As teams begin to play their final handful of regular season games, nearly every league title is still up for grabs. That puts an extra importance on almost every game on the schedule.
The big games this week got an early jump, with one being played on Monday. Kiowa (6-8, 40th RPI) knocked off Pikes Peak Christian (8-6, 38th RPI) 54-51 to set up a Black Forest league championship game with #10 Evangelical Christian (13-3, 14th RPI) on Friday. It was the third straight win for the Indians by four points or fewer, and their fifth straight overall. Dustin Wenz had 23 points in the victory, giving the sophomore 20+ points in five of his last six games, and seven times this season. He’s averaging just under 18 points on the season for the Indians. Bryar Morgan is second on the team at better than 11 points, while also leading the squad with 12.5 rebounds a night.
ECA has won eight consecutive games, the last three by a total of 140 points. While the Eagles are new to 1A, they are no strangers to Kiowa. This will be the 18th meeting between the two programs in the last decade. ECA has won ten of the prior contests, including one each of the last two seasons. Jason Holt is second in the classification in scoring at 21.6 points a game, and his 5.4 steals per contest lead all of 1A.
Tuesday saw #4 Walsh (11-4, 6th RPI) move to within one win of claiming the Arkansas Valley title by beating Wiley (6-10, 27th RPI) 64-37. The Eagles can lock up the league championship by beating Kim/Branson (9-7, 26th RPI) on Saturday. Walsh has won five straight and seven of eight on the season, while the Mustangs snapped a four-game skid with a pair of wins last weekend.
The series has been completely one-sided lately, with Walsh winning the last 11 meetings. Kim/Branson will lean on the duo of Elijah Aragon (13.5 ppg) and Emilio Gallegos (12.5 ppg) as the Mustangs try to reverse the trend. Those two also average around three and a half assists per game and three steals, apiece.
There”s a logjam atop the 5280 standings, with two teams tied for the top spot and two more right behind them. Thursday’s game between #2 Cornerstone Christian (15-1, 1st RPI) and Denver Jewish Day (6-6, 24th RPI) will either provide some clarity or create even more confusion. The Bulldogs are tied atop the league with #7 Front Range Baptist (11-4, 4th RPI), while Denver Jewish Day is tied for third with #5 Mile High Academy (10-2, 2nd RPI). Mile High Academy owns the tiebreaker over the Tigers. Cornerstone Christian needs a win plus a loss by Front Range Baptist in its final three games to earn the title. A victory by Denver Jewish Day likely hands the league to the Falcons and creates a three-way mess for second.
CCA has won the last two meetings with the Tigers, but is just 4-8 in the series. The Bulldogs are led by the high-scoring duo of Brandt Vos (17.8 ppg) and Eddie Cruz (14.1 ppg), while the Tigers counter with Jon Kochavi (16.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg) and Eitan Kochavi (10.3 ppg, 12.0 rpg).
Idalia (7-8, 33rd RPI) hits the road on Friday, needing a win at Otis (8-7, 22nd RPI) to remain in the hunt for the YWKC crown. A win by the Wolves keeps them tied with Arickaree/Woodlin (11-3, 9th RPI) for the top spot and sets up a league championship contest next Tuesday. The Indian-Mustangs picked up a 71-67 OT victory at Idalia two weeks ago, but that was a non-league contest. For Otis, a win gives them a shot at splitting the title. They would also need Idalia to win next week to create a three-way tie.
The Bulldogs have won two straight since a 66-47 loss to Arickaree/Woodlin last Friday. Ty Hunt continues to lead the team in scoring, putting up 21.2 points a game, while also grabbing close to seven rebounds, and handing out four assists. In the five games since returning from an elbow injury, Cullen Glosson is registering 19 points and six assists. Idalia won its only game since that overtime loss to A/W and is led by exchange student Bru Carreras, who averages 19.4 points and four assists a game. Dax Towns and Caleb Wingfield both contribute right around eight points a night, and Towns leads the team with just short of eight boards a contest. Otis has won the last three meetings, but the teams are just 4-4 in the last eight against each other.
The other team in the mix for the YWKC crown steps out of league play this weekend and has a key contest at Briggsdale (10-6, 13th RPI). Arickaree/Woodlin takes a five-game winning streak into the game with the Falcons, and the Indian-Mustangs have four players averaging double figures in scoring. Kevin Ramirez leads the pack at just under 14 points a game, followed by Andy Miller at 11.6 ppg, Arturo Ramos at 10.9 ppg, and Michael McCaffrey at 10.8 ppg. Ramos led the team with consecutive 21 point performances against Idalia and Otis, but was held to just five in a 49-27 victory over Rocky Mountain Lutheran (7-8, 18th RPI) last Saturday.
Briggsdale has had some struggles recently, dropping four of its last six. This is the second game for the Falcons without their second-leading scorer, Braden Krise, who was injured in a biking accident almost two full weeks ago. The freshman was averaging close to 10 points prior to that accident. The team’s top scorer, Wyatt Patton, is averaging close to 19 points a night, and the junior scored that in a 60-56 victory over the Indian-Mustangs back in early-December. Ty Dill, who contributes nine points and nine rebounds, tallied a career-high 21 points and matched his career-high of 14 rebounds in that earlier win over Arickaree/Woodlin.
Third-ranked Sangre de Cristo (13-1, 5th RPI) controls its destiny in the Southern Peaks. As the only team in the league without a loss in conference play, the Thunderbirds just need to keep winning. The closest challenger, Sierra Grande (7-8, 30th RPI) will try to upend the T-birds and create a tie atop the standings when they meet on Saturday. Sangre de Cristo takes an eight-game winning streak into the weekend, which sees the Thunderbirds host Manzanola (5-9, 50th RPI) on Friday. They feature a three-headed monster, led by Cole Christensen and his 17.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 3.4 steals per game. Jake Slane adds 15 points and 5.2 boards a night, and Manuel Lopez gives 11.5 points a game.
The Panthers are the defending league champions, but they’ve been struggling to adjust to life without four-year standout Arthur Rodriguez, who took his 19.8 points per game career scoring average to Adams State University. Helping to fill the void is an offense that sees five players average at least seven points a game. Freshman Isiah Chairez leads the way at 10.9, followed by Caleb Scharsch (9.3), Isreal Martinez (8.5), Ambrosio Mondragon (7.8), and Caleb Sanchez (7.1). Sierra Grande won two of three meetings last year, taking the regular season game 57-51 and the district tournament match-up 67-57. Sangre de Cristo claimed the regional contest 43-39.>