Right out of the gate in January the Class 3A schedule includes a game very important to a league championship race and the future post-season pairings.  2nd ranked St Mary’s goes to 4th ranked Lamar on Friday and the winner will gain a very important league win in a race that also includes 3rd ranked Colorado Springs Christian.
The two Tri Peaks rivals met twice last year and split the two outings.  St Mary’s won the regular season battle 60-47 but Lamar avenged the loss by downing the Pirates 47-42 in the district tournament.  Sophomore standout Cali Clark had double-doubles in both games totaling 22 points and 19 rebounds in the loss and 14 and 10 in the victory.  She’s back to lead the Savages offense again this year but was held scoreless in Lamar’s loss to Centauri in the La Junta Tournament championship game last month.
With Clark gaining a great amount of attention from every defense, others will have to step for Lamar if the Savages wish to make a run at a second consecutive state championship.  The backcourt of Cassie Forgue and Baillie Kee has plenty of experience including state tournament appearance last year and the Savages have been getting solid play from Brecken Payne early this season.
St Mary’s enter the crucial league encounter without a loss this season including quality wins over Lutheran, Pagosa Springs and Colorado Academy.  Their 49-32 win over Pagosa Springs at the Buena Vista Tournament is their narrowest margin of victory thus far.
With five players averaging at least seven points per game, the Pirates are very balanced on the offensive end.  Josephine Howery is the lead guard and paces the Pirates in scoring (16.2) and assists (5.0).  Makenna Bodette is second in scoring (13.3) and also provides nearly six rebounds a game.  Seneca Hackley (9.8), Mary Cummings (8.0) and Brooklyn Valdez (7.3) can also score in the balanced attack.
As a team, St Mary’s shoots 46 percent from the field, 36 percent from the three-point arc and 73 percent from the foul line.
Colorado Springs Christian will have great interest in Friday’s outcome but the Lions are also focused on winning the Rampart Tournament this week.  It’s a tough title to gain as top ranked Pueblo West (4A) plus 5A opponents Fruita Monument and Rampart are in the field.  The Lions (5-0) ended December with a strong 40-19 win over Pagosa Springs.  Megan Engesser (10 points) and Rachel Ingram (7) were held in check by the Pagosa defense but Abby Kedler (9) and Corrie Anderson (8) hit several big shots to pace the Lions.
Those two and others will be crucial for CSCS to make another state tournament appearance as defenses focus on slowing down Engesser (24.4) and Ingram (15.8).  The Lions host Lamar on January 26th and then visit St Mary’s on February 9th.
Out west, Cedaredge (6-0) had the best December of any league team so the Bruins are among the favorites to land the league championship.  But since five other league teams posted winning records, getting the title won’t be easy.
Two of the top challengers could be Delta (4-1) and Roaring Fork (4-2) and they collide on Friday in Delta.  The host Panthers won their first four games of the season but finished December with a frustrating 47-43 loss to Cedaredge.  Before that loss, the Panthers had posted quality wins over traditional West Slope powers Olathe and Paonia.
Three double figure scorers pace the Delta offense.  Sara Geddes (13.5) is the top scorer followed by Aubrey Jones (11.8) and Melissa Webb (10.5).  Of the three, Jones is the only senior.  Freshman Keeley Porter (8.8) is fourth in scoring and has been a nice addition to the lineup.
Roaring Fork (4-2) won just nine games last season so a win over Delta puts them over halfway there this season.  Their only 3A loss came against Weld Central by just one point in Keenesburg as part of the Trace Young Memorial Tournament.  The Rams played Delta twice a year ago and lost both times but the first meeting was a four-point contest (37-33).  Game two went to the Panthers much easier (53-36).
Elsewhere this week, there are three non-conference games featuring six teams likely to make the 32-team state tournament field.  Machebeuf goes to University on Thursday and then on Friday Eaton visits Weld Central.  Saturday sees a good matchup between Sterling and Manitou Springs.
University’s 6-1 start this season has continued the recent turnaround for the Greeley based program.  Just three years ago, the Bulldogs managed just two wins but has since bumped that number to eight and 13.  A home win over Machebeuf could set them on their way to increasing that total again this season.
Sophomore Taylor Gollhofer is developing into one of the top 3A players statewide.  She’s averaging 11.8 points and 13.4 rebounds this year and leads the team in both categories.  Gollhofer totaled 20 points and 21 rebounds in a loss to Kent Denver and added 16 and 9 against Prospect Ridge in the December finale.  Adding offense is Madelyn Malm (11.1) and she knows how to win after playing in three consecutive state volleyball tournaments.
Machebeuf (6-2) has not played an extremely strong schedule but the Buffs are traditionally one of the top programs in the Metro and state.  Adet Mabeny leads the Buffs in points (15.6) and rebounds (8.2).  She’s reached double figures in every game but was limited to a season low 10 in a 46-28 loss to Eaton.  Mabeny finished December with 17 points in a win over DSST-Stapleton where she hit seven of eight shots.
A second option on offense is Paige Wood (8.9).  She scored double figures in her first three outings but has reached that total only once over her last five.
Eaton (6-2) finished December strong with the win over Machebeuf and another over Colorado Academy (60-31).  Losses have been against Kent Denver (44-40) and Prospect Ridge (48-40).  40 seems to be the magic number for Eaton as they’re 6-0 scoring more but winless when they don’t.
The Reds get a combined 19 points from Baillee Duncan (10.1) and Addie Randel (9.0).  They also average nine steals per game between them.  Three others score at least five points per game.
Weld Central (7-2) has already faced five Patriot league opponents beating four.  The Rebels have wins over Estes Park, Valley, Strasburg and Platte Valley with a loss to Brush.  They’re led by the freshman duo of Kaydee Sims and Sydnie Pevler.  Sims tops the Rebels in scoring (13.0) and is second in rebounds (8.4).  Pevler is third in points (7.5) and first in rebounds (9.0).
After several years of state tournament trips, Sterling and Manitou Springs are two power programs going through a bit of transition.  Each club has a new coach as Kristen Hamill has taken the job in Sterling and Justin Armour is now in charge of the Mustangs.  Both teams struggled against strong schedules in December as the Tigers won two of six games and the Mustangs two of five.
Sterling has not played since falling to Pagosa Springs 30-23 on December 9th.  The Tigers have plenty of experience as seniors Brooke Polenz (9.0), Kyndall Feather (6.3) and Cassidy Paxton (6.3) lead the team on offense.  Feather and Paxton combine for nearly 11 rebounds per game while Polenz chips in two assists and two steals.
Manitou Springs also played and lost to Pagosa Springs (56-36) but countered that loss with quality wins over Kent Denver and Lutheran.  Maren Mildestvdet (14.0) leads the Mustangs in scoring and she gets plenty of help from Caileen Sienknecht (10.6) who also provides nearly nine rebounds a night.
The Mustangs have two advantages in the matchup.  They will be playing at home plus they have a game with La Junta two nights earlier to help shake off some holiday rust.  Sterling, as mentioned, will be playing their first game in nearly a month.
Colorado Preps will track scores each night of the regular season and they will be posted inside our Daily Scoreboard.  Final scores can be sent to Colorado Preps by email to [email protected] or by text to 970.380.7737.