With the exception of the Tri Peaks and one game in the Patriot, the Class 3A division is still a week away from embarking on conference play. Our weekly report will still look at each conference and get you ready for league races the rest of the season.
Even though most teams have played just one league contest, this is a very important week for the conference as many of the projected top teams square off. The biggest is on Thursday between St Mary’s and Vanguard as right now those clubs seem to be the best picks for the top two spots. St Mary’s of course is the favorite as the Pirates remain number one in the Class 3A rankings as they seek a third consecutive state crown.
The Pirates feature arguably the two best players in Class 3A in their backcourt. Seniors Josephine Howery (20.3) and Seneca Hackley (16.3) are the top two scorers but they also combine for nearly nine rebounds, eight assists and six steals per game. The rest of the starting five; Catherine Cummings, Ellie Hartman and Brooklyn Valdez all know their roles very well. Cummings anchors the inside with nearly 10 points and six rebounds per game while Hartman (8.7) and Valdez (7.9) knock down shots while combining for over 16 points per game. Hartman is also tied with Hackley for second on the team in three pointers (13). Howery tops the team with 14.
Vanguard could be trying to follow the script set forth by St Mary’s a few years ago. The Pirates back then gave heavy minutes to freshman Howery and Hackley and it’s paid off with two state titles so far. Two of the top three scorers for the Coursers are freshmen in Hailey Blanchard (14.5) and Juliana Garcia (8.0). Blanchard adds three assists and four steals per game and Garcia five rebounds. There is also experience in junior Alexis Garcia (13.7 pts) and senior Cortney Arasmith (10.2 rebs).
Behind the Pirates and Coursers are several solid clubs as the league overall features eight teams with winning records going into the week. And many of them collide this week as Florence meets Buena Vista, Lamar tangles with Colorado Springs Christian and La Junta faces Manitou Springs.
Lamar and CSCS are normally pushing for league titles but it appears both teams are in a bit of rebuild mode. The Savages (0-1) dropped their league opener to Buena Vista before Christmas but still has enough talent to push for a top four finish. It’s young talent as most of the top players are either freshman or sophomores. CSCS is still trying to find more scoring to replace the four year duo of Megan Engesser and Rachel Ingram.
Buena Vista has won three straight since a loss to highly ranked Alamosa. The Demons outscored Lamar 27-12 over the second and third quarters to earn a 43-38 decision. Florence topped Salida 52-31 in their conference opener. The Huskies led by just seven at intermission but then outscored the Spartans 19-3 in the third.
Manitou Springs has played a bit tougher schedule than La Junta as the Mustangs have losses to Lutheran and Vanguard. They also have a good test against 4A Classical Academy on Wednesday. Aniah Olson (10.3) and Grace Allen (10.0) lead the Mustangs offensively with Allen one of the best freshman in 3A this year.
La Junta outlasted Ellicott (58-55) in double overtime for their first conference win in December. They host Manitou Springs on Saturday.
The lone league game on tap this week finds Sterling at home against Frontier Academy on Thursday. It’s likely a game for middle of the pack positioning as neither is expected to make a strong push for the league crown. Sterling (2-4) has played just two games against in-state teams with a win over Faith CHristian (46-33) and loss to 4A Fort Morgan (47-28).
League contenders include Eaton (7-2), Platte Valley (5-1), University (5-2), Resurrection Christian (5-1) and Brush (5-2). Of that group, University has the most difficult schedule this week as they have back-to-back trips to the Metro to face Prospect Ridge on Tuesday and Kent Denver on Wednesday.
The Bulldogs received a boost in late December with the return of senior Taylor Gollhofer. The senior center missed the first four games due to injury but returned for the final three including a 27 point and eight rebound effort against Grand Valley. It was her first game back and over those three games, the senior averaged 17 points and nearly seven rebounds. She gives balance to the offense along with the backcourt sister tandem of Kylie (12.4) and Taryn Kravig (9.4).
Neither opponent this week features a player averaging double figures on offense. Prospect Ridge (3-4) is 0-3 against the Patriot this year with losses to Resurrection Christian, Brush and Eaton. Kent Denver (2-3) including a 31 point loss to Patriot member Eaton.
Eaton (7-2) is off this week and will open league play against Estes Park on the 14th. The Reds are 1-1 in January as they split two games at Pagosa Springs last week; falling to the host Pirates (55-37) and beating Roaring Fork (43-41).
Platte Valley (5-1) is off this week and has not played since December 2oth. They have a tough start to Patriot action as they face Resurrection Christian on the 14th and Eaton two nights later.
Resurrection Christian (5-1) has won five in a row since a 53 point loss to St Mary’s in their opener. Their schedule has not been that strong thus far but it steps up a bit this week against Fort Lupton on Tuesday and Colorado Academy on Friday.
Brush is quietly 5-2 with solid wins over Yuma and Fort Morgan. The Beetdiggers stay away from game action this week and return to the court on the 14th against University in a key early conference battle.
Lutheran (6-1) is heavily favored in the race this year. Traditional contenders Faith Christian (2-5) and Kent Denver (2-3) are both below five hundred overall and the rest of the league also seems down a bit. Skyview Academy (4-1), Colorado Academy (4-2) and Jefferson Academy (4-3) are the only three clubs other than Lutheran above five hundred.
Lutheran is off this week and opens Metro action against Prospect Ridge on the 15th. That same night features an important clash between Skyview Academy and Faith Christian. Faith Christian is in action this week with a tough assignment against unbeaten Academy. Skyview Academy heads to Middle Park on Saturday.
Colorado Academy has a nice date with Resurrection Christian on Friday before facing St Mary’s Academy in their league opener on the 21st. Jefferson Academy carries a two-game losing streak into January after falling to Platte Valley and Standley Lake before Christmas.
With three teams in the top six of the 3A rankings this week, this race could be the best across the division this year. Centauri is ranked 3rd, Pagosa Springs 5th and Alamosa 6th and together have a combined record of 20-3. League games don’t start until the 17th so all teams are still working out a few more kinks before making the push for a league title.
The most interesting game on the schedule as Pagosa Springs meeting 2A power Sanford on Saturday. Both Centauri (twice) and Alamosa have already beaten the Indians so the result for Pagosa Springs will be more evidence of how the conference race may shake out.
The Pirates have two losses on the season but they’re against St Mary’s and Lutheran; the top two teams in the rankings. They opened 2020 with an impressive win over Eaton at their own tournament last week. Pagosa is also senior laden with their top three scorers all playing their final high school season. Taylor Lewis (11.0), Teagan Stretton (9.9) and Hannah Griego (8.3) combine for 29 points per game.
Centauri had a great December. In addition to beating Sanford twice, the Falcons also downed Cedaredge and Delta on the road in their final two games before the break. They’re currently third in RPI.
Alamosa is fourth in RPI this week. Their lone loss is against 4A Montrose and the Moose also have a win over Delta. They could get pushed on the road this Saturday as they visit 2A #10 Ignacio. Sisters Emily (15.1) and Lily Lavier (10.) pace the offense and also average a combined seven steals a game defensively.
It’s a non-league game on Friday but the matchup between Delta and Cedaredge will give us an indication of how the league race may end up. Along with Moffat County and possibly Grand Valley, the Panthers and Bruins are favored to push for the conference title. They meet in round one of the Delta County tournament as Paonia and Hotchkiss sit on the other side. Winners on Friday meet for the crown on Saturday.
The biggest news for Delta is the return of Sara Geddes. She led the team with nearly 11 points a game last year but has not played this year due to injury. But coach Kyle Crowder has told Colorado Preps that Geddes has been cleared to play and will return the floor against Grand Junction Central on Friday. In addition to scoring, Geddes will also boost the team on the boards and defensively.
With their full-lineup intact, look for the Panthers to quickly improve on their 2-3 record. All three losses are quality as they fell to top 10 members Vanguard, Alamosa and Centauri. Without Geddes, the Panthers turned to Keely Porter (12.6), Erika Kuta (10.0) and Alexa Huff (8.4) for more scoring. All average at least six rebounds per game and all are returning starters from last year’s 23-2 club.
Cedaredge has won five of six with a lone blemish to Centauri (52-45). Kammie Henderson, with 15.8 points and 8.8 rebounds, leads the Bruins on both ends. Makayla Kehmeier and Megan Gastineau both score nine points a game with Gastineau adding five rebounds and Kehmeier nearly four steals.
The Panthers and Bruins met three times last year with Delta winning all three. Each game was determined by at least 15 points. The conference game between the two is set for February 4th.
Moffat County has just one game this week; against Grand Juntion Central on Saturday. Gunnison and Olathe are league opponents up next week. Freshman Cayden King, with team best totals of 13 points and eight rebounds, is off to a great start to her high school career. Ten players average at least two points per game so the Bulldogs have solid depth and a good mix of veterans and young talent.
We don’t see a challenger to Academy (6-0) in this race. The remaining 12 league teams have a combined record of 11-40 with Sheridan (4-2) as the only other club with a winning record. That league schedule will hurt the Wildcats in the RPI. Currently number one in Class 3A with an opponents winning percentage of .706, the Wildcats will see both numbers steadily fall through the rest of the season. Sheridan is next in RPI at #38.
The Wildcats have wins over Platte Valley, Eaton and University and will face Faith Christian this week before beginning league play next week.
As is the case every year at this time, it’s still too early to pick a favorite in this league. It’s always a wide open race as not much is known about any of the clubs. Lotus (4-1) and DSST-Byers (2-1) are the only two teams above five hundred and looking long range, Riverdale Ridge may be the team to beat in the district tournament. The Ravens compete in the 4A Colorado 7 league during the regular season but drop into this bracket for the playoffs. They’re 16th in RPI this week with Eagle Ridge Academy (#31) the next highest ranked district team.