Another battle among the heavyweights in the rugged Tri Peaks conference headlines our 3A girls’ basketball report this week.  The meeting is Friday as top ranked St Mary’s heads to Manitou Springs.  The Pirates are 8-0 and coming off an important win at Lamar last week.  The Mustangs are just 4-4 but won’t be an easy out.  They’ve played a strong schedule and were a top 10 club before last week’s loss to Sterling.
In their road win at Lamar last week, the Pirates used a fast start to gain the win.  They led 22-7 after one quarter and then held on for a 40-32 decision.  The sophomore backcourt tandem of Josephine Lowery (12) and Seneca Hackley (10) led the offense.  Mary Cummings also dropped in three treys and ended up with nine points.
The Pirates also whipped Trinidad 57-20 last week and already sit 3-0 in Tri Peaks action.  They’re one of five league unbeaten teams.  Friday’s game with Manitou closes a strong week as they also line up with 4A Pueblo East on Wednesday.
Manitou Springs should gain a second league win at Rye on Thursday before completely focusing on St Mary’s.  As mentioned, Coach Justin Armour’s club has played a strong schedule with losses to Sterling, Pagosa Springs, Classical Academy, and Discovery Canyon.  Their best wins are against Kent Denver and Lutheran which may battle for the Metro league championship.
Maren Mildestvdet (13.0) and Caileen Sienknecht (10.9) are the top two scorers for Manitou Springs.  Mildestvdet picked up a season best 23 against Classical Academy and Sienknecht recorded a double-double with 23 points and 13 rebounds against Lutheran.
Lamar has two road games on tap this week as they go to Trinidad on Thursday and then Buena Vista on Saturday.  Their most important remaining stretch comes later this month as they meet Colorado Springs Christian on the 26th and then Manitou Springs the next day.  Despite the loss to St Mary’s, the Savages remain in good position to land at least a top-two league finish which should give them a very good shot at hosting the first two rounds of the state tournament.
Colorado Springs Christian blasted Rye 66-8 in their league opener on Tuesday night.  The defense limited the Thunderbolts to just 4 of 33 shooting from the field.  The Lions went 1-2 at the rugged Rampart Tournament last week and junior Megan Engesser went past the 1,000-point career mark during the event.
Next up for the Lions are games with Buena Vista and James Irwin Thursday and Friday.  Looking down the road, the Lions face Manitou Springs on the 24th, Lamar on the 26th and St Mary’s on February 9th.
The Patriot championship chase could involve more teams this year.  Since joining the Patriot league before the 2012-13 season, Sterling has dominated the conference winning 51 of 53 league games but we expect several other clubs such as University, Resurrection Christian, Liberty Common, Brush and Eaton to challenge them this year.
Sterling though collected a very good road win at University Tuesday night.  Both teams were in the top ten before the game and both could stay there next week.  The game was a bit wider than the final score indicates as Sterling led 30-17 going into the fourth quarter before grabbing the 36-30 decision.  Video highlights are available on our Facebook page.
Despite the loss, University continues their nice program turn-around.  Just three years, the Bulldogs won just two games but could be in contention for a top three spot in a very good conference this year.  They’re off the rest of week before meeting Strasburg next week.  Sterling meets Strasburg at home on Friday.
Liberty Common moved past Brush 47-35 in another important Patriot opener on Tuesday.  The Eagles had four players with least eight points including a team best 10 from Anne Dutton.  Abi White and Eve Norman added nine apiece and Samantha Tsiouvaras added eight.
The Eagles will be favored at home against Platte Valley on Thursday before a big one with Resurrection Christian on the 18th.
Brush has little time to regroup as they visit Resurrection Christian on Friday.  The Cougars moved to 7-1 overall by handling Valley 65-29 on Tuesday.  It was their fifth straight win since a lone loss to Falcon.
Ju Ju Hemeyer led the way with 19 points.  She averages 15.8 per game but over the last three that number has jumped to 23.  She scored 25 against both Heritage Christian and Coal Ridge in her final two December games.  The sophomore is likely looking forward to Friday’s matchup as she tallied a career best 34 points in last year’s 57-48 win over Brush.  Brush picked up 10 points from Maddy Rule, eight from Sydney Odle and six from Ali Keller who all return for the Beetdiggers this season.
With Tuesday’s loss, Brush dropped to 5-3 on the season but the record is a bit misleading as the previous two losses came against 4A rivals Fort Morgan and Frederick.
The first Intermountain League game of the season went in favor of Pagosa Springs on Tuesday.  The Pirates downed Alamosa 53-31.  The first and third quarters were the difference as Pagosa won those periods 30-11.
Pagosa Springs returns home to host Monte Vista on Friday and will enter the game at 6-2 overall.
Of course, the league championship will again likely be determined by the two conference matchups between Centauri and Pagosa Springs.  Round one is in Pagosa Springs on January 26th with the rematch in La Jara on February 10th.
Centauri swept the regular season series last year and is the defending league champion.  They moved to 9-0 on the season with their 55-15 dismantling of Trinidad last week.  The Falcons led 23-4 after one quarter and had a chance get everyone on the floor.  10 players scored led by Caroline Van Berkum with 15.  She also collected a team best five rebounds.
Coach Dave Forster’s opens league play with two home games this week against Bayfield on Friday and Montezuma Cortez on Saturday.
The Metro league schedule opens on Wednesday and the race could be considered wide open.  Six teams finished non-conference play above five hundred, but our favorites remain Kent Denver and Lutheran.  They meet in early February in the game that could determine the top two spots.  This week, Kent Denver hosts Faith Christian on Wednesday and then goes to Peak to Peak on Friday.  Lutheran has just one Metro contest as they host Prospect Ridge on Wednesday.
Machebeuf may have the most difficult opening week as they host Colorado Academy and then goes to St Mary’s Academy on Friday.  Another key game has St Mary’s Academy going to Jefferson Academy on Wednesday.  All involved teams were among the six league teams with overall winning records.
Both Machebeuf and Colorado Academy are coming off lopsided losses.  The Buffs lost to University (55-32) last week while C-A last stepped on the court for a 60-31 loss to Eaton in December.  St Mary’s Academy and Jefferson Academy have combined to win their last ten games, but each has a major blemish on their resume from December.  St Mary’s Academy suffered a 21-point loss to 2A Denver Christian and Jefferson Academy lost by 60 to Colorado Springs Christian.
Jefferson Academy features 10 players averaging between three and seven points per game; a list led by Becka Ballard (7.3) and Ellie Hausmann (7.0).  St Mary’s Academy has a likely all-league performer in Reagan Rychecky who averages 16 points and nine rebounds a night.  Colorado Academy has two double-digit scorers in Kyra Kurtz (12.0) and Story Wolf-Tinsman (10.1).  Adet Mabeny leads Machebeuf in both scoring (15.2) and rebounding (8.7).
Cedaredge (7-0) has the best record of teams inside the Western Slope but the Bruins have yet to begin league play.  They do so next week against Delta.  The Bruins topped Delta 47-43 in overtime in non-league play last month.  Delta (5-1) is another league title threat.  They meet 4A Montrose on Friday and then face Gunnison in their league opener on Friday.
The best matchup on paper in league play this week is Saturday in Craig between Moffat County (5-2) and Grand Valley (4-2).  The Cards, behind top scorer Shaya Chenoweth, has won two straight since a loss to Salida.  Moffat County is led in scoring by the duo of Jana Camilletti (10.0) and Kinlie Brennise (9.8).  Brooke Gumber (7.5) is the top rebounder.
It’s still too early to determine a favorite in the Frontier league.  Lake County, Bennett, Academy, Clear Creek, and Middle Park are a combined 6-0 so they share the early lead.  The lone head-to-head matchup among those five is Friday as Bennett faces Middle Park.
Bennett has won three in a row since a loss to Brush.  Isabelle Babi (11.5) and Jesse Becker (9.3) are a nice one-two punch for the Tigers offensively.  Middle Park gets a combined 25 points and 23 rebounds from the trio of Kierra Barr, Bailey Martin, and Haiden Barker.