With three-time defending state champion Sanford sitting in the 8th seed, fans know it’s a tremendous field in Class 2A as the tournament makes a move to the north and the Loveland Events Center. Depth can also be seen in the bracket with Highland seeded only fifth despite being the only unbeaten team competing.
We look at all teams below and will follow the tournament with score updates and game recaps all three days of the tournament. The state quarterfinals on Thursday, semifinals on Friday and the championship and third place games on Saturday will all be shown at www.nfhsnetwork.com.
The entire tournament schedule can be seen by clicking here.
SEDGWICK COUNTY (22-1)
Making the trip to the state tournament for a third time in four years, the Cougars hope to take the final step and land the championship. They fell to Resurrection Christian in the semifinals last season but regrouped to take home the third-place trophy. Now the goal is to win Thursday and Friday to challenge for the state championship late Saturday night.
Coach Stacy Woodhams’ club is red hot as they enter the bracket with 15 consecutive wins. Included in that run are quality wins over possible tournament opponents Akron in the regular season and Holyoke for the district championship. They also battled past Burlington (55-49) in the regional finals.
The Cougars have never been a team to post team and individual statistics to MaxPreps but they’ll lean heavily on three seniors with tournament experience this weekend. That group consists of Chad Mickelson, Michael Nein and Jacob Garnas. Other key contributors are Cade McKinley and Colton Woodhams.
As the three-time defending state champions, it’s difficult to say that Sanford is a surprise entrant to the state tournament. But with heavy graduation losses to key players from the last three state championship teams, their run to the tournament is a bit unexpected. Coach Rhett Larsen’s club opened the season by beating Swallows Charter Academy to set the state record for most consecutive wins and then spent most of December and January developing a new set of players. The Indians finished the first month at 3-3 but have won 13 of 17 games including an impressive win over Del Norte (38-37) in the district finals and one over Norwood to capture the regional championship (44-37).
Through the regular season, top scorers for the Indians were Casey McDaniel (14.0) and Guy Larsen (11.2). Zach Sittler (9.2) and Derick Faucette (7.1) also contribute on the offensive end. All four are in double figures in three-pointers this season with McDaniel and Larsen tied for the team lead at 25.
Defensively, the Indians have been stout this year allowing 39 points per game. They held high scoring Del Norte to their two lowest scoring totals of the season giving up 43 in a loss in conference and 37 in the district championship game.
There are five losses on the Rams record this year but four of them are against teams in the state tournament bracket. They lost to Holyoke and Sedgwick County in Lower Platte conference play and then came up short to Holyoke in the district semifinals. A fourth loss came against Highland in January and now the Rams must reverse that decision on Thursday to stay in the state championship chase.
Highland knocked off Akron 62-44 on January 20th and pulled away from the Rams in the second quarter with an 18-3 run. The Rams also battled foul trouble in the loss but hope for a better showing in the rematch. Cole Rouse paced Highland with 18 points and the Huskies also picked up 13 points apiece from Trey Allmon and Reese Anderson. Levi Basler, with 18, was the only Ram to reach double figures as the team shot just 28 percent from the field.
Akron is in the state tournament thanks to wins over Haxtun (58-51) and Crowley County (42-31). Their win over Haxtun came in the third-place game of the district tournament and was their first true elimination game of the season. The Rams led 12-1 very early but had to outscore Haxtun 22-9 in the fourth to keep their season alive. Jordan Herder led the team with 22 points, Levi Basler had 11 and Tyler Wylie scored 10.
A 14-4 run in the third pushed Akron over Crowley County in the regional finals. They surrendered a combined 25 points to Hayden Carter and Bradley Clabey but limited the rest of the roster to just six points.
Backcourt play has pushed Akron to the state tournament as Herder averages 18 points and Basler 17. Looking to the weekend, Tyler Wylie (9.0) and Austin Bollinger (2.4) may prove more valuable as they’re the only size on the Rams roster and must stay out of foul trouble. Other key players to watch are Brock Benson (7.7) and Darian Guy (3.2).
Some call it playing with a chip on their shoulder but the Huskies may line up with a boulder there this weekend. They likely feel a bit slighted in the seeding as they sit fifth despite winning all 23 games this season. They’re the lone unbeaten team in the 2A field and join Holly (1A) as the only boys’ basketball teams statewide headed to the state tournament without a loss.
The Huskies have had just two games decided by single digits this year beating 1A qualifier Longmont Christian 63-59 and Alexander Dawson 65-58 in the district championship game. They rolled past Peyton 94-63 in the regional finals. Included on their resume this year are wins against 3A rivals Valley, Eaton, Platte Valley and Liberty Common.
All five starters average at least eight points a game for the Huskies. Cole Rouse (18.3) is the top scorer and is coming off a season best 31 points against Peyton. He leads the team with 37 three-pointers and hits 78 percent of his free throw attempts. Koby Anderson (13.0) and Reese Anderson (11.3) patrol the inside for Highland and together they also provide 16.5 rebounds per game. They scored 30 points against Peyton and Reese pulled down 10 rebounds. Trey Allmon (9.0) and Will Overton (7.7) average a combined 17 points a game and together have knocked in 47 three-pointers.
DEL NORTE (20-4)
Other than the district final loss to Sanford, Del Norte has been nearly perfect this season. Two of their losses are by forfeit due to the inadvertent use of an ineligible player and the fourth came against 3A Lamar very early in the season when they didn’t shoot the ball very well. Since Christmas, the Tigers are 16-1 and in the tournament for the first time since losing to Jefferson Academy in the 2006 state championship game.
Because of the loss to Sanford in districts, Del Norte was forced to win two games at the regional tournament last week and they took care of business against Hotchkiss (56-43) in the first round and Ignacio (55-34) on Saturday.
Like Highland, Del Norte has a very talented starting five and the starters each score at least seven points a game. Carlos Parra (20.2) is the first option and provides the offense with a deep threat thanks to 71 three-pointers. The rest of the team has combined for 31 this season. Parra also leads the team in rebounds (6.2) and steals (3.2) so he will be the focus of most defenses this weekend.
Jeff Stevenson is second in scoring (10.4) and rebounding (5.5). Charlie Hayes (9.4) scored double figures in four of six regular season games in February and Hafen Campbell (7.6) and Zach Leckler (6.6) combine for 14 points per game.
Defensively, Del Norte has allowed 44 points per game this season. Their strength there concerns length as four of the five starters stand 6-2 or taller and they will need that size to contend with Dagan Reinks of Paonia in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Unbeaten against Class 2A opponents, the Eagles are a very good six seed and can use experience from a tournament run last year this season. The Eagles were 23-1 entering the state tournament last year but lost to Sedgwick County (72-59) in the first round before beating Rye and Ignacio to land the consolation title. The players are also key members of other successful teams in football and wrestling at Paonia so they know how to win in the post-season.
With 23 points and nine rebounds per game, Dagan Reinks will be a tough matchup for every opponent this weekend. He’s listed at 6-5 and can score on the inside but is equally effective on the perimeter. He’s shooting 62 percent from two-point range and has five three-pointers on the season in 20 attempts.
Colby Simpson (15.4) and Tristan Mautz (10.8) are two other effective scorers for Paonia. Simpson leads the team with 31 treys and shoots 52 percent from inside the arc. Mautz has reached double figures in nine games this year including a season high 21 against DeBeque.
Another player to keep an eye on is Trevor Smith. The senior won a state wrestling championship last month but is now with the team full time. He’s one of the first players off the bench and in limited duty this year has contributed seven points and nearly five rebounds a game. His availability takes a bit of the pressure off Reinks on the inside.
Holyoke is making a fourth consecutive state tournament appearance and is likely happy to see Sanford on the opposite side of the bracket. Their run the last two years both ended with a loss to the eventual state champions. Holyoke played well in both games and it could be argued that if not for the Indians, the Dragons could have a state championship or maybe two. They lost to Sanford (51-42) in the state semifinals last year and pushed them to a four-point loss (51-47) in the quarterfinals the year before.
Seeded second and with a senior dominated lineup, the Dragons are considered one of the favorites this year. Two of their losses are against Sedgwick County but they’re also the only team to beat the top seeded Cougars this year. Another loss came early against 3A Vanguard and they lost to Merino in conference play but still grabbed the Lower Platte league championship.
Gunnar Kroeger (11.3), MJ Taylor (10.5) and Austin Herman (10.0) average in double figures and Alex Strauss (9.0) is close to joining them. Tyler Camblin (5.6) is a fifth senior that can score when asked. Of those five, Herman and Strauss have had the most success at the state tournament level.
Herman scored 12 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in the first-round win over Ignacio last year. He finished the three-day stretch with 27 points and 24 rebounds. As a sophomore, Herrman provided 24 points with 37 rebounds. Strauss has scored double figures in five of six state tournament game including all three as a junior. He ended the tournament with 33 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Two years ago, Strauss totaled 28 points with 11 rebounds and six assists.
Defense has carried the Grizzlies to their first tournament appearance in 17 years as they’ve given up only 38 points a game this season. That trend continued into the regional tournament as they surrendered only 64 combined points while beating Dayspring Christian (41-27) and Alexander Dawson (46-37). No opponent has scored more than 50 points against the Grizzlies this season as they allowed a season high 48 points in a 19-point win over Las Animas. That number is a bit misleading as well since the Grizzlies led 66-32 after three and the reserves gave up 16 fourth-quarter points.
Offensively, Alex Proctor (13.9) is the leading scorer and the senior has been hot of late. He scored 15 against Dayspring Christian and 21 against Dawson in the regional tournament and enters the state with four consecutive double-figure games. His season high of 27 came in the January win over Hoehne. Dean Reed (10.0) is also coming off a solid weekend as he reached double figures in both regional tournament games and finished with 29 in the two wins. He also leads the team with nine rebounds a game and pulled down 18 over the weekend.
Jakob Juul, with eight points and eight rebounds a game, is a factor on the inside and the tandem of Quinton Flanscha (7.6) and Brand Sharp (5.1) combine for nearly 13 points and eight rebounds in the balanced attack.>