After a week in which the top two teams each slipped one spot in the rankings, despite neither losing a game, two new teams joined the latest poll. All of the remaining squads saw a shift in their rankings, with none in the same spot as the previous release. This week’s slate of games features a pair of clashes between ranked foes.
Some of the top games this week have already been played, with #4 Heritage Christian (6-1) sneaking past 2A Denver Christian (3-6) on Tuesday, 52-49, and #6 Longmont Christian (7-2) and Shining Mountain both earning wins on Wednesday. For Longmont Christian, the 56-49 win at Cornerstone Christian (3-3) came one night after a 60-51 loss to 2A Union Colony (6-1) in overtime.
Sophomore Dominic Puchino tallied 16 points in the loss to Union Colony and 27 in the win on Wednesday, while senior Michael Voigt scored 23 and 18 points in those same games. The duo both average better than 20 points a night, with Puchino leading the squad at 23.1 and Voigt at 21.2. The Warriors have a big one in the Mile High League on Friday against 2A Highland. The breakdown of that contest is available in the 2A preview. Heritage Christian also has a key Mile High clash with 2A Dawson on Thursday,  and that is also in the 2A preview.
Thursday night also sees the first of two meetings between #3 Peetz (8-0) and Fleming (3-4) in the North Central. The Bulldogs beat Briggsdale by 59 and 2A Merino by 23 last week, and they have still only had two games decided by fewer than 20 points. Both were 12-point victories, one over Otis and the other against 2A Haxtun. Five players average more than eight points a game, with another chipping in seven, making Peetz tough to defend. The Bulldogs also don’t hurt themselves, committing 13 turnovers a night and less than 15 fouls.
Fleming has been in all but one of its losses, with the lone exception being a 59-26 blowout against defending 2A champion Holyoke. The other defeats for the Wildcats have been by four to Caliche, six to 2A Haxtun, and nine to 2A #1 Sedgwick County last week. Fleming has won 15 of the last 17 against Peetz, including two of three last year. The last meeting was a 53-52 thriller for the Wildcats in the district title game.
Friday’s list of games tips off with the first of the ranked vs ranked challenges this week. Second-ranked Holly (8-0) returns to action for the first time in nearly a month, visiting #5 South Baca (4-2). The Wildcats have not played since securing their fourth straight Lamar Holiday Tournament title on Dec. 16. Holly has won 78 of 84 games under coach Dusty Heck, including two state titles and a third place finish.
The Patriots appear to have the best shot at preventing a third straight league championship by the Wildcats, as they are the only other squad in the Arkansas Valley with a record north of .500 right now. However, they go into the contest looking to rebound from a 51-40 loss to Felt OK last Saturday. South Baca led that contest at the half, but was outscored 36-13 after the break. The Patriots, who also have a key league game at Wiley on Saturday, have dropped four straight to Holly. Last year, the Wildcats claimed a pair of victories, 59-54 and 62-60.
Cheyenne Wells (6-1), who finished second to Holly last year, looks to open High Plains league play with a victory over Cheraw (5-3) on Friday. The Tigers have won three straight since suffering their lone loss to South Baca in December. The seventh-ranked team in this week’s ranking earned victories over Springfield and Weskan KS last week, both by double figures.
The Wolverines picked up a pair of wins last week, too, beating Eads 45-39 in league action and La Veta 42-20 in non-conference play. That gives Colin Leake’s squad four wins in their last five outings, with only a loss to South Baca sandwiched in.
Cheyenne Wells defeated South Baca by one, 58-57, in the season opener, but then lost to the Patriots two weeks later, 51-41. Cheraw’s loss was a 68-54 decision. One of the other losses for the Wolverines was a two-pointer to #8 Sangre de Cristo. The Tigers have had the upper hand in the series recently, winning 12 of the last 14, with victories in the last three.
Sangre de Cristo (6-1) has a huge weekend on tap, as the Thunderbirds carry a five-game winning streak into Thursday’s Seven-Mile Border War with 2A Sargent. That rivalry game will be followed by the Southern Peaks opener against Cotopaxi on Friday. The T-Birds earned a big non-conference win last week against 2A Rocky Ford, 49-40 on the road. Sangre boasts three players averaging double digits in scoring, led by Manuel Lopez at 15.2 a game. Jake Slane (13.3) and Cole Christensen (12.3) are the other two.
The first month of the season saw Cotopaxi get off to a 5-1 start. The Pirates claimed a league win over La Veta in that stretch, so they sit atop the Southern Peaks. The only stumble for the squad in December came against this week’s #1 program, Creede. The Miners, who will face #9 Primero on Saturday, defeated the Pirates 59-41 for the championship of the Cotopaxi Invitational.
Chance Gulliford leads a trio of double figure scorers for the Pirates with close to 18 points a night. The sophomore also pulls down 10 rebounds a night, to average a double-double. Kurt Voll and Owen Voll score 11 and 10 points, respectively, and they combine for 14 rebounds and almost four steals a game.
Thanks to wins over Aguilar and Centennial, Creede owns a share of the league lead in the Southern Peaks. The Miners, prior to visiting Primero, will hit the road to Antonito on Friday. They will be heavily favored against the 0-7 Trojans. The Miners have been impressive in rolling to their 8-0 start, claiming wins over Sangre de Cristo (72-58) and Sierra Grande (63-47) in the T-Bird Shootout to open the season, and adding the championship hardware from the Cotopaxi tournament.
Isaac Borchers, who burst on the scene last year as the Miners made a state tournament run, leads a balanced attack. The senior averages 17 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and more than two steals a night. Casper Freedle chips in 13 points and seven boards, while Marcos Romero, Colter Simon and Fisher Leggitt all score between eight and nine points a game. Simon also grabs close to 10 rebounds.
Primero’s 5-1 mark includes wins over a pair of 3A schools, Raton NM and Trinidad. The only loss suffered by the Bulldogs also came against a 3A foe, as they fell to La Junta by 11 in the Trinidad State JuCo Tournament.
Vince Damelio is a stat sheet stuffer, leading the squad in every major category. The senior averages 22.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.7 steals, 3.2 assists, and 1.5 blocks. Primero had won nine of 12 meetings over Creede while the Miners were together with Lake City, losing the last two. Prior to that stretch, Creede had taken seven of 11 against the Bulldogs as a separate program.
After surpassing their single season win total in more than a decade, the De Beque Dragons finally caught the attention of the pollsters and entered the rankings at #10 this week. The Dragons are 7-0 following a 73-46 win over Soroco in Western Slope play last Friday. The last time the program notched that many victories in an entire season was 2006-07, when the team went 7-12. In the 10 seasons that followed, the Dragons totaled 22 wins.
Two talented freshmen are helping to spark the turnaround. Brennan Rigsby enters this week averaging 22.7 points, thanks in part to a 37-point effort in the victory over Soroco. His classmate, Wes Ryan, adds 16.7 points and 10.3 rebounds. Both have scored double figures in every game this season. Junior Dillon Bumgardner contributes eight points and eight boards, along with three steals.
The winning streak will be put to a test this weekend with contests against 2A schools, Vail Mountain and Hotchkiss. Vail Mountain dropped to 1-5 with a loss to rival Vail Christian on Tuesday, but Hotchkiss is part of a large group just outside the 2A rankings at 6-3.
The Bulldogs suffered two of their losses in the Delta tournament, falling to Cedaredge (69-63) and Paonia (60-43). They’ve posted two wins this month, blasting Caprock Academy by 51 and edging past Plateau Valley by eight. A showdown with Paonia looms on the horizon for the Bulldogs, who won last year’s meeting with De Beque, 72-39.
On the first Saturday of the season, Arickaree/Woodlin (5-3) bounced Genoa-Hugo (4-4) in the finals of the Jeff Sherman Memorial at Woodlin. This Saturday, they return to the scene of the crime for round two. The Indian-Mustangs got some breathing room in the first meeting with a 21-10 advantage in the second quarter, but still needed an 18-13 fourth frame to gain the 64-51 win.
Kevin Ramirez led everyone with 22 points in the win, and he got a big helping hand from Arturo Ramos, who added a career high 20. Caid Smith led the Pirates with 20.
The Indian-Mustangs have had their share of ups and downs since, dropping both games in the Prairie Classic and then winning by 24 and 26 points. Last weekend, they built a big lead before cruising to a 70-57 win over Flagler/Hi-Plains, behind a career-best 23 points from Andy Miller. The following night, they came up short at Kit Carson, 57-44. The Indian-Mustangs will face Stratton/Liberty (2-4) on Thursday. The Knighted Eagles defeated Eads 65-62 in their last contest.
Genoa-Hugo has dropped two straight and three of its last four overall. All three losses were to 2A opposition, as the Pirates fell to Byers (70-41), Limon (49-33), and Calhan (44-41). The last of those was the most frustrating, as the Pirates led 19-4 after the first quarter, only to see the Bulldogs trim the margin to five by the half. Smith, who fouled out, was held to a season-low seven points in the loss. Still, the senior averages 16 points a night.