Non-conference games continue to dominate the 3A boys’ basketball schedule this week as teams get in a few more tuneups ahead of league slates. Several good matchups can be found on the schedule and we take a look those matchups in our weekly report.
Probably the best pairing on paper this week has #3 Sterling on the road to #5 Manual this Saturday. Both programs know what it takes to win it all as the Thunderbolts are the defending 3A state champions and the Tigers grabbed the crown in 2017. Manual enters the week at 3-2 with the Tigers sitting at 5-1.
Both teams though are unbeaten against 3A rivals. After going 3-1 against Nebraska schools, Sterling closed 2019 with wins over Fort Morgan 72-63 and Faith Christian 20-19. Against Faith Christian, the Tigers trailed 14-13 at halftime but then totaled 13 points to just two for the Eagles during the decisive third quarter. Jackson Keil (14) and Axel Henry (13) led the way offensively and combined for four three-pointers.
Outside shooting is very important to Sterling. With 56 three-pointers through six games, the Tigers are just four shy of averaging 10 per game. Dylan Anderson, with 12, leads the team with Brock Shall and Henry next with 11 apiece. Keil, who has missed two games because of an injury suffered in the state football championship contest, is next with nine.
Manual finished December with wins over DSST-Montview (76-35) and DSST-Green Valley (73-68). Their two losses are against 5A clubs Fairview and Horizon. Jaden Stoffel averages 28.6 points per game with at least 30 points in all three wins.
Alamosa (4-2) and Kent Denver (2-3) resume their regular season series on Friday and it’s surprising that neither team is ranked at this stage of the season. The Moose have good wins over Sanford, Lamar and Faith Christian but also suffered tough losses to Glenwood Springs and Coal Ridge. Kent Denver fell to St Mary’s, Manitou Springs and Eaton in December but snapped the skid by downing La Junta 75-59 in their final game last month.
Brendon Crowther leads Alamosa in scoring (17.2) and rebounding (7.5) with Ian Jackson second on both lists. Jackson averages 15.7 points and seven rebounds. Crowther”s season best of 27 came in the loss to Coal Ridge with Jackson reaching at least 20 points against both Lamar (22) and Delta (20). Kent Denver features three double digit scorers; Logan Schayes (15.0), Pace Billings (14.6) and Duke Benson (11.0). Schayes also tops the Devils with 9.4 rebounds.
Alamosa should be in the mix for the IML crown this season and one of the teams they will battle is Montezuma Cortez. The Panthers are involved in a nice two day event where they battle local rivals Durango on Friday and Ignacio on Saturday. With league games coming up against Pagosa Springs and Bayfield next week, the Panthers actually have little travel (compared to normal) for the next couple of weeks. They opened 4-0 but then lost three straight including a tough 61-60 loss to 2A ranked Mancos last month.
Five seniors lead Cortez in scoring; a group led by the trio of Teagan Whiteskunk (19.7), Titus Jackson (15.0) and Andrew Wood (11.0).
Also out west is an interesting battle between Coal Ridge (5-3) and unbeaten Vail Christian (4-0). The Saints are ranked sixth in Class 2A and during December topped 3A Aspen and 4A Eagle Valley.
Coal Ridge should factor again into the Western Slope chase where the favorite right now may be Gunnison. The Titans finished up 2019 with three straight wins including a high scoring 79-73 win over Alamosa. Andrew Herrera had 22 points, Austin Gerber 20 and Hank DiMarco 11 in the win. All three are younger brother of former Titan standouts. Daniel Sanchez, with 10 points, was a fourth player in double figures.
Herrera was red hot in the win; netting seven three-pointers. Overall the Titans had 10 trey’s and took the same number of shots from inside and outside the arc (23). Defensively, the Saints will focus on Alec Moritz (21.3) and Jamison Lee (19.8) who combine for 41 points a game.
With their thrilling 66-65 win over Lutheran last Saturday, Resurrection Christian became the new number one team in Class 3A. They won’t play again until Saturday when they host Colorado Academy (3-4) and it will be interesting if the Cougars come down a bit after the win or continue their dominating ways.
The Cougars offense has scored at least 87 points in three games and has been nearly unstoppable this season. Their 66 points against Lutheran is actually a season low but it also came in their most impressive win of the young season. Reece Johnson topped the offense with 21 points; Isaac Jessup added 17 and Jackson Romero 12. The team connected on seven three pointers including two apiece from Johnson, Jessup and Romero. Drew Bobo pulled down 11 rebounds with Johnson grabbing eight.
Colorado Academy has battled consistency. They’ve beaten Frederick but also lost to DSST-Green Valley. The Mustangs routinely have a big-time scorer but this year feature five players scoring between eight and 12 points per game. Three are sophomores.
Jefferson Academy (7-0) is led by high scoring Elian Soto (25.0) as he represents nearly 42 percent of the Jaguars offense. He has 26 three-pointers including seven as part of a 38-point explosion in last month’s win over Academy (53-42).
The Jags are 4th in RPI but are not included in this week’s Top 10. Their best win came against Grand Valley (53-45) in their season opener and they go for another against Fort Lupton on Wednesday. The Blue Devils dropped three of their last four in December but also own a win over Valley. Elijah Mullett (14.8) and Antonio Marquez (12.0) are the top two scorers and Marquez also leads the team with over seven ‘boards a night.
League wise, the Tri Peaks schedule is already underway and two more games on tap this week will help the order near the top. Vanguard (4-1) and St Mary’s (6-1) will likely finish 1-2 in the standings but Manitou Springs, La Junta, Lamar and Colorado Springs Christian should all push for a top four finish. Those four face off this week with Manitou Springs (5-2) going to La Junta (3-5) on Friday and Lamar (4-3) facing Colorado Springs Christian (4-3) on Saturday.
Manitou Springs is led by Joah Armour (13.6) and Joey Allen (11.6) and the Mustangs have a quality win over Kent Denver. La Junta lost to Kent in their final game last year and get 15 points a game from Chance Oquist and 12 from Thomas Garcia.
Lamar won their last four games in December including a 51-28 league win over Buena Vista. The Savages have five players scoring at least seven points a game led by Michael Woodall with 12. Caleb Stockton (19.8) and Josh Erickson (12.0) top CSCS offensively. Their losses are to Lutheran, Pagosa Springs and 2A ranked Fowler.
Vanguard is ranked 5th this week and on the road against Northfield on Wednesday, the Coursers are tested one more time before starting the Tri Peaks slate. The Nighthawks are 8-2 and ranked for the first time in school history as they’re 8th in 4A this week.
Despite early losses to Eaglecrest (5A) and Centaurus, Northfield received top 10 attention by beating Pueblo East (54-51) in overtime to close December. They boosted those efforts by blowing past Pueblo Central (88-58) last week. Senior Nahsyah Bolar is the top scorer (18.0) and rebounder (11.9) and will serve as a very good matchup for Vanguard standout Dominique Clifford. The C-U committ scores 228 points and pulls down nearly 10 rebounds a night.
All other top 10 clubs also see action this week. #2 Lutheran meets Platte Valley on Friday and DSST-Montview on Saturday. The Lions are looking ahead to a matchup with Faith Christian on the 21st. That game could easily determine the Metro crown. Faith is ranked 4th this week and also plays DSST-Montview (Wednesday). They also visit Academy two nights later.
#6 Centauri (9-0) stayed unbeaten by moving past local rival Sanford last week. The Falcons are off until facing Monte Vista in their IML opener on the 17th. They’re one of just four unbeaten teams left in Class 3A.
#8 DSST-Byers beat Coal Ridge (62-55) in overtime to start the season and has allowed just 68 points in their remaining three games. The Falcons stayed perfect by starting the January schedule on Tuesday with an easy 86-37 win over Stargate. Next up is a home game against Denver North on Thursday in their final action for the week.
Patriot members University and Eaton start the week ranked ninth and tenth. Of the two, only University sees court time this week and they opened the stretch by downing Prospect Ridge 87-50 on Tuesday night. Four players, led by Tayt Chacon with 18 and Desmond Williams with 14, reached double figures as the Bulldogs exploded for 31 first quarter points. They’re back on the road Wednesday at Machebeuf.
Eaton is 8-1 and winners of six straight. The Reds are the lone newcomer to the 3A poll this week and won’t see court time until the 14th against Estes Park.