With 13 teams in the Mile-HIgh conference, teams are only 25-30 percent through the league schedule but this weekend shapes up to be an important one. Two games on the schedule between Clear Creek-Denver Christian and Highland-Heritage Christian will help sort out a crowded race that has seven teams within one game of the top spot.
Denver Christian (4-0) and Highland (2-0) are both in first place as they share the conference lead with Gilpin County (3-0). Clear Creek (1-1) and Heritage Christian (3-1) are part of a four-team mix that also includes Dawson and Dayspring Christian (2-1) just one game off the pace.
Since it’s first up on Thursday, we begin the preview with Denver Christian and Clear Creek. The Thunder have won their last seven with important wins over Limon and Longmont Christian along the way. They stayed perfect in conference play by downing Lyons (63-56) on Tuesday.
The game marks the start of an important stretch for the Thunder as they also meet Gilpin County (22nd) and Heritage Christian (24th). Wins in all three games most likely makes the game with Highland on February 8th the conference championship game.
Seniors Eu Asefaw (12.8) and Jeff Amidon (10.2) lead Denver Christian on offense. Asefaw has bumped up his scoring in conference play totaling 45 points in wins over Front Range Christian, Longmont Christian and Lyons. He also has eight three pointers in that stretch including four against Lyons which tied a season high. Amidon has scored 40 points in the three conference wins and went for a season best 17 points vs Lyons. He was six of nine from the field in the win including two of two from the arc. He also pulled downed seven rebounds.
Clear Creek was part of the first-place mix to start the week but a Tuesday loss to Dawson (56-49) dropped them out of the top spot. It was their second straight loss and dropped the ‘Diggers to below five hundred for the season (4-5). Ben Griffin (14.9), Lucas Gerding (12.6) and Reese Onago (10.3) have been the scoring leaders throughout the season.
Highland (9-1) is ranked third again this week and remains the favorite to land the league title and history is on their side. The Huskies have won 32 consecutive league games with their last loss coming against Resurrection Christian in January 2016. This they’ve rolled Union Colony Prep and Dayspring Christian by a combined 87 points.
Even though teams like to run, pace will be important in Friday’s matchup with Heritage Christian. The Eagles average a very respectable 61 points a game but that pales to the nearly 80 put up by the Huskies. Highland’s season low in a single game is 73 in a win over Holyoke. Heritage Christian has reached that mark only once this season and it came earlier this week in a 79-25 victory over Denver Academy. It was just the third game above 70 for the Eagles this year.
Four Huskies average double figures led by Tate Bessire (17.8) and Koby Anderson (16.0). Bessire has scored at least 23 points in his last three games with nine three pointers in that stretch. Anderson exploded for 30 points and 13 rebounds in the win over Eaton.
Jace Bessire is next with 11.6 and Holden Morgan also gets 10.8 per game. Jace Bessire has four straight double figure games and six overall and Morgan is coming off a 14-point effort in last week’s win over Union Colony Prep.
Heritage Christian (9-2) is actually unbeaten against 2A competition with both losses coming to 1A rivals Cornerstone and Christian and Longmont Christian. The second loss was more critical as it came in league play so the Eagles are maybe in a must win situation on Friday to stay in the championship chase. They’ve captured three straight wins the Longmont Christian game including the recent blowout of Denver Academy.
The Eagles are experienced as they return several juniors and seniors from last year’s club that reached the 1A state tournament. Josiah Bowser (18.7) is the leading scorer. He was limited to seven in the loss to Longmont Christian but has tallied at least 11 in every other game. Other contributors include Austin Brown (8.9), Seth Bruxvoort (8.0), Jaden Johnson (7.9) and Keaton Case (6.3).
This year appears to mark a changing of the guard in the San Juan conference as the incredible run for Ignacio may come to an end. Entering this season, Ignacio had suffered just two league losses in five years (52-2) and just four over the previous nine. The Bobcats though lost for the second time in conference play this past Tuesday in a 59-48 decision to Mancos. The loss dropped the reigning champs two games off a pace set by the Bluejays (3-0) and Ridgway (3-0).
The conference leaders collide on Saturday and it’s the first of two meetings as they meet against on February 2nd. But neither can focus completely on the matchup as both will be challenged on Friday night as well. Mancos must face third place Ouray and Ridgway deals with Ignacio. Losses by both leaders will bring at least five teams into the league championship mix.
Brothers Show (17) and Caden (14) Showalter paced Mancos in the win over Ignacio Tuesday night. Vassar Stephens also reached double figures with 11 points as the Bluejays connected on 25 of 46 field goal attempts (54%). Hunter Hoover pulled down 11 rebounds and Caden Showalter added eight.
Ridgway has momentum from the 50-40 win over Ouray last Saturday. It avenged an early season non-conference loss and marked the first loss of the year for the 1A Trojans. Tyler Kraft tallied 12 points and Byrd Williams added 10. On defense, the Demons limited Ouray to just 12 made field goals and forced 32 turnovers.
They are not league games this week but matchups between Del Norte-Sargent (Friday) and Sargent-Sanford (Saturday) will give us an indication of how the league standings may end up. The three league favorites also meet a second time later in the season with those contests counting in the Southern Peaks race. Both games should be close battles as all three clubs are 5-4 on the season.
It appears that defending state champion Yuma (9-0) is again the favorite to land the Lower Platte championship. The Indians open the weekend tied with Haxtun (2-0) and Merino (1-0) for the early lead but both the Bulldogs and Rams drop into the 1A division for the post-season leaving the Indians in position for the top district seed. Coach Dave Sheffield earned his 300th all-time victory when the Indians beat Burlington last Saturday. He looks for 301 and 302 this week against Wiggins (Friday) and Sidney NE (Saturday).
That leaves the Saturday meeting between Wray and Holyoke the most important game in the conference this week. Along with Sedgwick County, the Eagles and Dragons are battling for spots two and three in the district field which would place them opposite Yuma in the bracket.
It’s the second meeting between the clubs as Wray won a wild 77-73 overtime affair in December. Holyoke jumped to a ten-point first quarter lead but the Eagles rallied in the third quarter outscoring the Dragons 24-15. Justin Pecar topped the Eagles with 27 points and Junior Arambula added 22. Holyoke put five in double figures with Miles Sprague leading the way with 16. Ethan Johnson, Blake Mortensen and Mason King each added 11 and Caleb Deaver 10.
Byers scored an important win at Genoa Hugo on Wednesday night as it kept the Bulldogs tied with Limon atop the Union Pacific. The Bulldogs had to rally as they trailed by three entering the fourth quarter.
Next up for Byers is a league game with Flagler/Hi Plains on Friday and they also visit 3A Frontier Academy on Saturday. Limon meets Deer Trail on Friday and heads to Akron on Saturday. Byers and Limon face off on February 8th.
Simla and Peyton (both 3-0) top the Black Forest conference standings and each has posted a win already this week. The Cubs rolled Fountain Valley on Wednesday and Peyton knocked off rival Calhan the night before. Simla is off the rest of the week while Peyton hosts Burlington. Simla and Peyton meet to start off the February schedule (1st).
In the Santa Fe conference, the top game finds Hoehne on the road to Holly Friday night. The host Wildcats lead Fowler by one game in the conference standings while Hoehne is tied with Rocky Ford and Swallows Charter tied for third two games back. Rocky Ford and Swallows Charter already have losses to Holly and Fowler but this is the first crack at the top two teams for the Farmers. As a result, they control their own future and remain in the chase for a top two league finish.
The Farmers snapped a three-game skid by beating Rye 55-50 last Saturday. Federico Orozco finished with 22 points and Nicholas Navarette 10. Holly is 12-0 and has won all seven conference games by at least 11 points.