3A BOYS BASKETBALL STATE TOURNAMENT PREVIEW

State quarterfinal games in Class 3A open on Thursday and the depth of the state field will be on display as the final eight includes four teams that won regional finals on the road to advance.  #9 Basalt is joined by double digit seeds Sterling, Alamosa and Faith Christian in the Great Eight and we preview the matchups.
The tournament schedule is different this year as the consolation bracket will not be played out meaning teams that fall short on Thursday see an end to their season.  All tournament games from D-U will be streamed live and can be seen at www.nfhsnetwork.com.
The entire schedule for the tournament is available by clicking here.

KENT DENVER (21-3)

The Sun Devils won both the regular season and district championship inside the Metro conference and have lost just one game since early January.  That came in league play against Jefferson Academy.  Other losses are against tournament teams Manitou Springs (54-48) and Alamosa (55-50).  Kent also downed Faith Christian (64-58) during the regular season.  In regionals last weekend, Kent Denver moved past Ridgeview Academy (58-40) in the first round and La Junta (57-47) in the Sweet 16.  Four players reached double figures on Saturday led by Max Mehlman with 16.  James Doyle, Benan Ersek and Carter Harrington all chipped in 10.  Colby Gold dropped in a game high 15 against Ridgeview Academy followed by Doyle with 10.
Sophomores Gold (12.3) and Doyle (11.9) are the top two scorers followed by Mehlman (10.5) and Ersek (8.5).  Doyle also leads the team in rebounds with nearly six a game with Mehlman next on that list (3.7).  Rory Buck is the team leader in assists (3.1) and Mehlman again is second on the team at 2.9.  No player is averaging more than two steals per game.
Kent relies heavily on three-pointer with 12 players knocking down at least one trey for the season.  Golden is the team leader with 60 and Ersek is next with 31.

BASALT (21-3)

The Longhorns are in the Great Eight for the first time since 1989 and had to win a regional championship game on the road to get there.  They dispatched DSST-Green Valley (43-30) on Saturday; getting their second win over the Raptors this season.  Michael Glen (21.1) is their top scorer overall but balance carried them to the win on Saturday as three players reached double figures.  Justin Henderson was tops with 14 followed by Glen with 12 and Raul Torres with 10.  Those three also went for double figures in the first-round win over University and combined for 39 points.
Glen is among the top talents in Class 3A but fans along the Front Range have not had a chance to see him.  In addition to 21 points per game, the senior also pulls down nearly 11 rebounds a game.  Glen has reached double figures in 23 of 24 games this year with 18 double-doubles on his resume.
Henderson is the second leader scorer (11.0) followed by Torres (8.9) and Wade Soho (6.8).  Miles Levy and Pedro Rivera leads the Longhorns with over three assists per game. Rivera has played just nine games this season but made an impact over the weekend.
Basalt lost to 2A state tournament entrant Del Norte to open the season but otherwise dropped just two games against league rival Coal Ridge.  Those losses were by a combined eight points but left the Longhorns second in the regular season standings and the Western Slope district tournament.

ALAMOSA (20-3)

After falling to Colorado Springs Christian in the finals last year, the Moose are back at the state tournament for another go at the title.  They upended Rye 52-44 in the first round of regionals last Friday and then upended Delta 50-38 on Saturday to earn another state tournament invite.
Their game with Faith Christian in the quarterfinals on Thursday is rematch of a regular season game won by the Moose 71-63 in overtime.  It came early in the season at the Glenwood Springs Tournament.  Ryan Brubacher went for 26 in the win and the senior knocked down four three-pointers.  Angelo Ramirez added 14 and Noah Romero 12.  With 28 points, Faith Christian’s Benjamin Hawkins led all scorers.  Jonah Gardner provided 14 points and Jonathan Hardcastle 10.
Alamosa had a big edge at the foul line hitting 25 of 29 shots compared to just 6-9 for Faith Christian.   The three-point line was basically even as Faith Christian hit 7 of 27 shots compared to 6 of 16 for the Moose.
Brubacher has scored double figures in all but one game this season and leads the Moose with 54 three-pointers.  He dropped in 43 points in three state tournament games a year ago, and averages a team high 20 points a game this season.  Noah Romero (11.0) scored 16 points in last year’s state tournament but was held scoreless in the final by Colorado Springs Christian.  Angelo Ramirez netted 24 points at state last year including 13 in the semifinal win over Manual.
Ramirez also adds nearly 11 rebounds a game on the season to average a double-double.  Brubacher chips in five rebounds and over two steals per game.

FAITH CHRISTIAN (16-8)

The Eagles pulled off the biggest surprise on Saturday as they handed Resurrection Christian their first loss of the season and eliminated the Cougars from the tournament.  Faith Christian had dropped a 91-73 decision to Resurrection Christian right before Christmas but the defense on Saturday gave up 34 fewer points and lifted the high scoring Cougars to just 19 second half.  As mentioned, the Eagles lost to Alamosa in the regular season so they have another chance to avenge one of their earlier losses.  A win on Thursday could result in a matchup with Kent Denver in the state semifinals and the Eagles would be trying to avenge a loss to the Sun Devils as well.
With nearly 21 points a game, Benjamin Hawkins (20.9) is among the top scorers in Colorado.  He’s had two four game stretches of at least 20 points this year and has scored at least 22 points in his last three games.  Much of his damage comes on the inside where he’s shooting 55 percent from inside the arc.
Jonah Gardner (14.0) is next in scoring and Jonathan Hardcastle (9.3) can also string points together.  Alec Muehlemeyer (7.0) is a fourth option on the offensive end.  Hardcastle also dishes out over five assists per game and Gardner two a night.  Luke Eggers tops the rebounding charters with nearly six per game.

MANITOU SPRINGS (22-2)

In the state tournament for a third time in four years, the Mustangs escaped regionals with a narrow 56-54 win over Roaring Fork on Saturday.  Manitou Springs led by nine going to the fourth quarter but lost point guard Cole Seinknecht to fouls and had to hold off a late charge by the Rams.
Eight three-pointers helped their cause including four from Davyn Adamscheck and three from Cole Sienknecht.  Those two and Lucas Rodholm each finished with 12 points in leading the Mustangs to their 22nd win on the season.  Rodholm dropped in 21 and Sienknecht 15 in the Friday win over Montezuma Cortez.
Full stats are not available on Monday springs but Rodholm (15.5) is the leading scorer followed by Sienknecht (13.8) and Adamscheck (11.0).  Jared Kuehl (9.4) is nearly a fourth double-digit scorer and he bounced back with nine points against Roaring Fork after missing much of the Montezuma Cortez game with an injury.
Both Mustang losses this year are against Colorado Springs Christian by a combined three points.  The Lions knocked in a jumper with five seconds left to win the regular season 40-38 and then edged Manitou Springs 45-44 in overtime to capture the Tri Peaks district championship.  Should both teams win on Thursday, they will clash for a third in the semifinals on Friday.

STERLING (19-5)

The Tigers were one of the lower seeds to advance with a road win on Saturday but it didn’t come easy as they outlasted Coal Ridge 61-59 in overtime.  The second half was back and forth as Sterling took a six-point lead in the third only to see Coal Ridge force overtime by winning the fourth quarter 16-10.  A key three-pointer early in overtime helped Sterling advance to the quarterfinals on Thursday against Manitou Springs.
Stats from the last several games have not been posted to MaxPreps but the Tigers rely offensively on the one-two punch of Bodie Hume (15.2) and Wade Kellogg (11.0).  At six-five and with the ability to shoot from the perimeter, Hume is a difficult matchup for most opponents.  As a senior point guard, Kellogg directs the offense and can knock down a three-pointer as well.  Other contributors offensively include Connor Keil (9.9) and Riley Schafer (8.8) but four other players average three or four points per game.
Hume (5.3) and Kellogg (5.2) also pace the rebounding charts and Kellogg is the top assist-man with over four per game.  Six players have reached double figures in three-pointers; a list led by Schafer (34), Kellogg (30) and Keil (28).
Of the five losses, two are against teams from Nebraska and two others came against Resurrection Christian who was bounced from the tournament field by Faith Christian last Saturday.  The fifth loss came at the end of the regular season on the road to Lutheran (56-53).

COLORADO SPRINGS CHRISTIAN (22-2)

Back in the field for yet another state tournament appearance, the Lions need just three more wins to secure a third consecutive state championship.  The weekend will result in double-duty for Coach Mark Engesser who has also directed the women’s team into the Great 8 as well.  His club was not pushed in the regional tournament as they downed Grand Valley and Lutheran by a combined 55 points.  They’re trying to become the first three-time champion in Class 3A since Faith Christian finished off five consecutive titles in 2012.
Justin Engesser (21.0) is the leading scorer and may be the most important player for any team left in the bracket.  In addition to his 21 points per game, Engesser also tops the team in rebounds (9.5), assists (6.5), steals (2.0) and blocks (2.7).  His offensive production though is coming in a different form this year.  The senior entered the campaign with 190 career treys but has hit only 25 this year due to playing inside for much of the season.  Engesser combined for 31 points, 19 rebounds and 18 assists in the two regional tournament wins over the weekend.
Noah Hopkins (13.2) and Zach Wismer (10.0) are two other double digit scorers.  Wismer and Zach Greager each pull down five rebounds a game.  Hopkins has buried 72 three-pointers on the season and sophomore Lookens Smith has added 22.
Pace will be important for the Lions Thursday as they average 60 points per game compared to 76 for Denver Science.  The Lions must also contend with the full court pressure applied throughout the game from the Knights.

DENVER SCIENCE (21-3)

The Knights were not pushed in winning both the regular season and district championship within the Frontier conference.  During the regular season, they outscored league foes by 523 points (12-0) and then captured three district games by a combined 109 points.  They toppled Colorado Academy 85-69 in their regional opener and then overwhelmed Strasburg 76-49 in the finals last Saturday.
Eight players average at least five points per game for the Knights.  Blake Pullen (16.5) and Jordan Heien (13.6) combine for 30 points a game and lead the fast-paced attack.  Nathaniel Bowen (9.5), Vince Jones (8.5), Reese Grant-Cobb (7.1), Andray Thomas (6.8), Fuad Abdi (5.6) and Bradshaw Grady (5.0) also get good looks on a regular basis.
Heien (7.2), Pullen (6.6) and Grant-Cobb (5.0) lead the rebounding charts while Thomas Jr (3.9) and Michael Brooks (3.6) each average over three assists per game.  Five players pick off at least two steals per game including nearly three apiece from Bowen (2.9) and Brooks (2.9).
Strength of schedule hurts Denver Science in their post-season placement.  They have the 29th best schedule in Class 3A and they’re just 1-2 against teams still playing this week.  Losses came early against Pueblo South (4A) and Kent Denver but the Knights also have a win over Faith Christian (58-55).

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