BOYS BASKETBALL: Weekend Preview
Nearly every classification has a top ten battle on the slate this weekend where the results will directly impact conference championships. Mountain Vista and Thunder Ridge clash for the 5A Continental lead, Lewis Palmer and Cheyenne Mountain battle for second in the 4A Pikes Peak and McClave and Cheyenne Wells square off for the 1A High Plains championship. Those are just three of the top matchups on the docket and we preview the weekend below.
Please note that Colorado Preps will not be producing the Built Ford Tough Scoreboard Show this weekend as we recover from surgery back on Monday. The network will still provide results from all the games throughout the night on the website and those scores will be available inside another story.
After scoring a huge road win at Regis last week, Mountain Vista now looks to take complete control of the Continental chase when they host ThunderRidge on Friday. The Golden Eagles and Grizzlies are both 6-0 in league play and while the winner takes sole possession of the lead, if that team is Mountain Vista then the Golden Eagles would have victories over their top two challengers. Elijah Valdez (17.1), Jake Pemberton (16.6) and Michael Carter (12.1) provide Mountain Vista with a potent and balanced offensive attack that keeps opponents guessing who will take the shot. ThunderRidge, which has won seven in a row, also features three double digit scorers in Zach Rusk (17.2), Joe Marucci (13.8) and Peter Howell (10.9). The Grizzlies and Regis collide next Friday so the next eight days should determine which team ends up with the conference crown. Prairie View is only 1-5 in the East Metro but they try to play the role of spoiler and score a second win in three tries against arch-rival Brighton. The Thunderhawks surprised Brighton 61-43 in their first meeting but lost a 63-44 decision in the second contest. Tonight’s game is the rubber match and will help determine if the Bulldogs can challenge for the conference title. With one league loss, Brighton shares the East Metro lead with Aurora Central and Rangeview. Collin Tabor could be the difference. Averaging nearly 16 points a game, the senior did not play in the loss to Prairie View but then totaled his average in the second game victory. Brighton has beaten Aurora Central and faces Rangeview on the road next Tuesday. None of the top three Front Range leaders face off tonight so the standings could remain in the same order. Fairview (10-1) leads Fossil Ridge and Monarch (9-2) by one game. Fossil Ridge stayed in the title talk by scoring a huge win over Monarch (65-59) last week but since they don’t face Fairview again this year, they’ll need to keep winning and get help from another team to get their piece of first place. That help actually may come from Monarch as the Coyotes meet Fairview for a second time on February 21st. The best race in 5A continues to be the Centennial. Eaglecrest, Cherokee Trail and Grandview all won on Wednesday so those three continue to share the lead. That will change on Friday as Grandview and Cherokee Trail collide. We can only hope the rematch is as good as the first contest where Grandview held on for a crazy 84-77 double overtime win. The Cougars rallied from nine down in the fourth to force the extra time. The Wolves collected 27 points from Eric Garcia including four shots from distance and 20 from Akram Imam. Cherokee Trail got a huge effort from Roderick Bernstine who finished with 31 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals.
For the second time in four days, defending state champion Lewis Palmer is involved in the most attractive game and this time the Rangers are hoping for a different result. They lost their first place battle with Sand Creek on Tuesday (67-64) despite scoring 30 points during a furious fourth quarter rally. Now the Rangers must drop that loss from memory and focus on another top five conference rival in Cheyenne Mountain. Lewis Palmer used a rugged defense holding Cheyenne Mountain to just 12 of 55 from the field in registering a 49-33 decision. Cheyenne Mountain must avenge that first loss to have a chance at a top two conference finish. They also face Valor Christian on Saturday so two wins this weekend will greatly enhance their post-season seed. For Sand Creek, their win over Lewis Palmer was likely the best in school history. Josh Smith hit three treys on his way to a team high 20 points to keep the Scorpions unbeaten on the season and into first place in the rugged Pikes Peak. Langston Bell added 15, Bryan Jenkins scored 12 and Tim Clemens netted 10 in the balanced attack. The Scorpions, who head to Air Academy on Friday, have a rematch with Lewis Palmer on February 19th. D’Evelyn looks to basically lock up the Jeffco title by beating Evergreen a second time but based on the first meeting, it won’t be that easy. D’Evelyn (9-0) leads the Cougars (8-1) by one game entering the contest. Game one went to D’Evelyn 68-54 and the total is the second lowest output for the Jags who are averaging over 80 points a game. Luke Stratman, who averages 28 points a night, netted 26 in the first game while hitting 9 of 16 shots from the field. He connected on three treys with Connor Skelton and Chase Cleary combining for four more. Grant Witherspoon, who was held to seven points in game one, has scored better of late and is averaging 15 points a game. Evergreen is led in scoring by Andre Lane (18) and he dropped in 23 against D’Evelyn in game one. Chase Kelly added 13. Elsewhere, Broomfield looks to keep their two game edge in the Northern conference by winning at Longmont. The Trojans could use the upset as they’re battling Greeley Central (both 6-3) for third place. Pueblo East (6-0) already has a commanding three game advantage in the South Central so they’re simply looking to stay healthy down the stretch. In the Tri Valley, Windsor and Roosevelt (8-2) are tied in the standings but the Wizards own the tiebreaker. The Wizards can take a huge step to claiming the top prize by avenging an earlier loss to Mead (66-56). Mead is in fourth and an upset only make a close race even tighter. Frederick and Roosevelt face off in another big game next Thursday. Out west, Palisade leads Eagle Valley by one game and Delta by two. They have games remaining with both so even if they beat Steamboat Springs this weekend, the Bulldogs cannot clinch the regular season title.
Aspen’s Tuesday night win over Roaring Fork drew the top three teams in the Western Slope one game closer. The loss dropped the Rams into a first place tie with Moffat County (both one loss) and kept Aspen (10-2) in the championship race. None of the top three collide this weekend so there’s a good chance the order will remain the same heading into next week. Moffat County has the toughest remaining slate with games against Aspen (Tuesday) and Roaring Fork (Saturday) on next week’s slate so they can virtually clinch the title by winning those two contests. Alamosa took over sole possession of first place with a quality 45-35 home win over Pagosa Springs. Now they look to maintain the momentum by beating a good Centauri team on the road. Defense could be the difference as the Moose held Pagosa standout point guard Kain Lucero to a season low seven points in last Friday’s win. In the Patriot, none of the top three teams play each other so the top game could be the Eaton-Estes Park contest on Friday. Both teams are 3-3 inside the conference and the winner will stand alone in fourth. That of course will help in seeding for the district tournament. Brush and Sterling are unbeaten and in first place with University a game off the pace in third. All three teams should win this weekend against lower division opponents. Metro co-leaders Kent Denver and Holy Family don’t face each other until the final week so we likely won’t crown a league champion until that time. Colorado Academy though has a chance to move one step closer to third place if they beat Lutheran on Friday. The Lions are coming off a nice win over Manual and are still in the running for third place but this will be their final conference game. Colorado Academy, which features freshmen as their top three scorers, lead the Lions and Faith Christian by one game in the race for third. They’ve already beaten Faith Christian but are coming off a seven point loss to Holy Family earlier this week. There’s not much separation between first and fourth in the Frontier. Pinnacle (9-0) leads Denver Science and Academy (both 7-1) by one game but beat the two second place teams by a combined 11 points. Clear Creek (6-2) sits in fourth but lost to the second place teams by a combined ten points so they’ll be a tough out for the first place Timberwolves. Chase Gonzales (14.3) leads Pinnacle in scoring including a season high 32 points against KIPP Collegiate last week. Clear Creek gets a brunt of their offense from the tandem of Tevin Lucas (16.2) and Kellen Cosby (15.6). Cosby has been red hot of late scoring at least 20 points in four of the last five games including 27 against Denver Science. Not much change is expected in either the Tri Peaks East or Tri Peaks West this weekend. Colorado Springs Christian controls the Western division and should win their remaining league games. East leading James Irwin had a huge game with fourth place St Mary’s on Thursday.
Since they’ve already beaten Caliche, fans in Yuma will feel good about their Lower Platte league championship chances if the Indians get by Haxtun and Akron this weekend. Those two opponents are tied with Caliche in second place behind the unbeaten Indians nearing the midway point of the conference schedule. Yuma of course is led by their gritty defense which gives up only 35 points a game. That unit will be tested twice this weekend against two different types of opponents. Haxtun, when healthy, has very good size and will look to push inside while against Akron on Saturday, they’ll face a Rams team dominated by the guard tandem of Brady Baer and Jared Clarkson. Haxtun suffered through a recent struggle dropping three of four games in a mid-January stretch but has regained confidence on the offensive end averaging 75 points in recent wins over Merino and Wiggins. Yuma has been led of late on the offensive by point guard Brody Bueltell. Averaging 14 points a game, he netted 17 in the crucial win over Caliche and has scored at least 16 points in five of the last six games. Backcourt mate Jaden Koenig (13.6) is the second leading scorer for the Indians but has scored a total of 15 points in two games since dropping in 18 in the non-conference win over Akron. The Union Pacific lead will sort itself out a bit this weekend with three games of note. Burlington is involved in both as they face Byers on Friday and then top ranked Limon on Saturday. All three teams are unbeaten in league play so we’ll know much more about the potential conference finish after the next two nights. Burlington is just 4-7 on the season but all four of those wins are in league play. With two wins this weekend, the Cougars will still no reach 500 overall but would clinch the conference crown. Byers finally has senior guard Ryan Imber healthy and back in the lineup. He’s played the last seven games averaging nearly nine points a game but his returns gives the Bulldogs much more offensive firepower especially from the perimeter. Unbeaten Limon of course has had the best overall season of the three conference leaders. They’ve had just one game decided by single digits (beat Peyton 65-64) and could use some tight games as the post-season approaches. Senior Tyler Koehn (18.8) and junior Gavin Liggett (18.2) are the best one-two punch in the conference and among the tops in the classification. Limon also faces Stratton on Friday. At 6-7, the Eagles have been a model of inconsistency. They upset then 4th ranked Hi Plains (1A) two weeks ago but then dropped three straight to fall back below the five hundred mark. The Mile High league battle between Resurrection Christian and Liberty Common will basically serve as an elimination game. Those two have one conference loss apiece and begin the weekend tied with defending state champion Denver Christian and Heritage Christian in first place. Resurrection Christian has split two games with the other co-leaders so they’ll be in great shape with a win. Liberty Common suffered a 59-48 league loss to Denver Christian last week and play Heritage Christian on February 14th. Arjun Gill (15.8) and Stephen Allmendinger (14.2) score nearly two thirds of the team’s points. Sangre De Cristo and Del Norte share third place with Sargent (all 2 losses) in the Southern Peaks. They collide this weekend in the most important league game there. The T-Birds own a win over second place Sierra Grande and were in great shape for third before a 15 point loss at Custer County last weekend. Del Norte, which lost to Sanford and Sierra Grande by a combined 42 points, has just two wins outside the Southern Peaks. Sargent collected a nice non-league win over 1A #10 La Veta last night will face Del Norte next Saturday. A win there should give them at least a third place finish. In the Black Forest, Vanguard faces Simla in a game featuring two of the three second place teams. They’re tied with Calhan and all three are chasing first place and league unbeaten Peyton.
The High Plains league title is on the line Friday night when McClave entertains Cheyenne Wells. Both teams are 2-0 in league play and even though each will have a couple of league games remaining, the winner should be crowned league champion as they’re the only two teams with more than five wins this season. An advantage in regional seeding will also go to Friday’s winner. Guard play will be huge in this one as the high scoring Cheyenne Wells tandem of Matthew Sanders (18.8) and Trey Brown (13.8) must contend with the high intensity full court pressure put by McClave and their nine-man rotation. The Cardinals are giving up only 38 points a game. Staying focused and fresh in the fourth quarter will be crucial for the Tigers as they look for the road upset. The Cardinals meantime have a chance to regain the number one spot in the Colorado Preps rankings next week after falling out of the top spot this week despite their perfect regular season to date. There’s also one comparison score of note between the two teams. McClave topped Holly 50-37 before Christmas while Holly took out Cheyenne Wells (60-48) just last week. Thanks to their win at Cheyenne Wells last week, Holly is now in contention for a top two regional seed but they face a dangerous Wiley team (8-6) that has enough talent to win on any night. Wiley actually beat Holly 56-48 in the semfiinals of the Lamar Holiday Tournament before Christmas. Kody Wallace had 25 points in that win and finished the night with three treys. The senior is averaging 20.4 points per game and must score for the Panthers to be successful. Based on his numbers, it appears Wallace has moved inside on the offensive end. He’s hit 22 shots from distance on the season but none in the past four games. He’s shooting 34 of 53 from the field in that stretch with many more shots coming from inside the arc than out. Holly will seek a faster pace. They’ve won seven straight since the loss to McClave. Drew Thompson scored 21 points in the impressive road win at Cheyenne Wells and he leads the team with 11 points a game. Balance is their strength on the offensive end with six players scoring at least five points on average. Otis and Bethune have both suffered recent double digit losses to YWKC favorite Hi Plains but the difference is that the Otis loss was in non-league action. They get another shot at the Patriots in the final week. Tonight the two square off to see which team will remain the challenger to the Patriots and the conference crown. Bethune has won three of four since suffering a 47-43 non-league loss to Otis. The Bulldogs picked up 17 points from Andrew Perry in last Friday’s loss to Hi Plains but the rest of the team combined for just 12. He averages 13 points a game and has reached double figures in the last six games and ten overall. In the North Central, Prairie and Pawnee (4-2) for the runner-up spot behind Fleming (6-0). Prairie won the first game 69-58 but we look for at least two things to be different this time around. Prairie had four players in double figures in that win but leading scorer Tyler Carmin (15.0) wasn’t one of them. The junior was held to just four points but TJ Hubbard (15), Ross Stump (14), Brady Stump (12) and Austin Littlefield (10) more than picked up the slack. Pawnee picked up 21 points from Brye Brunelle but the Coyotes hit just four of 26 three point attempts in the loss. The team has hit 64 of 210 attempts from the arc this season so we expect a better showing in the rematch.