Conference play again dominates the 2A boys’ basketball schedule for the week and the slate includes a few pairings of league leaders and pre-season favorites.
The first such contest is set for Tuesday between Mancos and Ignacio. They also meet on February 18th and results from the two games should determine the top two spots in the San Juan Basin. Both enter the game ranked in the top 10 this week and they split two league battles a year ago. Mancos won the first game and that win snapped a 27-game losing streak to Ignacio stretching back to the 2007-08 season.
Balance on offense is the key for both teams. Ignacio has four players, Bryce Finn, Ocean Hunter, Brady McCaw and Triston Thompson averaging between nine and 13 points a game. Mancos placed four players in double figures in blowing past Ouray (60-36) last week as Caden Showalter went for 13, Christian Cova 12, Connor Showalter 11 and Anthony Medina 10. Caden Showalter also pulled down a game high 18 rebounds.
The win was the fifth straight for Mancos since a loss to Durango. They also have a quality win over 3A Montezuma Cortez on their resume. Ignacio has a loss to Montezuma Cortez but enters the game off a hard fought 51-44 league win over Dolores last week.
Each club has an advantage they would like to exploit. The Bluejays feature more size and may try to pound it inside. But before getting into the halfcourt set, Mancos must deal with the quickness and likely full or three-quarter court pressure from the Bobcats.
Sanford and Center also face off this Friday in the first of two meetings between the Southern Peaks league favorites. Game two is set for February 14th.
Each club may be playing their best basketball of the season. the Indians have won four straight since opening January with a 47-34 loss to Centauri. Included in that stretch are league wins over South Park and Crested Butte by a combined 63 points. Center righted their ship a bit with a convincing road win at Del Norte last week. The Vikings led 22-8 after the first quarter and then 37-12 at halftime. Del Norte scored 21 of their 38 points in the fourth quarter when the outcome had already been decided.
Regardless of their outcome on Friday, Center must not look past a tough trip to Crested Butte on Saturday. Crested Butte also beat Del Norte (47-41) last week and have proved a tough out thus far. They did not fare well against Sanford (50-28) but are still in the running for a top three league finish and district seed.
Highland moved past Yuma and into the top spot of the 2A statewide rankings this week. The Huskies may only get challenged twice on their way to defending the Mile High championship. The main push may come from Denver Christian later in the season, but Heritage Christian could be another and the Huskies host the Eagles on Friday.
Pace is always important when lining up against the Huskies. They score 83 points per game and often put away opponents very early with their pressure defense and up-tempo offense. Since Christmas, Highland is 4-0; outscoring opponents by a combined 189 points. They’ve been over 90 points twice in that stretch, 80 once and 78 in the fourth.
Senior Tate Bessire averages 23 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 5.5 steals on the season. He’s been held under 20 points only twice this season and came very close to a rare triple double against Frontier Academy as he totaled 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
Jace Bessire (14.5), Bowen Tolle (13.6) and Holden Morgan (12.1) can also score points in bunches. Bessire tallied a season best 32 in the double-overtime loss to Eaton, Tolle had three straight double-doubles in December and Morgan has scored double figures in each of the last seven games.
Considering their huge graduation losses last Spring, the 8-1 start for Heritage Christian may be considered surprising. But the Eagles have good tradition and each year new players step up to fill roles. Jaden Johson (22.0) has doubled his scoring output from last year and also added 5.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 5.0 steals per game. Caleb Stockton scored just 2.5 points a year ago but has bumped that to 11 this year. Alex Brown is also solid on both ends with eight points and nearly 13 rebounds a game.
There are two important games within the Santa Fe chase and both involve Hoehne. The Farmers host Holly on Friday and then visit Crowley County on Saturday. Hoehne opens the week tied with Fowler atop the standings but both opponents have just one league loss and sit tied for third. Should the Farmers get two wins, the race then shapes up as a two team battle with Fowler but a loss in either keeps at least three teams alive for the championship. Hoehne and Fowler play twice this year; on January 31st and again on February 13th.
Hoehne has won five of their last six; dropping a 78-41 loss to Highland during that stretch. Nic Navarette (16.3) is the top scorer and has scored at least 18 points in five of seven games. KJ Rael (10.0) is second on that list and had a streak of four straight games in double figures snapped when he was held to seven by Highland.
The Farmers have also gotten solid play from freshman Dario Vezzani. He provides seven points and five rebounds a game and went for 13 and 9 in an early win over Trinidad.
Holly has the advantage in the race for third as they edged Crowley County 60-58 last week. The two meet again next week and the Wildcats also have a tough non-league affair with Kit Carson on Saturday.
Crowley County is led by the backcourt of Ti quan Williams and Kevin Suarez. They don’t play Fowler until the final game of the year (February 14th) and likely need to keep winning to make that game important to the league championship.
Fowler will keep at least a share of the league lead as they will earn a forfeit win over John Mall on Friday. The Grizzlies also have an non-league date with Calhan on Saturday.
Calhan also goes to Peyton on Tuesday. Even though both are members of the Black Forest conference, this matchup is a non-league affair. They meet on February 22nd and that game will count in the league standings. Both teams have recently played Thomas MacLaren with the Panthers winning by six and the Bulldogs falling by six. The loss snapped Calhan’s four game winning streak. Peyton has won four straight and is getting 10 points per game from Brennan Myers.
DeBeque (1A) and Vail Christian seem to be the best two teams in the Western Slope chase. The Dragons and Saints have combined to win 17 of 18 games this year while the rest of the league features just one other team with an overall winning record (Paonia 6-4). DeBeque hosts Vail Christian on February 1st and that game should determine the top two positions.
Many other teams will battle for upper division finishes. Going into this week, Hayden, Plateau Valley and Paonia all sit one game back of the leaders and those three are involved in three important games this weekend. Plateau Valley starts it off on Thursday on the road to Paonia and continues at home on Saturday against Hayden.
Plateau Valley opened with a loss to Vail Christian but then followed up with league wins over Vail Mountain and Rangely last week. Austyn Vig has been very good all season as he leads the Cowboys in scoring (15.5) and rebounding (11.7). The senior has recorded five double-doubles this season including 22 points and 16 rebounds against Nucla.
Hayden scored an important 47-42 win over Paonia so that gives them the edge in any tiebreaker with the Eagles. All three of their league wins have been by five points or less so they’re experienced in tight games. Liam Frentress produces 13 points and eight rebounds a night.
Paonia surrounded the loss to Hayden with nice wins over Vail Mountain and West Grand. They have nine players averaging between four and 10 points per game; a group led by Logan Green (9.4) and Kyle Long (9.2).
Sedgwick County is unbeaten on the season and Holyoke has just two wins this season but since both are unbeaten in the Lower Platte, their matchup on Friday is important to the league standings. Holyoke’s league win came against Haxtun by 20 points last week (51-31). Sedgwick County has beaten Haxtun twice this year including a 64-35 win in league play. The Cougars also topped Wiggins in conference play last week.
Regardless of that outcome, Yuma remains the league favorite. The Indians meet Wiggins for their lone conference game of the week. They also tangle with Sidney NE (1-14) on Saturday.