumped them off, 43-36, costing them the #1 seed at regionals. Still, the Falcons made the most of their regional experience, beating Peetz 66-59 as the #2 seed.
The only other losses this season came in a tournament in Pensacola, FL. The Falcons dropped games to teams from West Virginia and Alabama in that competition. During the regular season, Front Range Baptist picked up three wins over teams that reached regional finals. Along with their win over Rocky Mountain Lutheran, the Falcons also beat Jim Elliot and state qualifier Creede/Lake City.
Noah Stein, who had 26 points in the regional win over Peetz, averages just over 15 points, 10 rebounds and almost four steals a contest. Adam Poole chips in 14.6 points, five rebounds, 3.4 assists and three steals, while Deric Woods gives the team just over 14 points, 10 boards and 2.1 blocks. Stephen Stallings (9.9 ppg) and Austin Bates (7.6 ppg) add depth to the offensive attack.
After losing a regional final to eventual state champion Caliche in 2012, Fleming started its current run of five consecutive tournament appearances as the #3 seed in 2013. That trip ended with a consolation championship. The Wildcats lost six seniors and their coach after that season, but the next season, a young squad won six of seven down the stretch to qualify for state with a 10-14 record. They would lose both games at state that year, but that group learned from the experience. In 2015, the Wildcats reached the championship game, losing to Holly by one point. Last year, they won it all.
This year's squad enters the tournament on a six-game winning streak. The Wildcats finished third in the North Central League, but got hot and won the District 4 title, beating Peetz 53-52 in the finals. That was followed by wins over Jim Elliot and Rocky Mountain Lutheran in the Northeast Regional last week.
Fleming does not report individual stats, but they are led by seniors Jaxon King and Alex Vandenbark. King is a former Player of the Year who scored 20 points in both regional games. Vandenbark got hot in the district semifinal win over Longmont Christian, carrying the team when King got into foul trouble. Both have signed to play college football, King at Chadron State and Vandenbark at Colorado School of Mines. Matthew Tanner and Anthony Lousberg provide production on the perimeter, while Paul Asfeld and Brandon Williams are the main interior threats.
CHEYENNE WELLS (20-2)
The Tigers split two games with state qualifier Kit Carson this year, and lost a 60-50 decision to #1 Holly. Cheyenne Wells won 15 straight to start the season before suffering the loss to Holly, and then won its next four following that defeat. Matt Roberts' squad has shown the ability to win playing uptempo and in slow grinders.
This is the first appearance for the Tigers since 2014, Roberts' second at the helm. Cheyenne Wells downed Norwood in the opener (52-44) before falling to eventual champion Hi-Plains (59-51) in the semis. The Tigers took home third place hardware by beating McClave 51-45. Current seniors Kendall Pelton and Dace Ball (injured) played significant minutes for that squad, while Peyton Halde and Craig Smith saw some action as reserves.
Pelton, who missed the first five games of the season after suffering an injury late in the 6-man title game, is the only member of this year's squad in double figures, averaging 16.4 points, to go with 7.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Halde adds nine points and close to five boards, while Beau Roth pitches in eight points and three steals. Smith, and fellow senior Jaime Huerta, both add six points. Quade Pelton and Wyatt Fishler combine for another 10 points a game. Ball has missed the entire season, as he also suffered an injury in the football championship game.
By upsetting Primero, the top seed in the District 6 tournament, Creede/Lake City guaranteed itself a shot at regionals. Despite falling to Sangre de Cristo (47-21) in the district finals, the Miners punched their ticket to state with a 57-51 victory over North Park in the Western Regional. The Miners had won four straight prior to the loss to Sangre. Creede/Lake City faced one state qualifier during the regular season, falling 70-42 against Front Range Baptist in the opening weekend.
This is the first appearance for the program since 2010. That year, the Miners lost to Ouray and Eads. They finished the campaign 19-4, and capped a five-year run that included 86 wins.
The Miners are one of the few teams that don't rely heavily on seniors. In fact, Robert Koets' team only has two on the roster. Their top eight scorers are underclassmen, led by junior Isaac Borchers (16 points, nine rebounds) and sophomore Casper Freedle (12 ppg). Colter Simon, another sophomore, chips in 8.4 points and 9.5 rebounds. As a team, the Miners average 16 steals, 63rd in the nation.