GIRLS BASKETBALL: Preview of the Week Ahead
Undecided conference championships are few and far between as the final week of the basketball season opens. A few races in Class 5A and one apiece in the 4A and 3A division are still up for grabs and some of them will be decided in head-to-head battles. Below is a quick rundown of each league race in all classes. We'll update each league throughout the week with our daily previews of top games.
Only six days remain in the regular season and that may not be enough to sort out the Continental league standings. Regis was in control of the championship chase but their upset loss to then unranked ThunderRidge creates some chaos at the top. The Raiders, Grizzlies and Highlands Ranch all sit at 8-1 in league play and since they’ve already faced off against one another, there’s a strong likelihood the three will stay tied through the end of the regular season. Regis is favored in their final two games against Douglas County and Ponderosa Tuesday and Thursday. Highlands Ranch faces Ponderosa on Tuesday and then closes with Mountain on Thursday. ThunderRidge has the most difficult remaining stretch with games against Castle View and Rock Canyon Tuesday and Thursday. Rock Canyon has spent most of the season in the top ten before a loss to Regis last week knocked them out. Rock Canyon and Chaparral are tied in fourth place with the Wolverines owning the head-to-head win.
The race for second in the Centennial could also prove interesting through the week. Arapahoe and Cherry Creek (both 10-2) are tied for that spot and each is two games back of top ranked Grandview. Since both teams play the Wolverines this week, the title chase is not officially over unless Grandview beats Arapahoe on Wednesday. That would make their game with Cherry Creek two days later not factor in the first place race. Arapahoe and Cherry Creek have already played and split two games with each decided by three points. That’s how close the two teams are and if they both fall to Grandview, then they should end up tied in the end. Cherry Creek also goes to Overland on Wednesday with Arapahoe going to Cherokee Trail on Friday.
Palmer and Ralston Valley are two members that clinched league titles. Palmer wrapped up the CS Metro on Saturday with a second win over Doherty while Ralston Valley has a two game lead and two wins over Lakewood with two games remaining. The Tigers have clinched second while Doherty will end up second in the CS Metro. Third place in the Jeffco is a wild goose chase with Standley Lake, Chatfield, Dakota Ridge and Columbine all 6-8 and Arvada West a game back at 5-9. Each team has two league games remaining so the list of possibilities is much too long to break down here. Denver East also moved very close to the City league crown by blasting George Washington 88-42 on Saturday. Both teams were unbeaten in league play going in but the Angels dominated from start to finish. The only team standing in their way is Denver South. The Rebels are one game back and face East on Friday but they lost to G-W by 26 points will be a huge underdog in the regular season finale for both teams.
In the Front Range, Horizon was two games back of Poudre three weeks ago but has overtaken the Impalas and grabbed sole possession of first place. The Hawks now have a one game lead and a victory over the Impalas so they can clinch the championship by beating either Monarch on Tuesday or Boulder on Friday. Poudre meets Rocky Mountain and Greeley West Tuesday and Thursday and need wins in both to lock up second place because of the loss to Fort Collins. The Lambkins are alone in third with a one game edge on Fossil Ridge and Loveland. Fort Collins meets the Sabercats on Tuesday in a very important game. They close the season at home against Rocky Mountain. Fossil Ridge and Loveland also clash on Thursday in a very game that could decide fourth and fifth.
In the Southwestern League, Grand Junction has a one game lead on Montrose and Fruita Monument. The key remaining game is Friday night as the Tigers battle Fruita. If Fruita gets the win, then the three teams share the top spot as they would have split the six games between them. Grand Junction of course clinches the championship with a win and that scenario leaves Montrose in second with Fruita dropping to third. Grand Junction also meets Central on Tuesday. Montrose has concluded their regular season and is now prepping for their district tournament which opens on Thursday. That event pits teams from the SWL against schools from the 4A Western Slope league to determine the seven state qualifiers.
Prairie View leads Brighton by one game in the East Metro chase. Since the Thunderhawks topped Brighton 62-39 two weeks ago, they’re the conference champions regardless of how they do at Adams City on Tuesday. Brighton has clinched seoncd and cannot climb higher or drop lower. They close at home against Thornton on Tuesday. Rangeview and Westminster (both 5-3) begin the week tied for third. Westminster won the head-to-head meeting 44-43 so they have the advantage. If they beat Northglenn as expected on Tuesday they’ll get third and then the winner between Rangeview and Hinkley that same night will end up fourth.
Broomfield (Northern), Mesa Ridge (CS Metro), D’Evelyn (Jeffco), Delta (Western Slope), Sand Creek (Pikes Peak) and Elizabeth (Colorado 7) have all clinched league championships so most of the hardware has already been doled out. The only trophy yet to be claimed is the South Central and that race will be decided on Tuesday night when Pueblo South and Pueblo West face off for a second time. South won the first game 44-39 giving them a one game advantage so they’re the outright champions if they win the rematch. Pueblo West can force a tie for the top spot if they can avenge the earlier setback.
That leaves the races for second, third and fourth the focus for the week. The standings on the Western Slope have been finalized as teams there wrapped up the regular season last week ahead of their district tournament in conjunction with the SWL this weekend. Delta rolled through the slate unbeaten (14-0) to easily claim a championship they had shared with Glenwood Springs and Moffat County each of the past two years. Rifle ended up second with Eagle Valley and Glenwood Springs claiming third and fourth. Montrose is the top 4A finisher in the SWL and based on a very early win over Delta could land the number one seed for the district tournament.
Palmer Ridge has sewn up second in the Pikes Peak behind Sand Creek. Their win over Air Academy gave them that spot last week. The defending state champion Kadets can nail down third by beating Discovery Canyon on Friday. They won the first meeting 40-26. The Thunder cannot finish lower than fourth even with a loss to Air Academy. Over in the CS Metro, Sierra can clinch second by beating Widefield on Tuesday. They lead the Gladiators by two games and won the first meeting rather easily (73-34). Widefield also meets fourth place Harrison so it’s a big week for the Gladiators as they try to hold onto the third spot. Harrison won the first battle 50-38. The Panthers are currently in fourth and won’t fall farther regardless of how they fare this week.
Thompson Valley and Centaurus share second place behind Broomfield in the Northern league. They’ve split two regular season games this year but Thompson Valley may have the slight advantage because Centaurus has not faced Broomfield a second time. That happens on Tuesday in Broomfield. The first game was very competitive with Broomfield scoring a 40-36 decision. Thompson Valley goes to Longmont on Tuesday and then heads to Mountain View on Friday. Longmont is two games back in fourth place but they lead Silver Creek by just one game. The two rivals play on Friday so the game will likely determine fourth and fifth.
Conifer (9-3) is alone in second with a two game edge on Green Mountain, Evergreen and Golden in the Jeffco. The Lobos can clinch second by winning at Green Mountain on Tuesday but a loss could make their Friday game with Evergreen extremely important. Conifer beat Evergreen 75-55 in the first meeting but edged Green Mountain by only a point (54-53) in the first contest. If Conifer wins their final two games then Golden has a great shot at ending up third plus they have a nice schedule in the final week. The Demons host Arvada (Tues) and Wheat Ridge (Fri) to close out and wins in both should get them to third.
The race for third in the South Central has a multitude of possible finishes. Canon City, Pueblo East and Pueblo County all share third with below five hundred conference marks (3-5). Pueblo County might be in the best shape as they’ve swept Pueblo East and also beat Canon City in the first meeting. They host Canon City on Tuesday and a win there should lock up third since they also face a last place Pueblo Central team that has yet to post a conference win. Pueblo East (South) and Canon City (West) must both face one of the two leaders and no team has been able to beat them in league action this year.
Berthoud has locked up a top three finish in the Tri Valley and can clinch second place by winning at Northridge on Tuesday. Even with a loss, they earn second if league champion Windsor beats third place Erie that same night. If Erie falls short in that game and since Windsor is unbeaten in conference play, it can be expected, then the Tigers will fall into a third place tie with the Roosevelt-Mead winner. The Riders and Mavericks are currently tied for fourth. Roosevelt won the first game 60-53 so they’ll be the slight favorite on the road. Erie split with both teams so there’s a good shot two teams will end up sharing third place.
We still need a result between Weld Central and Fort Lupton to have the full rundown of the Colorado 7 conference. Without that result, Weld Central and Fort Morgan are tied for second at 7-3 with Fort Lupton a game back at 6-4. Fort Lupton has clinched a top four finish but will likely finish there since they have a final game at Elizabeth on Tuesday. Fort Morgan and Weld Central split their two matchups. The Mustangs have two league games remaining with Vista Peak (Tues) and Skyview (Thurs). Weld Central meets Vista Peak on Thursday. Fort Lupton will also drop into the 3A Patriot for post-season play and will not factor into the 4A bracket.
Valor Christian and Mullen are two wildcards that could be included in the 4A playoffs based on how they finish. Valor Christian (11-11) needs one more win to qualify and they should get it at home against Montbello on Tuesday. Mullen must finish fourth in the 5A Centennial to get a post-season seed. The Mustangs are tied with Cherokee Trail (5-7) for that position with two games to play and they square off at Mullen on Wednesday. Should Mullen win that game, they’re likely in as they face Smoky Hill while Cherokee Trail meets second place Arapahoe in their final game. Cherokee Trail won the first meeting 43-35.
The only league championship undecided is the Intermountain where Centauri leads Pagosa Springs by one game. The Falcons won the defensive minded first game 26-24 with the rematch delayed by weather until this Friday. Both teams have games with Monte Vista ahead of the showdown and both win that contest rather easily. If that happens, then Centauri is the conference champion outright if they sweep the season series while Pagosa Springs earns a share of the crown by bouncing back from the earlier loss.
2A Lutheran clinched the Metro championship last week but second place is undecided. Holy Family and Kent Denver face off Tuesday with the winner nabbing the runner-up slot and the loser settling for third. Both are 7-1 in league play with their lone loss to champion Lutheran. Down the list in the Metro, Peak to Peak has clinched fourth and Machebeuf has claimed fifth. Colorado Academy will end up sixth with Jefferson Academy in seventh.
The order of the top four in the Frontier won’t be decided until the outcome of Tuesday’s battle between Clear Creek and Middle Park is known. Clear Creek is second while Middle Park is tied for third with Bennett. If Clear Creek wins as expected, then they nail down second and Bennett will claim third while Middle Park will drop to fourth. If Middle Park wins and Bennett beats Academy as expected then the three teams will end up sharing second place. Denver Science has locked up the league championship and they close the regular season against Arrupe Jesuit on Tuesday. The district tournament opens on Saturday.
Moffat County has claimed the Western Slope crown as they have a two game edge on Olathe with just one game remaining. The Bulldogs finish up regular season play at home against Coal Ridge on Tuesday. Olathe is one game ahead of Grand Valley so the Pirates can clinch second place by winning at Basalt on Friday. Grand Valley has clinched at least third and they finish with Basalt as well but their game is on Tuesday. Roaring Fork is very secure in fourth as they entertain Cedaredge in their finale on Friday.
Both divisions of the Tri Peaks conference were interesting right down to the wire. Lamar won the Eastern side outright as they swept games with Trinidad and St Mary’s in the final weekend. Those results left the Pirates and Miners tied for second two games back. Trinidad though gets the second spot and a first round bye in the district tournament on the fourth tiebreaker which is point differential in the head-to-head matchups. Trinidad beat St Mary’s by five while the Pirates toppled Trinidad by just two. Coming up short in the tiebreaker forces St Mary’s to play a pigtail game in the district tournament this weekend. In the West, the second place team beat the champion twice and the third place team also swept the second place squad. Manitou Springs is the division champion but lost twice to Classical Academy. The Titans are second but lost twice to third place Salida. Those results and the quality of teams in the Eastern division should make for an interesting district tournament which opens on Saturday.
Sterling captured the Patriot championship when they beat Valley last Friday. Despite that loss Valley will end up second regardless of how they fare on Tuesday at home against Strasburg. Sterling finishes on the road at Brush. The most important remaining game pits Eaton at home against Platte Valley on Tuesday. The Reds leave the Broncos and Brush by one game in the race for third. Eaton of course lands the spot outright with a win but if Platte Valley wins and Sterling downs Brush, then the order is Platte Valley, Eaton and Brush. Brush is locked into fifth unless they upset Sterling and Eaton beats Platte Valley. In that scenario, Eaton ends up third with Brush fourth and Platte Valley fifth. Frontier Academy and Estes Park are tied for sixth with Frontier Academy having the head-to-head win. They get sixth by beating Highland but a loss opens the door for the Bobcats to move up as they battle last place Lyons (1-17).
The top two teams in the state are playing out the string this week as they’ve already secured league championships. Akron moved to 18-0 by slamming Caliche 75-46 last Thursday and with the win clinched another Lower Platte league championship. Lutheran had already wrapped up the Metro title before sweeping past Belleview Christian and Denver Christian for lopsided non-conference victories. Akron closes at home against Holyoke on Thursday in a game that will be more important to the Dragons as they try to earn a top three finish in the conference. Lutheran entertains University on Tuesday and Byers on Friday to get in final work before the district tournament begins next week.
3rd ranked Yuma also meets Holyoke so the Dragons have a very difficult week in store. Yuma, Caliche and Holyoke begin the week tied for second in the Lower Platte. Yuma lost to Caliche in league play so another loss could drop them to fourth in the standings but they do have a previous win over the Dragons in non-league action. The Indians also host HI Plains on Thursday to close the schedule.
Maybe the most important remaining game pits #4 Peyton at #10 Evangelical Christian on Friday. Peyton is tied with the Eagles and Vanguard atop the Black Forest with Simla one game back. The Panthers are coming off probably their best effort of the season in a 71-48 win at Vanguard but also have a league loss to Simla. ECA’s resume is just the opposite. They knocked off Simla last week but fell to Vanguard the week before. If Peyton scores the win, then they’re the league champs regardless of how Vanguard does against Colorado Springs. The Coursers land the league championship by beating Colorado Springs if ECA knocks off Peyton. If Vanguard is stunned by the Kodiaks then the winner between Peyton and ECA is the conference champion.
Peyton scored a 63-41 win over ECA in non-league play in mid-January. A 22-7 run in the third quarter was the difference. The Panthers drilled five three pointers in the win and put three players in double figures led by Taylor Bond’s 15 points. Shelby Patterson (11) and Victoria Goodman (10) also reached double figures as nine Panthers put their mark in the scoring column. ECA as usual was paced by the tandem of Tori Mann (18) and Abby Dorman (11) who combined for 29 of the Eagles 41 points.
6th ranked Paonia has the week off to rest from a tremendous weekend where they clinched the Western Slope with easier than expected wins over Rangely and Meeker. All three teams entered the weekend unbeaten in league play but Paonia rolled the Panthers on Friday and the Cowgirls on Saturday by a combined 53 points. The Eagles will be the #1 seed in the district tournament and since they went unbeaten in conference play will be protected into regionals. Meeker, Rangely and Hotchkiss are tied for second in the West with a key game between Meeker and Rangely yet to be played on Friday. If Meeker wins the game they’re second with Rangely sliding to fourth and Hotchkiss hanging onto third. Hotchkiss can actually slip into second if Rangely beats Meeker since they own a win over the Panthers.
7th ranked Simla bounced back from the ECA loss on Friday to bounce Kiowa 61-19 the next afternoon. Simla can finish third in the conference by beating Miami Yoder on Saturday if ECA knocks off Peyton. If results go the other way then Simla cannot finish higher than fourth because of the head-to-head loss to ECA. The Cubs also have a nice date with Jim Elliot on Tuesday. They’re ranked sixth in Class 1A and is unbeaten overall.
8th ranked Las Animas joins the path set by Paonia as they too have the week off after claiming a conference championship over the weekend. The Trojans bounced Swink (53-36) and Crowley County (85-25) to secure the Santa Fe crown. That district tournament opens this week but the Trojans get a bye into the quarterfinals and will play a winner from the pigtail round. Las Animas sits at 17-2 on the season.
9th ranked Sangre De Cristo is 8-0 in the Southern Peaks and owns a two game lead on Sanford, Del Norte and Sargent but they have not officially clinched. The T-Birds have beaten Del Norte and Sargent but still have a game remaining at Sanford on Friday. A win there wraps up the championship and gives Sangre the number one district tournament seed. They also meet Cripple Creek on Saturday and enter the weekend with a ten game winning streak.
Heritage Christian can claim the Mile High crown with a win over Dayspring Christian on Tuesday night but the Eagles suffered a crucial loss to 1A Briggsdale (43-36) last week. The Falcons are currently tied for fourth in the 1A North Central so that loss will damage the Eagles post-season seeding. They’ll still be the favorite to land the district title next week but even with a crown, they may be seeded very low (7th or 8th) for regionals because of the Briggsdale loss.
Another interesting game takes place on Tuesday between Limon and Denver Christian. Right now they seem to be the second and third best team behind Lutheran in the District bracket. The winner could step forward as the top challenger to the Lions but Denver Christian lost to the Lions by 64 points last week. Lutheran no doubt is a very good team but the Crusaders were far from full strength in the game as they were missing two key starters and leading scorer Merissa Pretiss was also battling an injured wrist. The injuries have continued a long season for the Crusaders who also lost four year starter and leading scorer at the time Jerrika Schmitt to a season ending knee injury in December.
Norwood, Kim and Jim Elliott are the three remaining unbeaten teams as we enter the final week of the regular season. Norwood sits atop the rankings while Kim bumped up to second this week thanks mainly to their win over Wiley last Saturday. Jim Elliott is the 5280 conference champion but is ranked only sixth this week as they’ve not played as strong a schedule as teams ranked ahead of them.
Norwood is one win away from claiming another San Juan conference championship. They head to Ignacio on Saturday in their final game and a win there clinches the outright championship. They lead the Bobcats by just one game in the conference standings a loss drops the Mavericks to second but it won’t affect their district tournament seeding. They’ll be the top 1A seed from the San Juan and will be paired across from the top 1A team from the Western Slope which right now is North Park (8-10).
Kim closes the season at Walsh on Friday but their victory over Wiley last Saturday was extremely important. It locked up the top seed for districts and should the Mustangs advance to the regional round, it could give them the top seed there meaning they would need only one win at regionals for a return visit to the state tournament. Tai Nittler scored 19 points while Beth Morlan (8 points) and Taylor Nittler (6 points) both netted two three-pointers. Defensively they limited Wiley leading scorer Kim States to just three shot attempts and two points on the day. Beth McDougal (14) and Teri Johnson (13) paced the Panthers who also lost to Springfield the night before to spoil their perfect season.
The now fifth-ranked Panthers look to rebound from the back-to-back losses when they host McClave (Thursday) in their regular season finale. The Cardinals (9-8) are also stumbling a bit as they’ve dropped two of their last three. The outcome will also impact regional tournament seeds if both teams get there as expected. McClave also hosts 8th ranked Eads on Friday in a game that will determine second place behind Kit Carson in the High Plains. Kit Carson captured the league title and moved back into the rankings (7th) by beating Eads (41-36) last Friday. They close at Cheyenne Wells on Friday before visiting Woodlin on Saturday. They’ll be heavily favored in both which should give them 13 wins in the regular season.
Jim Elliot wrapped up the 5280 crown with their win over Gilpin County (45-32) last Tuesday and they also beat a very good Belleview Christian team during conference play but Tuesday’s battle with 2A ranked Simla should be their best test of the season. It couldn’t come at a better time for the Warriors who will use the tough matchup to prep for the playoff run. They’re trying to become the third different team from the league to reach the state tournament in the past three years joining Gilpin County (2012) and Belleview Christian (2011). Senior Ana Trost (17) led the way against Gilpin County and she received help from first year standout Keri Hogan who scored 12.d The duo has led the team in scoring most of the season.
League championship wise, Tuesday’s battle between #4 Pawnee and Fleming is the most important. Each team has just one league loss and Fleming currently holds the tiebreaker after handing Pawnee their only loss of the season in the earlier matchup (48-38). While the Coyotes are playing their final conference game tonight, Fleming will still have two league contests on the slate after this evening. They also battle a good Prairie club and then finish with Peetz but a win tonight puts them in the driver’s seat. Pawnee has a nice date with #3 Caliche on Saturday in a possible preview of a district championship game next weekend. The two are among the many favorites to win the state title next month.
9th ranked Hi Plains looks to finish the regular season in grand style as they visit 2A #3 Yuma on Thursday before hosting Otis on Saturday. A win over Yuma would gain the Patriots some statewide attention but the matchup with Otis is actually more important to them as it will help decide the YWCK championship. Hi Plains currently leads the Bulldogs and Idalia by one game so a win sews up the outright crown. If Otis can avenge an earlier 48-29 non-league loss then the three teams will share the championship. Hi Plains received three treys and 21 points from senior Emily Cooper in the first meeting. Kacy Thomson also pulled down ten rebounds. Otis did not have a person score in double figures as Haley Patterson with seven and Antony Schaffert with six led the team. Another freshman Mallory Noble chipped in with nine rebounds.
10th ranked Idalia of course will watch that game with interest as it will let them know if they will seeded first, second or third in the district tournament. They also get two tests in the final week against 2A Wray (Thursday) and Stratton (Stratton). Stratton goes to Deer Trail on Friday to help decide fourth place in the Union Pacific and district tournament seeding. They suffered a tough loss to an improving Flagler team (65-52) that also beat McClave over the weekend (41-39). The Panthers used the wins to get past the five hundred mark (9-8) and they look for a tenth win at home against Genoa Hugo on Friday.