GIRLS BASKETBALL: 4A Conference Breakdown
There’s not much excitement down the stretch concerning league championships in Class 4A as most conference leaders have at least a two game advantage over their second place challengers. One exception is the South Central where top ranked Pueblo South has just a one game edge on 5th ranked Pueblo West and those two will collide for a second time on the 19th. Otherwise, Broomfield, Mesa Ridge, D’Evelyn, Windsor, Sand Creek, Delta and Elizabeth have virtually already wrapped up crowns. Montrose still has a shot at a piece of the SWL crown but needs to win their three games this week and get some help from Fruita Monument next week.
This is a two-team race that will come down to the rematch between Pueblo South and Pueblo West on February 19th. South won the opening game between the two rivals and that outcome is the one game different between first and second. All other teams have at least four conference losses and cannot catch either of the two leaders. Pueblo West heads to Pueblo County on Tuesday and then has an important date with Sand Creek on Saturday. It’s a non-conference game but the result will help the seeding committee place the top eight teams in the bracket. Pueblo South has just one game as well as they host Pueblo Central on Tuesday. Canon City and Pueblo County (both 3-4) hold down the third spot. They meet next week in a game that should determine which team finishes in the top three. Canon City won the first gathering 42-37.
2nd ranked Broomfield has a nice two game cushion with four games to play but unless Centaurus suffers a loss, the Eagles cannot officially clinch the crown this week. Broomfield (10-0) leads Centaurus and Thompson Valley by two games but they don’t play Centaurus a second time until February 19th. If Centaurus beats both Longmont and Niwot this week then the Warriors are still officially alive but would need to win their final two games including avenging an earlier loss to Broomfield and then have the Eagles lose their final game against Niwot which is not likely to happen. That means Centaurus is likely left to battle with Thompson Valley for the runner-up. Both teams are 8-2 and have split two games so there’s an excellent chance they’ll end up in a tie.
COLORADO SPRINGS METRO
Mesa Ridge has been in control of this race from start to finish and their 69-47 win over Sierra last Tuesday opened up a two game lead on the Stallions in the standings. As a result, Mesa Ridge needs just two wins in their final four games to officially clinch the crown. They head to Coronado on Tuesday before hosting Woodland Park on Friday. If they somehow suffer their first loss of the season to one of those teams, which is not likely, they’ll get two more chances in the final week against Wasson and Mitchell. Mesa Ridge is heavily favored to win their final four games and if they finish at 23-0 they’ll be a lock to nail down one of the four number one seeds. Second place Sierra plays at Mitchell on Tuesday and if they grab a win there the Stallions can wrap up second place with a home win over Harrison on Friday. They lead the Panthers by one game in the league race but also beat them 81-26 in the first meeting so the gap between second and third apparently is large.
All that stands between D’Evelyn and the conference championship are wins against Golden and Green Mountain Tuesday and Thursday respectively. The Jaguars already own a three game advantage over Conifer and Green Mountain so a win over Golden on Tuesday clinches a share of the crown and then a victory over Green Mountain provides D’Evelyn with the outright championship. The Jaguars have already swept Conifer and held off Green Mountain by just nine points in their first meeting (43-34). Conifer though has a win over Green Mountain so they have the edge over the Rams in the race for third. The two meet for the rematch on February 19th but Green Mountain will be playing from behind in that one if they fall to D’Evelyn this Thursday.
Unbeaten in league play and with a three game lead, Windsor has a chance to earn the championship this week. The Wizards have already clinched a tie for the crown and can win it outright by beating Northridge on Tuesday. If that happens as expected, then the Windsor matchup with second place Berthoud on Friday will not affect the conference championship. Berthoud though could use more wins as they have just a one game edge on Erie in the battle for second. Erie also has one game remaining with Windsor on the 19th. Other than Windsor, Berthoud is the hottest team in the league scoring wins in their last six games. They’ve split with Erie so they need to stay one game ahead of the Tigers to have second place for their own.
First place Sand Creek already has a two game lead and two wins on second place Palmer Ridge so the Scorpions have all but locked up the championship. The more interesting battle at this point is the race for second between Palmer Ridge and Air Academy. They’re separated by one game in the standings and the defending state champions will try to close that gap by beating the Bears on Friday. To do so, they would have to avenge an earlier 44-34 loss to Palmer Ridge. If that happens, the two teams will likely share second place since both have already lost to Sand Creek twice but rolled past every other conference opponents. With an overall record of 16-3 and two losses to Sand Creek, Palmer Ridge is hoping to win out to gain consideration for a top eight state tournament seed. Sand Creek closes conference play against Discovery Canyon and Cheyenne Mountain this week and Lewis Palmer and Falcon next week. In between is a huge date with Pueblo West that will directly impact the pecking order of the state bracket.
Delta has won their first 12 league games and with the wins has gained a three game lead on second place Rifle and a four game advantage on third place Eagle Valley. They’ve already clinched the championship and are now focused on the district tournament next week to improve their seed in the 4A state tournament. That district event combines teams from the Western Slope and 4A members of the SWL with the top four teams advancing to the state tournament field. Rifle split with Eagle Valley so they need to stay a game ahead of the Devils to avoid sharing second place. The Bears will be favored against Glenwood Springs and Battle Mountain this weekend with the Glenwood matchup being the more difficult of the two. The game is a great rivalry and the first one was decided by just seven points (Rifle 70-63). Eagle Valley needs a Rifle loss to have a chance at moving out of third. They host Palisade on Friday and Steamboat Springs on Saturday. Palisade is tied with Glenwood Springs just a game back of Eagle Valley so the Devils need two wins to stay alone in third.
Unbeaten Elizabeth (8-0) can clinch the league championship by moving past Weld Central on Tuesday. The Cardinals lead the Rebels by two games in first and second. Game one went to Elizabeth 52-37 so they’ll be favored even though the game is in Keenesburg. Weld Central is holding off Fort Morgan and Fort Lupton by just one game in the race for second so a loss drops them back into a tie with the Mustangs and Blue Devils. The Rebels meet Fort Lupton on Friday so it’s a very important week for Weld Central as they try to climb closer to first while avoiding fall into fourth.
Beginning last week, Montrose was alone in first but back-to-back losses to 5A Fruita Monument and Grand Junction dropped the Indians into a second place tie with Fruita. Both trail Grand Junction by one game. Montrose closes their regular season with three games this week as they host Grand Junction Central on Tuesday before making the four corners swing to Durango and Cortez Friday and Saturday. In reality, they must win all three games to have a chance at sharing the championship. If the Indians win all three, they finish at 8-2 and would be tied for first if Fruita beats Grand Junction on February 22nd.
Ponderosa and Mullen are two 4A teams that play in 5A conferences and how they finish in their respective conferences determines if they qualify for the state tournament. Ponderosa must finish 8th or higher in the Continental to advance while Mullen gets into the bracket if they finish at least fourth in the Centennial. It appears neither team will make the bracket. Ponderosa is currently 11th in the Continental and really must win their remaining four games to have any chance to reaching at least eighth. That’s not likely since the Mustangs are just 4-15 overall. Mullen is currently tied with Cherokee Trail (4-6) for fourth in the Centennial so the Mustangs (7-12) are on the bubble. Mullen plays at Eaglecrest and Arapahoe this week and then has a huge date with Cherokee Trail on February 22nd. The Mustangs lost the first meeting 45-34. They then host Smoky Hill in their finale on February 22nd. Valor Christian is playing an independent this year and they must win at least 12 games to reach the playoffs. The Eagles are currently 10-11 so they need to beat both Liberty this Thursday and Montbello on the 19th to reach the needed 12 victories to qualify.