With four teams currently in the top 12 of RPI and a new seeding format for the 3A state tournament, the Tri Peaks conference could easily get two teams and possibly three inside the top eight.  Getting to the top eight in the bracket is the goal of every team in the state as those clubs earn the advantage of playing at home in the first two rounds of the state tournament.
Three games involving the league title and better RPI positioning take place inside the Tri Peaks this week so it’s a very important stretch for all involved.
The excitement begins on Wednesday as Manitou Springs challenges Colorado Springs Christian; continues on Friday when Lamar goes to CSCS and concludes on Saturday with Lamar hosting Manitou Springs.  Colorado Springs Christian is unbeaten in conference play with Lamar and Manitou Springs one game back and tied for third.
Colorado Springs Christian has not been challenged in league play thus far; outscoring five opponents 359-109.  The duo of Megan Engesser (22.3) and Rachel Ingram (15.3) continue to lead the Lions on the offensive end.  Engesser tallied 39 in a win over Vanguard and has totaled 127 points in five league games.  Ingram has netted 89 over the same stretch including 24 against both Rye and James Irwin.  She’s also been a factor defensively with 17 steals including a season best eight against James Irwin.
Both Manitou Springs and Lamar have suffered league losses to top ranked St Mary’s so both need wins over CSCS this week to stay in contention.  If they are both successful, then the winner of their head-to-head battle on Saturday could determine which teams finishes no worse than second.
Lamar has won five in a row; beating Pueblo Central, Trinidad, Buena Vista, John Mall and Vanguard by a combined 221 points.  Cali Clark is a serious contender for player of the year honors and enters the week averaging a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds per game.  Brecken Payne, with 14 points and six rebounds an outing, is also playing well while outside production comes from Cassie Forgue who leads the team with 24 three-pointers.  She’s also averaging nearly 10 points an outing.
Manitou Springs fell to St Mary’s 57-39 last week but recovered to bounce Trinidad 54-30.  Maren Mildestevdet (13.9) and Caileen Sienknecht (11.4) combine for over 25 points a game and also total 13 rebounds.  Mildestevedt matched a season high with 23 points in the win over Trinidad.  Sienknecht totaled just 20 points through the first three games of the season but has been in double figures in all but one contest since.
Sitting back and watching for results is St Mary’s.  The Pirates are tied with Colorado Springs Christian atop the standings and as mentioned have already posted important wins over Lamar and Manitou Springs.  Should Colorado Springs Christian post two wins this week, their showdown with St Mary’s on February 9th will determine the championship.
The Pirates this week visit Florence on Wednesday and then host Vanguard on Saturday.
Another very important game to a conference championship and the state tournament bracket is Friday night in Pagosa Springs where the Pirates meet Centauri.  We put this game behind the Tri Peaks this week because it’s the first two regular season battles and the outcome of both games will determine the Intermountain championship.  If one club can win both games they will land the championship; if not the two will end up sharing the crown.
We can make that statement with confidence as neither team has been pushed by any of the remaining conference teams.  Centauri has won their first four league games by a combined 246 points and Pagosa Springs 202.
The recent series has been one of streaks.  Pagosa Springs had won nine straight before falling to the Falcons in the 2016 state quarterfinals.  That win started Centauri on their current four game winning streak.  They swept the series a year including a 53-42 decision in the district tournament.  Both regular season contests were decided by four points or less and neither team cracked 40 points in either game.
Points are very difficult to come by because the teams and coaches know each other extremely well.  The key contributors for each club remain almost the same for the past couple of years.
Centauri features a balanced attack led by Caroline Van Berkum (11.1), Melissa Wilson (9.5), Ember Canty (9.0) and Alyssa Gomez (8.4).  All four have played major minutes since their freshman seasons.  Berkum (7.7) and Canty (6.7) also combine for over 14 rebounds per game.
Pagosa Springs is paced by Morgan Lewis and her near double-double totals of 16.6 points and 9.7 rebounds.  She will be the focus of the Centauri defense once again so others such as Taylor Lewis (6.4), Ada Peshlakai (5.2) and Devin Wilson (4.8) may need to be more offensive minded.  Wilson chips in 4.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists and she will be crucial in dealing with the Falcons pressure.
If Colorado Academy gets by Manual as expected on Wednesday, they will set up a battle of league leaders against Kent Denver on Saturday.  Heading into Wednesday, both clubs are 4-0 and tied with Lutheran for the top spot in the Metro.  All other league teams have at least two league losses so it appears to be a three-team race for the crown.
Kent Denver topped Faith Christian 43-38 to open Metro action but has won their next three by a combined 55 points.  Seniors Julia Doyle (16.0) and Emma Boatman (8.9) remain the first and second options offensively.  Doyle scored 24 points in last week’s win over Manual and Boatman just missed her third double-double of the season with nine points and 12 rebounds.
Colorado Academy has won four league games by an average of 20 points.  Their latest was a 57-36 decision over Skyview Academy.  Story Wolf-Tinsman hit five three-pointers and finished with a game high 15 points.  Mia Cravitz was next with 12.
Comparison scores indicate the game could be a toss-up.  Colorado Academy lost to Eaton by 29 points while Kent Denver scored a 44-40 win.  Balancing those numbers are results against Faith Christian.  While Kent Denver picked up the five-point win, Colorado Academy cruised to a 46-28 decision.
Lutheran looks to keep pace by beating Faith Christian on Wednesday and Peak to Peak on Saturday.  The Lions are at home in Parker in both matchups and will be favored in each.
The most important game inside the Patriot this week is Friday between Eaton and Liberty Common.  The Reds are part of a three-way tie with Sterling and Resurrection Christian for the conference lead while Liberty Common has a league loss and is tied with University in fourth.
Liberty Common lost a share of the lead with a difficult 55-53 loss to Resurrection Christian last week.  The Eagles led by 11 after one quarter and held that lead to halftime but were outscored 18-9 in the third and 19-15 in the fourth.  Anne Dutton finished with 22 and Vivian Stein added 11.  Juju Hemeyer hit the game winner and finished with 16 for Resurrection Christian.
Eaton has beaten Strasburg, Frontier Academy, Valley and Brush by at least 25 points apiece but the brunt of their league schedule is still ahead of them.  They were very impressive last Thursday in downing Brush 65-40.  The game was over quickly as Reds jumped to a 10-point lead in the first and then rolled the Diggers 27-7 in the second.  Baillie Duncan led four players in double figures with 14 points.  Addie Randel, Alexis Lamoreaux and Celsi Jurgensmeier all ended up with 10.
Resurrection Christian goes to Estes Park on Thursday for their only conference match of the week.  Sterling and University are both at home on Friday.  The Tigers entertain Platte Valley and the Bulldogs meet Brush.
Clear Creek and Bennett collide on Friday with the winner keeping a share of the Frontier league lead.  The visiting Golddiggers moved to 6-0 in conference play by routing Pinnacle 59-14 last week.  Bennett sits at 4-0 and will face Sheridan on Wednesday before focusing completely on Clear Creek.
The Tuesday win continued the league domination of Clear Creek.  Previous league wins were by 53, 26, 63, 72 and 41 points so the 45-point win over Pinnacle has been par for the course.  Grace Werlin leads the team in points (13.0) and rebounds (8.6).  Rachel Lucas is second in both categories with 10.9 points and 6.8 rebounds.  They combined for 33 points and 13 rebounds on Tuesday.
Bennett has not been as explosive as Clear Creek but have posted four league wins by a combined 120 points.  Most of that margin came in a wild 79-4 win over Jefferson earlier this month but all four are by at least 16 points.  Isabelle Babi (12.5) and Jesse Becker (9.5) pace the Tigers in scoring.
It’s still very early in the Western Slope chase but two games of note this Friday find Grand Valley on the road to Cedaredge and Delta visiting Coal Ridge.  Cedaredge is second in RPI this week and sits unbeaten overall but its not been easy.  Six of their wins are by single digits including a 41-39 win over Delta and 51-42 decision over Coal Ridge last week.  Another tight game could occur when they welcome in the Cardinals.
Delta rallied past Basalt 56-54 last week.  They trailed 15-6 after one quarter but outscored the Longhorns 39-35 over the final 24 minutes.  Sara Geddes, with 19 points, sparked the rally.  Alexa Huff added 13 and Melissa Webb 10.