We preview the top clubs and players in Class 1A girls’ basketball as voted on by the preseason coaches poll as released by CHSAA on Monday.
#1 Briggsdale: Considered a solid threat to the state championship last year, the Falcons finished at 22-2 but were upset in the state quarterfinals by Cotopaxi (45-42). They return virtually their entire lineup from that group including junior Kylie Krise who averaged 20.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.4 steals per game. She will again be in the running for Player of the Year. She earned first team all-state honors a year ago. Also returning is Shelby Hoffman. Now a senior, she scored 14.8 points per game with four assists and three steals a night. Peyton Nicklas nearly averaged double figures as a freshman (9.6) and may get even more scoring changes as a sophomore. Sophomore Macie Klem (5.5 pts / 5.0 rebs) and junior Makennah Tucker (4.6 pts / 2.8 steals) also return. The Falcons open with a good test against Idalia on the 30th and meet Lone Star (Feb 9th), Fleming (Feb 22nd) and Shining Mountain (March 6th) in other key matchups.
#2 Fleming: Like league rival Briggsdale, the Wildcats were highly ranked throughout the season but were upset in the state quarterfinals; falling to Shining Mountain (39-38). The Wildcats return every point, rebound, steal and assist from last season as the entire roster remains eligible. The returnees list includes the trio of Whitney Chintala, Kendyl Kirkwood and Kally Kirkwood. Chintala knocked in a team-best 34 three-pointers as a sophomore and chipped in four assists and nearly five steals per contest. Kendyl Kirkwood pulled down 12.3 rebounds a game and totaled 19 double-doubles as a junior. Both are returning first-team all-state performers. Kally Kirkwood was injured late in the season and played 19 games as a freshman and also collected five rebounds, five assists and four steals a year ago. Key players in supporting roles that return include Zoey Vandenbark (6.0 pts), Lexi Schaefer (2.3) and Samantha Pope (2.1). As mentioned, Fleming hosts Briggsdale in a key matchup on February 22nd and they also face five other teams ranked in the pre-season top 15 (Kit Carson, Lone Star, Flatirons Academy, Genoa Hugo and Merino) during the regular campaign.
#3 Sangre De Cristo: The T-Birds finished 20-4 last year but ended the season with a 38-34 loss to South Baca in the state quarterfinals. And while they suffered some key graduation losses (Tori Ford, Makenzie Rogers, Lexi Metz & Alyssa Mortensen), quite a bit of talent is back for another state tournament run. After averaging 14.7 points and 4.2 steals per game last year, senior Kylee Christensen was named to the Class 1A all-state second team. She scored in double figures in all but three games last season including 21 points in the state quarterfinal loss. Ashley Mortensen (8.5) was second on the team in scoring as a sophomore and also added four rebounds and three steals. Avery Palmgren chipped in 4.5 points and 4.4 rebounds as a junior and has been a contributor since her freshman campaign. Challenges on the regular season slate include early season matchups with Cotopaxi (Feb 5th) and Sanford (Feb 9th) and then late pairing with Rocky Ford (March 5th) to close the campaign. The game with Cotopaxi most likely would have been for the Southern Peaks title but the Pirates are not a league member this year. Sangre De Cristo has won 22 straight conference games overall and 29 of their last 30.
#4 South Baca: The Patriots were two wins away from the state championship last March when COVID caused the cancellation of the state tournament. They were coming off a 38-34 win over Sangre De Cristo in the quarterfinals and were slated to face Cotopaxi in the semifinals when the cancellation notice was sent out. Alissa Hebberd led the team with 12 points and 12 rebounds against Sangre De Cristo and she’s the top returnee this year. Overall, Hebberd averaged a double-double for the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds per game. She also collected four steals and a block on the defensive end. Senior classmate Jentry Patrick (5.3 points) and Kieley Stegman (3.6) also return as does junior Jami Quick (4.4). There are some holes to fill due to graduation as the Patriots lost four-year standout Delaney Eskew who finished her career with 1,073 points and 167 three-pointers. Also gone are Patience Crane (8.1) and Alison Wilson (7.9) who were third and fourth on the team in scoring a year ago. They also combined for eight rebounds. Game one this year comes quickly as the Patriots visit Yarborough Oklahoma on Monday January 25th and have later matchups with top 15 opponents Springfield (Feb 12th) and McClave (March 4th)
#5 McClave: A very young team last season, the Cardinals won 16 games and gained valuable tournament experience in reaching the state quarterfinals where they dropped a hard fought 42-32 decision with Springfield. Juniors Anna Beckett (15.3) and Maggie Chase (8.9) both return after finishing 1-2 on the teams’ scoring list a year ago. They also combined for 13 rebounds, six assists and seven steals per ballgame. Beckett scored at least 20 points in six games a year ago including a career best 30 in a win over Flagler. She netted 22 on 9-13 shooting in the state quarterfinals. Chase reached double figures in scoring six times and matched that output in rebounds. She finished with six points and five rebounds against Springfield. Three returning seniors, McKenzie Kiniston, Tehya Dickerson and Gentry Martin, should also contribute this season. Kiniston averaged three points and five rebounds each game; Dickerson three in each category and Martin finished with 2.5 points and 2.4 rebounds. Up first on the schedule is a January 28th opener with Manzanola with a rematch against Springfield lurking on February 23rd. The season also closes against Kit Carson on March 5th in a game that could easily decide the High Plains league crown.
#6 Kit Carson: Following a tough 1-3 start, the Wildcats finished 2019-20 with 15 wins and another High Plains league championship thanks to a late season 50-39 win over McClave. Like the Cardinals, they saw an end to their season with a loss to Springfield (38-29) in the regional tournament. Top scorer Reyna Isenbart (10.4) graduated, but four others who scored at least five points per game are back. That list includes junior Stephanie Framel who averaged 9.6 points and 6.2 rebounds a game as a sophomore. Tieler Randel (8.1) netted a team-high 28 three-pointers last season; Allison Gekeler (6.9) also chipped in nearly four rebounds and Faith Johnson (5.3) added four rebounds and two steals. Cally Booker-Rady, who scored 2.5 points a game her first two seasons, managed to play in just one game due to injury and her return should also boost the Wildcats. Kit Carson has won 32 straight conference games with their last loss coming during the 2013-14 season (Eads). That streak could be challenged this year with a March 5th date against McClave. That contest will serve as the close to a very rugged regular season slate that includes matchups with Limon, Simla, Fleming, Springfield, Rocky Ford and Genoa Hugo.
#7 Lone Star: The Longhorns are coming off the best season in school history as they finished 20-2 and within one game of making their first ever state tournament. The regional loss to Fleming was a tough one as the Longhorns led 33-15 at half before outscored 37-12 in a wild 52-45 contest. The top five scorers from last years group returns; led by junior Alivia Weathers who totaled 13.0 points per game. She also topped the club with 3.1 assists and 3.8 steals per game. Alison Davis was second in scoring (9.8) and first in rebounds (6.2) and she returns for her junior season as does Lamya Kuntz (6.2 points / 3.2 rebounds). Seniors include Andrea Kuntz, who was third in scoring (7.6) and rebounds (4.7) last year and Jayna Lockard (4.6 points / 1.9 steals). The regular season schedule is a bit more difficult this year as the Longhorns line up with Longmont Christian and Flatirons Academy in week one followed by consecutive battles against Idalia, Briggsdale, Prairie and Haxtun. A trip to Shining Mountain is set for February 20th and the Longhorns wrap up the season against Fleming on March 5th.
#8 Cotopaxi: The Pirates win over Briggsdale in the quarterfinals last year was just their second-ever state tournament win and first since beating Peetz in 1984. Only 19 of the 45 points scored in the win were lost to graduation so the Pirates again have high expectations going into the 2021 campaign. Leading that charge will be senior Koylnn Guliford who earned second-team all-state honors after averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and nearly three blocks per game as a junior. A starter since her first high school game, Guliford enters the season needing just 85 points to reach 1,000 for her career. She can also reach 600 rebounds, 200 steals and 200 blocks this season. Shaelee Coleman was second in scoring last season (10.0). She also returns along with Annalise Walker (3.9). Coleman also added 2.4 assists and 2.6 steals while Walker provided over three rebounds a game. The Pirates get in an early season clash with Sangre De Cristo on February following first week games with La Veta and Evangelical Christian. They also close with three straight games against 2A competition in Center, Custer County and Swink.
#9 Simla: The Cubs are back on the 1A level for the first time since the 2011-12 season when they won 24 games and finished fourth at the state tournament. Over the last eight years in Class 2A, the Cubs were very successful with four 20-win seasons and 141 victories overall. 19 of those wins came last year in the first year of head coach Doug Cox as they missed the state tournament by one game; falling to Holly (47-34) in the regional finals. Four of the top five scorers from the club are expected back this year including top producer Kaitlyn Rector (12.5). She also paced the team with 9.7 rebounds and finished with 10 double-doubles. She was limited to five points and seven rebounds in the loss to Holly but had produced 50 points and 39 rebounds in the previous three games. Halle Lutz (9.0) and Cede Smith (7.8) also return. They each collected 28 three-pointers on the season and provide the Cubs with an excellent backcourt to equalize the inside game of Rector. Sophomore Ryann Eurich will also produce inside after getting six points and nearly seven rebounds a game in her freshman season. The Cubs will get tested right out of the gate with a season opener against Limon (Jan 26th) and a clash with Kit Carson (Feb 9th).
#10 Flatirons Academy: The return of sisters Kenlee (15.6) and Byrn Durrill (14.4) along with Savana Kasack (11.7) have the Bison thinking state tournament this year. Those three pushed Flatirons to the regional finals a year ago where they came up short to Shining Mountain (39-28). They had beaten the highly-ranked Lions 53-46 just one week before. Each of the three also averages at least five rebounds and two steals per game and together combine for eight assists. Makayla Dannelly, with four points and five rebounds per game, also returns but the Bison need a bench player from last year to step up and fill the gap left with the graduation of Sydney Harrison who pulled down a team high 6.7 rebounds a game. The rematch with Shining Mountain on February 6th headlines the early season schedule but the Bison will also get to see how they match up with top two ranked Briggsdale (Feb 20th) and Fleming (March 2nd) later on.
#11 Springfield is a returning state semifinalist but the Longhorns lost their top three scorers to graduation including player of the year Julia Mondragon. With that trio gone, more of the scoring of the scoring load will fall on the shoulders of Brinlyn Dukes, Payton Arbuthnot and Melanie Woller. They all averaged 4.5 points per game last year but each will get will more shots up this season. Another key returnee is Alayah Meltenberger who totaled 3.2 points and two steals a game as a sophomore. #12 Shining Mountain was scheduled to face Springfield in the state semifinals when the state tournament was cancelled. The Lions (19-5) lost their top scorer as well with the graduation of Lola Conaway (13.0) but they also return two double-figure scorers in Frances Hilliard (11.1) and Kalea Zeender (102). Zender also pulled down 7.2 rebounds. She was second on the team to Sophia Matarrese (8.3) who returns for her junior year. Matarrese added six points a game offensively. #13 Genoa Hugo was kept out of the state tournament due to a 59-41 loss to Springfield in the regional finals. Roster wise, the only loss for the Pirates is Ryely Smartt but she led the team with 13 points and eight rebounds a game as a senior. Brylee Miller could take over that role this year as she was second to Smart with nine points and six rebounds. Also returning are Glorya Carr (6.6 points), Dixi Lockhart (5.2), Tessa Smith (3.6) and Shae Withington (3.4). #14 Merino (14-10) finished their season with a 61-35 loss to Briggsdale in the regional finals. They welcome back Taysa Conger who was the team leader in scoring (14.5) and rebounds (10.5). She’ll be joined on the court by Ryann Briggs (5.5) and Lily Ryles (3.4). The Rams will again play a predominant 2A schedule as they battle Lower Platte rivals Holyoke, Wray, Yuma and Sedgwick County for the league title. Limon and Fleming are also on the slate. #15 Elbert won 15 games last season and returns three double digit scorers in Olivia Lay (13.6), Maisen Avent (12.9) and Kinsey Bitterman (10.7). Lay, one of the top players in Class 1A, also averages 10.1 rebounds with Bitterman chipping in nearly eight. The Bulldogs could be unbeaten when they line up against Simla on February 24th and they also have a late season test with Shining Mountain (March 4th) to close the slate.
OTHER TOP PLAYERS RETURNING
|Shiinei Tallman||Antonito||13.3 rebounds|
|Jessica Aldstadt||Belleview Christian||4.5 assists|
|Kendall Conway||DeBeque||14.5 points|
|Josey Snidow||DeBeque||10.4 rebounds|
|Grace Hatfield||Dove Creek||20.5 points|
|Kobie Beanland||Dove Creek||3.3 assists|
|Lindsey Gammill||Creede||10.1 rebounds|
|Lanai Anderson||Edison||13.5 rebounds|
|Camren Morris||Idalia||14.8 points|
|Adriana Herrera||Idalia||3.6 assists|
|Taylor Vandenburg||Longmont Christian||14.7 points|
|Jessica Schneider||Longmont Christian||11.4 rebounds|
|Heaven Martinez||Manzanola||17.6 points|
|Anela Dixon||Mile High Academy||5.7 assists|
|Sidney Folkenberg||Mile High Academy||13.7 rebounds|
|Alyssa Myers||North Park||3.5 assists|