The top teams in the state will be very busy this week, as the regular season nears its conclusion. Two of those teams find themselves in a pair of featured games this week, as #5 Cheyenne Wells and #4 Creede both play two big non-league tilts.
Cheyenne Wells (14-1, 8th RPI) gets started on Thursday when it travels to #2 Holly (17-0, 1st RPI) for a state championship rematch. The Tigers have won 11 straight since a 10-point loss to #6 South Baca (13-3, 11th RPI) in mid-December. That includes Tuesday’s 48-36 victory over Granada (0-16, 51st RPI). They have not had a game decided by single digits since the season’s opening week, when they beat South Baca by one and Kim/Branson (6-9, 31st RPI) by nine.
Likewise, Holly has only had two games with less than a 10-point separation at the end. One was a three-point affair with Greeley County (KS) and the second was a 44-35 decision at Kit Carson last month. Michael Rushton has posted three straight games of 17 points, which is a career-high total. The junior is averaging a little over nine points a game, which is third on the team behind Jesse Gomez (13.8) and Gus Dominguez (11.2).
Holly beat Cheyenne Wells twice last season, both times by 10 points. The Wildcats earned a 60-50 victory in the regular season and then staged a huge comeback in the title game to win 49-39. Cheyenne Wells led that contest 27-11 at the half. Holly has won six straight meetings with the Tigers.
The Tigers will have very little turnaround, as they will host Arickaree/Woodlin (11-4, 32nd RPI) on Saturday. The Indian-Mustangs picked up a 71-61 victory over Weldon Valley (0-16, 55th RPI) on Tuesday night. It was their first game since leading scorer Kevin Ramirez (15.5 ppg) was injured in the final minute of last Saturday’s win over Rocky Mountain Lutheran (9-7, 15th RPI). Arickaree/Woodlin travels to Bethune (1-13, 59th RPI) on Friday for a league game, and the Indian-Mustangs will be looking to sweep the Bobcats after winning the first meeting 74-50.
This is just the second meeting between the Indian-Mustangs and Tigers. Cheyenne Wells took a 65-30 victory last year.
After dropping two of its last four games inside the Southern Peaks, Creede (14-2, 2nd RPI) will head west for a two non-league games to be played in Gunnison. The Miners will first hook up with De Beque (9-4, 17th RPI) on Friday before facing Ouray (9-8, 43rd RPI) on Saturday. Creede sits third in the Southern Peaks, as the Miners own the tie-breaker over Primero (11-3, 13th RPI) thanks to a 58-53 win over the Bulldogs.
Isaac Borchers is 10th in the class in scoring, averaging 19.8 points a night. He had a string of five straight games with at least 24 points snapped last Saturday in an 80-62 loss to #8 Sierra Grande (12-3, 9th RPI), as the Panthers held him to 18. He had also recorded three straight double-doubles before being limited to six rebounds in that loss.
De Beque caught everyone’s attention by reeling off seven straight wins to begin the season. Since then, the Dragons have lost four of their last six. None of those losses have been to 1A opponents. Three of their defeats have been to teams currently in the top 21 of the 2A RPI. Freshman Brennan Rigsby, who posted a 37-point game in early January, is 7th in the class, averaging 21.1 points a game.
Ouray made it to the state tournament the last three years, but this season the Trojans have a largely new cast of characters. Scout Manley, who tallied a total of 53 points the last two years, leads the team at close to 13 points a night. The Trojans have won two in a row since enduring a four-game skid. They have won all three previous meetings with Creede, but the most recent one was in 2014.
Despite a 3-12 record, Kiowa (45th RPI) can lock up the Black Forest league title this week. All three of the wins by the Indians are within the league, and they visit co-leader Elbert (6-9, 40th RPI) on Friday. Elbert would need a victory in that contest and one more against Pikes Peak Christian (5-8, 52nd RPI) next Friday to earn the crown.
The Bulldogs will ride a two-game losing streak into Friday’s match-up, having fallen by 24 and 20 points in their two most recent outings. Braxton Morgan (15.4 ppg) will look to get the Bulldogs back on track, as they had won four of five prior to the current skid.
Kiowa has lost three of its last four after posting its only back-to-back wins of the season. Ten of the 12 losses on the season by the Indians have come against 2A schools, including three of the top 10 RPI and six of the top 22. The duo of Dustin Wenz (8.1 ppg) and Bryar Morgan (7.9 ppg) account for almost half of the team’s scoring.
The two programs split a pair of games last season, with Elbert earning a win in the regular season (53-46) and Kiowa taking the district match-up (38-27). The Indians own a 9-4 edge in the recent history of this rivalry.
Primero currently sits fourth in the Southern Peaks, just ahead of Cotopaxi (10-5, 19th RPI). Those two will meet in an important clash next Friday, but the Bulldogs get a shot to shake up the standings this week. They will visit #3 Sangre de Cristo (14-1, 4th RPI) on Friday, trying to make it two straight wins over the Thunderbirds, and move their current winning streak to four games. The last two wins by the Bulldogs have come on the road, in New Mexico. Vince Damelio is third in 1A in scoring at 23 points a game, a figure that is good four ninth in the entire class, regardless of classification.
Sangre de Cristo rides the third longest winning streak into the contest, as the Thunderbirds have put 13 straight W’s on the board. They avenged their lone loss of the season against Creede, downing the Miners 67-66 two weeks ago. While the T-Birds don’t have that one big scorer, they do have four who provide good balance. Cole Christensen leads the way at 14.3 points, followed closely by Manuel Lopez at 13.3 and Jake Slane at 12.2. Jared Sinclair gives another 9.3 points a game.
There’s a logjam behind Front Range Baptist (11-3, 6th RPI) in the 5280, with three teams tied one game behind the Falcons. One of those squads is Cornerstone Christian (9-6, 16th RPI) who visits Rocky Mountain Lutheran (9-7, 15th RPI) on Thursday. The Eagles trail the Bulldogs, Denver Jewish Day (9-6, 28th RPI), and Shining Mountain (12-5, 12th RPI) by one game in the win column in the league standings.
Cornerstone Christian has dropped its last two games, each by three points. The Bulldogs lost a 54-51 decision to Front Range Baptist last week and they fell at Stargate on Tuesday night, 48-45. They had won six of seven prior to this skid.
The Eagles picked up a 59-52 win over Beth Eden on Tuesday, sending them into the match-up with wins in three of their last four. The lone loss was at Arickaree/Woodlin last Saturday. After trailing by 14 at the start of the fourth quarter in that defeat, the Eagles rallied back to within six when the game was called following the lengthy injury delay. Leading scorer Andrew Zemlicka did not play in the last two games. The senior is averaging over 16 points a game.
Despite a three-game winning streak in the series, Rocky Mountain Lutheran still trails the Bulldogs by one game. Cornerstone Christian has won six of 11 meetings with the Eagles.
Finally, one of the biggest games of the week took place on Monday. Seventh-ranked Heritage Christian (12-3, 3rd RPI) picked up a Mile High league victory over #9 Longmont Christian (12-5, 7th RPI), 70-54. The victory kept the Eagles alone in second place in the league and gives them a good shot at the #1 seed in the District 4 tournament. Levi Killian had a game-high 25 points in the victory, while Dominic Puchino led the Warriors with 23. Both teams are fighting with #1 Peetz (17-0, 5th RPI) for the top seed in the district tourney.