The return from the winter break brings with it a flurry of top conference match-ups, as teams near the midpoint of their seasons. Four of the games this weekend feature clashes between ranked opponents, with two including a team from Class 1A.
Leading off is the latest installment of the Yuma County rivalry between #1 Wray (7-1) and #4 Yuma (5-2). Over the past two and a half seasons, Yuma has lost a total of six games. Four of those have come against the Eagles, including a 50-40 decision in the season-opener this year. That win was the first of five straight to get the season started for Wray, who has won its last two following a loss to Stratton County-Dundy (NE), one of the top teams in Nebraska’s Class D1.
Balance at the top of the scoring, and good depth, helps the Eagles average just under 53 points a night. Senior Morgan Smith paces the team with 12.8 points per contest and fellow senior Paige Brown chips in 9.1. Sandwiched in between is sophomore Tabby Jones at 11.9 points a game. Brigette Redden, Abby Shay, and Morgan Jones each average five points or more. Smith leads the Eagles in several other categories, including rebounds (12.4), steals (4.3), assists (3.6), and blocks (1.9).
Yuma dropped its first two games of the season, but has since reeled off five consecutive victories. The Indians will enter Friday’s contest having defeated Akron 74-20 in their last outing. Seniors Chasey Blach and Cody Robinson each scored 22 points in that win. Robinson leads the way with 21.1 points a game, while Blach is next at 9.6, having missed two games early in the campaign.
With the first meeting of the season between the Eagles and Indians being their non-conference match-up, the winner Friday night grabs the lead in the LPAA. Both teams still have tough league games against #6 Holyoke (4-2) and 1A #5 Haxtun on the slate. Wray claimed a 40-36 non-conference victory over Holyoke just prior to the break.
Second-ranked Limon (7-1) puts its five-game winning streak on the line Friday against Flagler/Hi-Plains ahead of its big non-league tilt with Holyoke on Saturday. The lone blemish on the record for the Badgers came early in December against 1A’s top team, Kit Carson (51-38). The Badgers returned from the break with a nice 49-25 victory over 1A #6 Genoa-Hugo and a 56-46 win against Denver Christian. They are led by Toni Lopez (9.8 ppg) and Anna Weisensee (9.0 ppg), and while no one averages double figures, nine players routinely contribute at least two points per contest.
Holyoke has dropped two straight heading into the weekend, including the loss to Wray at the end of December. Before the Dragons can turn their full attention towards the Badgers, they have a key LPAA contest with Haxtun (8-1) on Friday. While they have won three of the last four meetings with Haxtun, the Dragons had lost the five previous meetings in the series, and the Bulldogs are the hotter of the two teams, having won their last four games. However, the only loss on their record came in mid-December to Holyoke (60-53). Taeryn Trumper scored 22 points for Holyoke in that victory, one off her career high of 23 set last year in a loss to Haxtun. Dawson Knode led the Bulldogs with a career-high 26.
Fifth-ranked Swink (6-1) has put six straight in the win column since dropping its opener to 3A #3 Centauri (8-1) 39-35. The Lions will face their toughest opponent since that loss when they visit Rye (9-0) on Thursday, with the winner gaining sole possession of first place in the Santa Fe. The Thunderbolts fell out of the rankings after picking up a narrow win on the road in Holly last weekend. They have already claimed a victory this week, taking down 4A Pueblo Centennial 46-31 on Wednesday.
Swink has won the last two meetings with Rye, but those came back in 2016, and the Lions are just 4-12 against the T-bolts dating to 2008. Brianna Denton, who leads the Lions with 19.1 ppg, scored 10 as a freshman in the last meeting with Rye. Three fellow seniors follow Denton on the leader board for Swink, with Kyla O’Neal (10.3), Courtney Estrada (8.6), and Tierra Holland (8.3) rounding out the top four. Two freshmen pace Rye in scoring, with Sophie Adamson averaging 11.7 ppg and Sydney Adamson adding 9.9 ppg. While Swink gets most of its production from seniors, nearly three quarters of Rye’s scoring comes from underclassmen.
After a nice run in 1A, the step up to a new classification this year has gone smoothly for #8 Heritage Christian (8-0). The Eagles, under coach Joe Packard, have outscored their opponents 440-210 so far this season, and have only had one game decided by single digits. That was a 61-53 victory over 1A Longmont Christian last week. On tap Thursday is a Mile High clash with Lyons (6-3) who is already halfway to last season’s win total. The winner will remain atop the congested leader board in the league, as six teams currently share the lead.
The sophomore duo of Jazmyn Enny (13.0 ppg) and Avery Joy (10.0 ppg) lead the way for Lyons, while junior Emma Johnson leads the balanced attack for Heritage Christian with 13.3 points per night. Six more Eagles average between 5.5 and 9.9 points.
Tenth-ranked Soroco (9-1), who handed #8 Meeker (6-1) its only loss of the season, faces one of the top teams in 1A on Friday. The Rams will welcome in #7 De Beque (7-1) with the winner staying unbeaten in Western Slope play. Soroco has won four straight since a seven-point loss to 5A Prairie View (8-4) in early December. The Rams have scored at least 70 points in each of their last three wins.
De Beque has not lost since falling to 1A #2 Briggsdale (9-0) in the season-opener at the Idalia tournament. This is the beginning of a very important stretch for the Dragons, who over the course of the next three weeks will also face North Park, Meeker, Paonia, and Vail Christian, all of whom are either ranked or have been during the season.