This week’s schedule is full of games that will impact league standings, with several others that can create some big swings in the RPI. Two of the bigger games have already taken place, as the action started on Tuesday night, with #2 Peetz (10-0, 3rd RPI) and #4 Heritage Christian (8-1, 1st RPI) picked up wins.
As expected, the showdown between Peetz and 2A’s #1 team, Sedgwick County lived up to the hype. The Bulldogs trailed Sedgwick County by one at the half, 29-28, but a 19-15 third quarter gave Peetz the edge heading into the fourth. They finished off the 67-49 victory with a 20-5 final frame. It was likely the last opportunity for Peetz to score big RPI points, as their top remaining opponents are Caliche (23rd RPI) and Fleming (25th RPI).
Heritage Christian also used a strong second half to pull away from 2A Twin Peaks Charter in a Mile High league contest. The Eagles held a 26-21 lead over Twin Peaks, before outscoring the Timberwolves 32-14 after the break. That included a 17-4 advantage in the fourth. The Eagles still have four games against top 25 RPI teams in 2A and one against #8 Longmont Christian (8-3, 6th RPI) in a few weeks.
The chase for the title in the 5280 heats up this week with a Thursday clash between Shining Mountain (8-3, 11th RPI) and Rocky Mountain Lutheran (6-4, 16th RPI). Shining Mountain enters the game off a 56-24 loss to Cornerstone Christian (5-3, 18th RPI) on Tuesday. A second league loss would all but eliminate the Lions from title contention in the 5280.
Despite currently having the best RPI in the league, the remaining schedule makes it difficult for the Lions to maintain that standing. Following Thursday’s game at Rocky Mountain Lutheran, Shining Mountain hosts Front Range Baptist (6-2, 15th RPI) next Tuesday and then has only one more game against at top 35 team the rest of the way. That is against Denver Jewish Day (5-3, 26th RPI) at the end of the regular season.
Nathan Fairmont has posted monster numbers so far for the Lions, averaging better than 21 points and 16 rebounds a game, to go with four blocks a night. Leo Mason has been a steady #2 option, giving 13 points and eight boards a night.
Rocky Mountain Lutheran has won its last two games, including a 47-43 decision over Denver Waldorf (4-5, 37th RPI) on Tuesday. The Eagles held what looked like a comfortable 38-23 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but the Spartans made things interesting down the stretch. Andrew Zemlicka led the Eagles with 18 points, right on his season average. Rocky Mountain Lutheran is 2-0 in the league and has another big game on tap next Tuesday against Denver Jewish Day.
Attention shifts to the High Plains League on Friday, as four of the top teams in that conference square off. Sixth-ranked Cheyenne Wells (7-1, 10th RPI) looks to remain unbeaten in league play as it travels to Eads (4-6, 52nd RPI) and #10 Kit Carson (7-1, 12th RPI) visits McClave (3-6, 33rd RPI) in the league opener for both squads.
Cheyenne Wells has won its last four games, including all three this month. Last week, the Tigers opened defense of its league championship with a 52-34 win over Cheraw (5-5, 9th RPI). They are looking for a third consecutive High Plains title. Five of their remaining opponents are top 30 RPI, and three more are top 40.
After a 54-40 loss to Otis (6-4, 29th RPI) last Saturday, Eads has dropped three of its last four. In that contest with the Bulldogs, Eads only trailed by four heading into the fourth. Brigden Parker (11) and Damian Hernandez (10) combined for 21 points. Over the next few weeks, Eads plays four of the top 12 teams in the RPI.
The flu bug hit Kit Carson hard last week, leading to the cancellation of a day of school and a postponement of a game. The Wildcats had their game with Granada moved from last Thursday to next Tuesday, but their game with Flagler/Hi-Plains went on as scheduled last Saturday. Kit Carson slogged its way through a rough first half, leading 23-18 at the break. The Wildcats took control in the second half and finished with a 49-31 victory. Cordell Farmer led the way with a career-high 15 points.
McClave has not been able to win consecutive games this season, with its first two wins being followed by losses of two points and one point. Last Saturday, the Cards fell to Kim/Branson (5-5, 31st RPI) 50-41, keeping that trend alive.
The Cardinals struggled to put the ball in the bucket in a 41-26 loss to Kit Carson in the opening round of the Lamar Holiday Tournament last month, shooting 23% on the night. Ian Beckett, who leads the squad with 14 points a game, was held to nine in the loss. That total was still good enough to lead the team in scoring. Jayden McCombs-Farmer led all players with 15.
Kit Carson will turn right around and host #3 Holly (10-0, 4th RPI) on Saturday. Holly got the better of Kit Carson in their previous meeting this season. The defending state champs made it four straight titles in the Lamar Holiday Tournament by downing Kit Carson 46-28 in the clash of Wildcats. Holly set the tone for the contest with a 15-2 first quarter. It was the only time this season that Kit Carson failed to score at least 40 in a game.
Holly picked up a huge league win in the Ark Valley last Friday, knocking off #9 South Baca (6-3, 7th RPI) 60-39 on the road. Before the Wildcats make the trip to Kit Carson, they host Walsh (3-5, 22nd RPI) on Friday. Holly has not lost to the Eagles since 2012, but its dominance over Kit Carson is even more impressive. Holly has won 15 straight in the series, with the last loss coming in 2009.
Friday night will also see the first of two key Southern Peaks contests for top-ranked Creede (10-0, 2nd RPI), as the Miners host Cotopaxi (5-2, 14th RPI). The Miners were pushed to their limit last Saturday by #7 Primero (6-2, 13th RPI), as the Bulldogs led 43-42 heading into the fourth quarter. Creede would outscore Primero 16-10 in that final period to keep its perfect season intact. It marked the first time this season that the Miners had a game decided by fewer than 14 points. Casper Freedle and Isaac Borchers each had 19 for Creede, while Vince Damelio led everyone with 22.
Cotopaxi had put four straight wins on the board following a 59-41 loss to Creede in early December prior to last Friday’s 63-46 loss at #5 Sangre de Cristo (9-1, 5th RPI). The Pirates saw a one possession game entering the fourth quarter get away from them as the Thunderbirds raced to a 21-6 frame. Cole Christensen led a trio of T-Birds in double figures with 24 points, while Chance Gulliford paced Cotopaxi with 14.
Creede also hosts Manzanola (6-4, 21st RPI) in league action on Saturday. The Bobcats haven’t had a winning season since 2005-06 and are within one victory of their first seven-win campaign since they accomplished that feat in the 2011-12 season under current Holly head coach Dusty Heck.
Manzanola has won two straight contests since a three-game losing streak. Those losses were to Cotopaxi (57-45), Sangre de Cristo (47-41) and Primero (56-44). Sophomore Axel Escareno leads the Bobcats with 14.6 points and three steals a game, and freshman Blake Williams contributes a double-double of 13.6 points and 11.1 rebounds.
Creede has taken the last seven meetings with Cotopaxi, while also winning last season’s match-up with Manzanola. That is the only meeting between the two programs in well over a decade.
Also on Saturday, Walsh and South Baca square off in the Ark Valley. For the Patriots, who are 1-1 in the league, a loss pretty much knocks them out of title contention, especially with their loss to Holly. They still have a game with co-leader Kim/Branson later in the season, so a victory over the Eagles would keep them in the hunt for that crown.
In the North Central, Prairie (3-8, 38th RPI) hosts Fleming on Saturday, as the teams jockey for position in the league behind Peetz. Fleming holds a half-game lead over the Mustangs, but Prairie plays a NCL game on Friday against Briggsdale (4-6, 30th RPI) while the Wildcats are involved in a non-conference game with Idalia (2-8, 49th RPI). It’s unlikely that anyone cracks the top three for district seeding, with Heritage Christian, Peetz and Longmont Christian all in the top 10 of the RPI.
One of the biggest non-conference games of the week has Sangre de Cristo visiting Kim/Branson on Saturday. It is the third game in as many days for the Thunderbirds, who visit 2A Center on Thursday and host Moffat on Friday. The Mustangs could take a four-game winning streak into the contest, but they need to defeat Cheraw on Friday.