Compared to recent weeks, the schedule for this penultimate weekend of regular season play is lacking the depth of quality match-ups. That isn’t to say that there are no important games to be played, as there are still some key contests on tap.
Non-league action dominates the Thursday portion of the schedule, with #5 Sangre de Cristo (12-2, 5th RPI) facing Springfield (11-5, 9th RPI) leading the way. After having its five-game winning streak snapped two weeks ago, Sangre de Cristo put two wins on the board last week, allowing a total of 12 points in the process. The Thunderbirds dominated Aguilar (1-8, 61st RPI) 57-5 and followed that up with a 75-7 victory over Centennial (3-12, 52nd RPI). That makes it seven times that an opponent has failed to reach 20 points against the T-birds. Kylee Christensen (14.1 ppg) and Jessica Slane (12.5 ppg) lead the team in scoring but the T-Birds have been playing the last couple of week without Christensen who is out with an injury.
Springfield enters the game with its own two-game winning streak and the Longhorns have won 10 of their last 12 overall. The contest with Sangre is just the tip of the iceberg for Springfield, as Friday has the Longhorns hosting Wiley (10-6, 14th RPI) in a crucial Arkansas Valley tilt. While Thursday’s game is important as far as the RPI goes, the latter contest is all about the league race. Springfield is tied atop the league standings with #2 South Baca (14-0, 4th RPI), and Wiley is one game back. South Baca already owns a win over Wiley, so the Panthers need a win and then a Longhorn victory over the Patriots next week to split the league title three ways.
The series between Springfield and Wiley has been nearly even, with the Panthers owning a 10-9 advantage. However, Springfield has won seven of the last nine. Wiley took a 43-40 victory in December in the opening round of the Lamar Holiday Tournament. The difference in that contest was a 15-2 third quarter by the Panthers. Macy Rowan led Wiley with 12 points, while Marisa Vasquez (11) and Mariana Morales (10) also reached double figures. Alexis Crane was the lone Longhorn in double digits, scoring a game-high 14. Kylie Parks was the only other Springfield player with more than four points, as the junior tallied eight.
Sangre de Cristo also has a second game this weekend that carries high importance. The Thunderbirds can put a stranglehold on the Southern Peaks title with a win over Sierra Grande (9-7, 24th RPI) on Saturday. Sangre owns a one-game lead over both Sierra Grande and Cotopaxi, and the T-birds have a head-to-head win over the Pirates. A win by the Panthers creates a three-way tie atop the standings. The Thunderbirds snapped a three-game skid in the series with a 62-55 win last year. Prior to that three-game streak in favor of the Panthers, Sangre had won eight straight and 12 of 13. Abby Corona, who leads Sierra Grande in scoring at just over 15 points a game, tallied 14 in last year’s game with Sangre.
Shining Mountain (12-4, 19th RPI) can wrap up the 5280 championship on Thursday when the Lions visit Front Range Baptist (9-6, 13th RPI). Front Range Baptist can make it a three-way tie atop the league with a victory, bringing Belleview Christian (14-3, 18th RPI). Shining Mountain has won nine straight games and has not lost in 2019. The Lions have kept all but one opponent under 30 points during the winning streak, and two did not reach double digits. Frances Hilliard leads the team at 14 points and three steals a game.
The Falcons have won three in a row, scoring 63 in each of the last two. They can make things interesting this weekend, as they follow up with Belleview Christian on Friday. The Falcons already own a 29-25 victory over the Bruins, but that was very early in the season. A pair of wins by Front Range would have them tied with Shining Mountain for the top spot in the league, and they would own the tiebreaker.
Idalia (6-9, 26th RPI) visits Otis (7-8, 39th RPI) on Friday, needing a win to stay tied with Arickaree/Woodlin (8-6, 15th RPI) atop the YWKC. Otis had been one game back, but the Bulldogs were beaten by Lone Star (11-2, 17th RPI) 47-45 in overtime on Tuesday. That was the second league loss for the Bulldogs, who enter Friday sitting fourth. Idalia lost a heartbreaker to Arickaree/Woodlin two weeks ago, 31-27, but that was a non-league affair. A win over Otis would set up a winner-take-all situation when the Wolves and Indian-Mustangs meet next Tuesday.
The Wolves use a balance of youth and experience, as they are led in scoring by a freshman and a senior. Freshman Adriana Herrera is tops at 8.4 points a game, while Breann Shaffer is a close second at 8.0 ppg. Shaffer is the team’s top rebounder at seven a night, while Herrera snags a team-leading three steals a game. Sophomores AnnaLise Glosson and Becca Bleak are the top scorers for Otis. Idalia won both of last year’s meetings and has taken 10 of the last 12 in the series.
The highlight of the weekend, at least on paper, is top-ranked Kit Carson (16-0, 1st RPI) on the road to #4 Genoa-Hugo (14-1, 2nd RPI) on Saturday. It’s the second straight weekend where Kit Carson has squared off with a highly-ranked opponent, coming on the heels of last Saturday’s 59-49 win over #6 Haxtun (13-3, 11th RPI). The Wildcats had four players in double figures, led by Tess Hornung with 18 and McKenzie Smith with 15. Reyna Isenbart added 14 and Olivia Isenbart tallied 10. Hornung also pulled down 11 boards, recording her third straight double-double and sixth of the season.
Genoa-Hugo is no stranger to big match-ups, as the Pirates beat a pair of ranked teams last week. The Pirates took down previously eighth-ranked Wiley (60-50) and then followed that by edging #7 Fleming (14-3, 6th RPI) 45-43. Seven Pirates got in on the scoring in the win over Fleming, with Ryely Smartt posting a team-high 15 points.
Kit Carson has won ten consecutive meetings with Genoa-Hugo, with the Pirates last tasting victory in 2009. The Wildcats won 48-11 two years ago and 57-17 last year.