Despite a limited slate in the opening weekend of 2018, a number of attractive match-ups are on tap in Class 1A. Most are non-conference tilts, but there are a few that will play a key role in league races.
Second-ranked Kim/Branson (7-0) finds itself in a pair of the top contests this weekend, hosting Wiley (3-3) in their Ark Valley opener on Friday and then squaring off with #7 Antonito (4-1) on Saturday at Trinidad State Junior College. The Mustangs are off to their third consecutive start of at least 7-0. Last year, they won their first 14 games of the campaign and the season before they began 8-0. Kim/Branson went a combined 35-8 over the two seasons, but failed to advance past regionals.
Their closest game this season has been a 47-35 victory over #9 Springfield (4-2) in the championship of the RL Ballard Tournament. The Mustangs have won by an average of more than 25 points a contest and have not allowed anyone to score more than 35 in a game.
Wiley has lost the last four meetings with Kim/Branson, all in the last two seasons, and the Panthers have dropped 13 of the last 16 to the Mustangs. This year got off to a very promising start, but after losing three of the last four games, the Panthers find themselves at .500 heading into 2018. Two of those losses have come against teams in the top 10, including #1 Kit Carson and #9 Springfield. The remaining defeat was at the hands of Eads, who enters the week just one spot out of the rankings.
Marisa Vazquez paces the Panthers with 11.3 points per game, and Danielle Wallace adds 6.8 points a night. Haleigh Prosser chips in close to six points a game, while also leading the team with five boards.
Antonito nearly won the T-Bird Shootout in the season’s opening weekend, dropping the championship contest to #5 Sangre de Cristo, 46-45. That was one of three close games for the Trojans before the break, as they beat Cheraw by four and Escalante NM by five.
The Trojans won last year’s meeting with Kim/Branson, 49-33, outscoring the Mustangs 18-7 in the fourth quarter to pull away for the victory. Joslyn Garcia led Antonito with 24 points, hitting six of eight three-pointers, while Ashley Yergert topped the Mustangs with 19.
Cheraw (4-2) also plays two of this week’s featured games, one in High Plains league action. The Wolverines had won three straight after the early loss to Antonito before dropping their last game of 2017 to South Baca. Their first month of the season included a third place finish in the T-Bird Shootout and the championship of the Flagler Tournament.
The stat leaderboard is littered with freshmen and juniors, as there is just one senior on the roster. Kodey Hoss leads the squad in scoring (13.2), rebounding (8.7) and assists (4.3), while fellow junior Josi Groves is second in scoring at 11.3 points. Both also rank high in steals, combining for six a game. Freshman Heaven-Lee Marquez leads the team in that category with four a night.
Eads went through December with two losses, one a 42-39 defeat by #9 Springfield and the other a 29-24 decision to McClave in the opening round of the Lamar Holiday Tournament. All four wins were by at least 22 points.
While no player averages double figures in scoring, four contribute at least seven points a game. Mariah Smith, one of three seniors on the squad, leads the way with 9.5 points and 5.8 rebounds a night. Morgyn Johnson is second in both categories with 8.7 points and 5.0 rebounds, while Kaylee Wilson (7.5) and Miranda Mitchek (7.0) round out the top scoring threats.
La Veta (4-1) hosts Cheraw on Saturday, looking to extend a two-game winning streak. The Redskins opened the season by winning the Elbert Tournament with victories over Rocky Mountain Lutheran and the host Bulldogs. They then suffered their lone loss to Kim/Branson (50-28) before stringing together two more wins to close the month.
Kaylee Corsentino averages a double-double to lead the team, posting 16.6 points and 10.6 rebounds a night, while also checking in third on the squad in steals (3.2). Sonia Vallejos (8.2) and Shaylee Andreatta (8.0) combine for over 16 points a night.
Each of Springfield’s opponents in the first month of the season were either ranked in the top 10 or are in the group of others receiving votes.  The two losses for the Longhorns were to #2 Kim/Branson and #1 Kit Carson. They also have wins over South Baca, Eads, Wiley, and McClave. Friday night, the Longhorns visit Cheyenne Wells (2-3) in a non-conference contest.
The last three meetings between the programs have been decided by a total of 13 points, with the Tigers winning the last two. That includes a 44-42 decision last year.
The Tigers have split two close contests with South Baca and have an overtime loss to Wiley, to go with a lopsided loss to #2 Kim/Branson on their record. They won their last game of December, downing Idalia by 17.
A pair of 6-0 squads meet up Friday in Rocky Ford, with the 2A Meloneers hosting #5 Sangre de Cristo in a big non-conference clash that will have a considerable impact on the RPI of both teams. The Thunderbirds have seen the new sportsmanship rule come into play in four of their games, with another victory decided by 26 points. Their average margin of victory has been just under 37. That includes the one-point win over Antonito.
Jessica Slane leads the T-Birds in almost every category. The junior averages 20.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 5.3 steals, 3.7 assists and one block a game. Freshman Kylee Christensen chips in 13.8 points and 3.7 steals. As a squad, the T-Birds average better than 18 steals a contest.
Half of Rocky Ford’s games in December counted in the Santa Fe standings and the Meloneers are tied with 2A #2 Swink (5-1) atop the league. Those two meet next Friday. Two of the other three wins this season for the Meloneers have come against teams from the 3A Tri-Peaks. Rocky Ford defeated Florence (45-37) and Trinidad (39-36 OT).
Freshman Abby Snyder is the lone player averaging double figures in scoring for Coach Mark Henson, checking in at 13.8 points per night. She also grabs close to seven rebounds, with over three steals and three assists. Emi Romero contributes 9.3 points and 7.7 boards.
There is one more clash between squads in 1A and 2A on tap for Friday, this one with ramifications in the Western Slope standings. De Beque (4-2) hosts Soroco (4-3) with each looking for its first league win. For Soroco, this is the league opener, while the Dragons already have a league loss to North Park on the ledger.
Soroco has already been tested several times by much larger programs, as the Rams have split a pair of games with 3A Moffat County, while also earning a win over 4A Northridge and losing to 4A Montrose. Their other loss was a four-point affair with Cedaredge. Chloe Veilleux paces the Rams with over 18 points and close to six steals a night.
Outside of De Beque’s 59-44 loss to North Park, the only other defeat suffered by the Dragons was a 49-45 decision to Monument Valley (UT), one of the top 1A teams in that state. Three of their four wins have come over 2A teams, including two over Caprock Academy.
Two of the top programs in the YWKC league hit the road this weekend for big non-conference contests. Otis (3-2) visits Weldon Valley (4-3) on Friday, while Arickaree/Woodlin (5-1) travels to #1 Kit Carson (5-0) on Saturday.
Otis won the title of the Carlile Classic at Peetz to open the season, beating Prairie and Caliche by a combined nine points. The Bulldogs then dropped two straight to 2A opponents Merino and Dayspring Christian, the first of which by 32 points. Chad Glosson’s squad got back on track by beating Stratton/Liberty for third place in the Akron Holiday Tournament.
Weldon Valley opened the season with wins in three of its first four outings. The wins came by eight, four and two points, with the lone loss coming at the hands of Arickaree/Woodlin (35-32). After earning the two-point win at Prairie on a 30-foot buzzer beater by Britney Filter, the Warriors were handed North Central League losses by #3 Briggsdale (66-35) and #4 Fleming (50-31). They wrapped up December on a positive note, drubbing Denver Jewish Day, 69-23.
Filter is one of two Warriors averaging double figures, pumping in 11 points a game. Kirsten Wood leads the squad with 11.8 points.
The win by Arickaree/Woodlin over Weldon Valley started a string of three straight victories to begin the year, two by single digits. The Indian-Mustangs won the Jeff Sherman Memorial Tournament and played for the title in the Prairie Classic the following weekend, but they were handled 49-19 by #4 Briggsdale. They put that loss behind them and closed out 2017 with a pair of lopsided league wins over Bethune and Lone Star. Arickaree/Woodlin visits Flagler/Hi-Plains on Friday.
Micah Koolstra leads the squad by averaging a double-double of 11.5 points and 10.8 rebounds a night. Mae Wright (8.7) and Abbi Miller (7.3) combine for another 16 points a game.
Kit Carson enters the weekend having won 32 straight and 78 of its last 80 contests. The Wildcats will be heavily favored on Friday when they visit Bethune ahead of the clash with Arickaree/Woodlin. Their closest game this year was a 26-point win over Wiley in the season-opener. The other wins have been by 30, 32, 33 and 54.  The Wildcats won last year’s meeting with the Indian-Mustangs, 68-27.
Micayla Isenbart leads a trio of Wildcats in double figures, checking in a just under 17 points a game. Tess Hornung adds 13 and Reyna Isenbart chips in just over 10.