Filling in for Kerry Sherman this week it wasn’t difficult to find a place to start for the 1A girls’ basketball report.  The state championship rematch between Kit Carson and Fleming is the obvious headliner this week as the two sets of Wildcats are again ranked first and second in the state.  And many fans again believe the regular season matchup could be a preview of the state championship game coming up in March.
That was the case last year.  Kit Carson edged Fleming 55-44 in the regular season and then won the state championship with a 55-35 decision.  Olivia Isenbart played a major role on the offensive end in both games as she powered inside for a team best 17 points in the regular season meeting and added 14 in the state finals.  Fleming did not shoot the ball well in either matchup; hitting just 7-34 from inside the arc in game one and only 9-38 in the rematch.
Both teams are playing at a high level again this year.  Kit Carson (13-0) has outscored opponents by an average of 37 points per game this year and their closest contest came in a 26-point win over Wiley in the season opener.  Fleming (12-1) has won 11 straight since an early loss to 2A Holyoke including two narrow wins over Briggsdale.
Pace again will be important on Saturday.  Kit Carson prefers to use their size and outside shooting in the half court game while Fleming wants to force a high number of possessions with full court pressure and up-tempo offense.  Kit Carson struggled a bit with pace in the first half a year ago but adjusted at halftime in the regular season.  They led by just one at halftime but then outscored Fleming 15-7 in the third quarter.  The regular season game also helped Kit Carson get the win in the state finals as they were prepared for tempo.
One thing often forgot about Kit Carson is their outside shooting.  Most opponents of course are concerned with the tremendous size they can put on the floor in all five positions, but the Wildcats have knocked in 60 three-pointers this year.  Micayla Isenbart leads the club with 28 on the season and McKenzie Smith is next with 11.  If Kit Carson shoots well from the arc, their offense is nearly unstoppable.
Isenbart is producing a Player of the Year senior season as averages 13.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 3.6 steals from her point guard position.  Tess Hornung is a second double figure scorer (13.4) and adds 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 steals.  Depth is provided by Reyna Isenbart (9.5), Olivia Isenbart (8.1), Smith (5.7) and Haley Johnson (5.2).
Fleming is coming off a tremendous win at Briggsdale last Saturday.  They used a strong spurt in the third quarter to score the 65-64 decision that basically clinched the North Central district championship.  Alli Keisel had a double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds and freshman Kendyl Kirkwood nearly joined her with 23 points and 9 rebounds.  Hannah Blom connected to two treys and finished with 16.
Keisel tops the Wildcats in scoring overall (16.6) with Kirkwood (11.5) second.  Together the two pull down nearly 17 rebounds per game.  Jenna Lengenfelder has moved to the point guard slot this year but still provides 11 points, four rebounds and nearly four steals per game.
A second non-conference game that will greatly impact district, regional and potentially state tournament pairings is also set for Saturday as Briggsdale goes to Heritage Christian.  Briggsdale is 9th in RPI this week and Heritage Christian 10th and the two are battling for the second spot in the district and regional tournament pairings behind Fleming (7th in RPI).
Briggsdale (11-2) has lost both games to Fleming so likely won’t be able to catch the Wildcats in the seeding process.  The Falcons are experienced as seniors make up the top five on the scoring list.  Jodel Erickson (12.9) and Skyla Miller (12.5) are the first two options on offense with Ailaina Suppes (9.4), Ashey Reub (8.2) and Nikki Anderson (7.3) all providing points.
Heritage Christian (12-2) is unbeaten against 1A teams with losses coming against larger schools Resurrection Christian (3A) and Denver Christian (2A).  Seven of the wins are against 2A program and the Eagles have also beaten 3A Estes Park.
Three players make up the brunt of the scoring as Kennedy Hughes (16.2), Sarah Collins (12.5) and Emma Johnson (11.7) combine for 40 points a game.  The rest of the roster contributes 11.
Genoa Hugo looks to continue their last season push by getting a win over Black Forest leading Edison on Friday.  The Pirates opened the season 0-8 but has won five straight.  Their latest win came against Kiowa (61-42) as Ryley Smartt finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds.  Tessa Smith added 12 and Heather Graham 10.
Edison (9-3) could be a difficult out.  They sit 4-0 and atop the Black Forest standings but lost to South Baca 73-48 in non-league play last week.  That decision ended the Eagles eight game winning streak.
In conference play, the focus this week sits on the High Plains, Ark Valley and YWKC where teams continue to battle for either a league championship or a better district tournament seed.  Key games include McClave at Cheyenne Wells, Wiley at Holly and Otis at Arickaree/Woodlin.
McClave and Cheyenne Wells collide on Thursday and they open the game tied with Eads in second place behind Kit Carson in the High Plains.  Since Eads is likely to come up short against Kit Carson on Friday, the McClave-Cheyenne Wells winner should be alone in second place.
Cheyenne Wells (6-6) has dropped two of their last three.  Balance is the key offensively as six players average at least four points per contest.  Arlet Esquivel and Kaci Chadwick each average 7.7 and share scoring honors.  Together they also collect nearly 12 rebounds each game.
McClave’s record (8-5) could be considered misleading as they’ve played one of the top schedules in the state.  That strength of schedule reflects in the RPI as the Cardinals are 5th in the standings this week.  The Cardinals have momentum from wins over South Baca and Cheraw last week.  Jordan Parker is their key as she’s asked to do quite a bit on the offensive end.
Holly had quite the whirlwind weekend.  The Wildcats were blown out by local rival Springfield 74-49 last Friday but recovered to beat Kim/Branson, the number one team in the RPI standings, less than 24 hours later (39-35).  The backcourt duo of Josie Cook and Kallie Cathcart continue to pace the Wildcats offense.
Wiley is surging.  Following a 50-25 loss to Kim/Branson, the Panthers have won five of six.  The stretch has kept them tied with Holly and Kim/Branson in second place behind Springfield.  Marisa Vazquez (9.5) and Danielle Wallace (5.3) should match up well against the talented Holly backcourt.
Springfield finally opened their league schedule with the win over Holly last week.  A second Ark Valley contest is set for Thursday against Walsh.  That game begins a busy weekend where the Longhorns also meet Boise City OK on Friday and Cheraw on Saturday.  League dates still on the schedule include Wiley on February 9th, Kim/Branson on the 13th and South Baca on the 15th.
There’s really not a favorite inside the YWKC but Friday’s battle between Otis and Arickaree/Woodlin will help which club wins the championship.  Every league club has the ability to beat another so the race should come down to the final week.
Arickaree/Woodlin has split their last six including a tough 32-29 loss to Idalia last week.  They had beaten the Wolves by 18 points earlier in the season.  Micah Koolstra is their key offensively.  She has a team best 23 treys and tops the club with 12.8 points and 9.8 rebounds.  Mae Wright is next with 11 points and four rebounds.
Otis had won two in a row before falling to 2A Haxtun 54-15 last week.  Riley Brandon (11.1) leads the Bulldogs on offense but she gets help from AnnaLise Glosson (6.9) and Makenna Metzler (6.2).
Idalia is also in the YWKC mix.  The Wolves have a league game at Bethune on Friday.
Ouray and Dove Creek meet for a second time and the result should help determine the top district seed from their league.  The San Juan crosses over with 1A teams from the Western Slope to form District 1.  Dove Creek won the first meeting (50-40); outscoring the Trojans 14-5 in the fourth to pull away.
Cassie Gatlin led the way with a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds.  Freshman Grace Hatfield added 10 points.  Ouray picked up 12 points apiece from Lauren Fairchild and Courtney Alvarez.
None of the league leaders inside the Southern Peaks square off this weekend.  Sangre De Cristo and Sierra Grande are both unbeaten and share the lead by one game over Antonito.  La Veta is in 4th two games back.
Sierra Grande has the most difficult opponent this week as they tangle with an improving Cotopaxi squad on Thursday.  They also host Creede on Saturday.  Sangre De Cristo is heavily favored against Centennial on Friday and Antonito should get by Primero on Thursday.  La Veta is at Aguilar the same day.
More important games are set for next week as La Veta faces Sierra Grande and Sangre De Cristo battles Antonito.
Cornerstone Christian (4-0) is alone in first in the 5280 division.  They lead Front Range Baptist, Rocky Mountain Lutheran and Belleview Christian by one game.  The Bulldogs have beaten Belleview Christian and face Front Range Baptist on Friday.  Rocky Mountain Lutheran is on the schedule next week.