Crowded standings atop the Patriot conference sort out this week as the leading contenders for the league title start to battle head-to-head.  Those games began on Tuesday with Eaton and Sterling collecting important wins to stay in first place.
Both clubs improved to 7-0 in conference play.  Eaton downed Resurrection Christian 54-26 and Sterling moved past Liberty Common 58-39.
The loss was the first in conference play for Resurrection Christian as the Cougars fell to 5-1 in league play.  They stand alone in third place and may face a must win situation when they line up against Sterling on Friday.  Another loss leaves them two games back and losses to the teams ahead of them.
For Eaton, it was their tenth straight win.  They hit 49 percent of their shots (24-49) and were led in scoring by Alexis Lamoreaux with 14.  Bailie Duncan added a dozen and Addie Randel chipped in nine.  Defensively, the Reds limited Resurrection Christian leading scorer Juju Hemeyer to 10 points; about six below her average.
Sterling’s win was their ninth in a row.  They outscored the Eagles 12-4 in the first quarter and 13-7 to gain control by halftime.  The Tigers now focus on two important games where wins in both give them the league championship.  As mentioned, they meet Resurrection Christian on Friday and then take on Eaton next Tuesday.
Conference leaders are also battling this week inside the Frontier and Bennett picked up a much-needed win over Academy on Tuesday (53-52).  The Tigers led 39-27 after three and then withstood a furious fourth quarter rally where the Wildcats fell just one point short.
Katherine Jordan led Bennett with 14 points and Isabelle Babi added 13.  Pearl Copeland, with 11, also reached double figures.
Academy and Bennett are now tied for third place with one league loss apiece.  They both trail Clear Creek and Middle Park by one game in the league standings.  Academy has an important game with Middle Park on Saturday and they need the win to stay within range heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.  Bennett hosts KIPP Collegiate on Saturday and should get the win there.  Their trip to Middle Park is on the 7th.
Lutheran (4-0) and Kent Denver (6-0) share the Metro lead and of the two clubs, Lutheran has the tougher test this week.  They go to fourth place Skyview Academy (3-2) on Wednesday night.  Kent Denver blitzed St Mary’s Academy on Tuesday night and will be favored to beat Prospect Ridge on Friday.
The Lions have won four in a row since a loss to 4A Pueblo East.  Haley Shaklee leads Lutheran in scoring (13.3) and rebounding (5.1).  The senior struggled with shooting last week (3-16) but her 13 rebounds helped Lutheran down both Faith Christian and Peak to Peak.  Kate Webster is second in both categories with 12.1 points and 4.3 rebounds.  She dropped in 13 against Peak to Peak.  Freshman Stephanie Schultz (7.5) has also been a nice addition to the lineup this year.  She had a career high 18 points in a crucial league win over Machebeuf earlier this month.
Skyview Academy suffered early league losses to Kent Denver (47-32) and Colorado Academy (57-36) and has been playing catchup since.  They’ve won their last three games including a quality league win over St Mary’s Academy.  Natalia Miller-Forrest (13.2) is the league scorer and Hannah Banko is second on the team (7.5).  Banko also leads the team with 8.5 rebounds per night.
Colorado Academy sits alone in third and has just four conference games remaining.  They host St Mary’s Academy on Friday and then face Prospect Ridge and Lutheran next week.  Their final game is against Jefferson Academy.
Quite a bit was figured out inside the Tri Peaks last week but Colorado Springs Christian’s win over Lamar carried the most importance.  That decision turned the championship chase into a two-team battle between the Lions and St Mary’s.  Both remain unbeaten in league play and each has a win over and two-game cushion to third-place Lamar.
Neither league leader should get pushed this week.  Colorado Springs Christian picked up a lopsided win against La Junta on Tuesday night and has the rest of the week off.  St Mary’s meets James Irwin on Thursday and then visits Rye on Saturday.  The Pirates and Lions get together on February 9th.
Defense was the word of the day in the CSCS 32-28 win over Lamar last Friday.  The teams combined to hit just 23 of 83 shots on the game.  Megan Engesser led the winners with 12 points and Rachel Ingram added nine.  Cali Clark and Brecken Payne pace Lamar with nine points apiece.
Maybe the most important game in the league this week pits Salida at Manitou Springs on Friday.  It’s more for district seeding and RPI standings than pushing for the conference championship.  Salida (5-3) and Manitou Springs (3-3) are tied with Florence in fourth place.  Manitou Springs sits 16th in the RPI and Salida is 18th.
The teams are headed in opposite directions.  Manitou Springs has lost two in row dropping games to Colorado Springs Christian and Lamar last week.  Salida has won two straight beating James Irwin and Rye last week.
Round one between Pagosa Springs and Centauri inside the Intermountain league went to the Pirates as they picked up a win last Friday (40-32).  Pagosa Springs led 21-12 at halftime and 30-16 after three.  Centauri outscored Pagosa 16-10 in the fourth but was unable to come all the way back on the road.
The rematch that should finalize the top two spots in the league race and district pairings is set for February 10th.  Both teams have meeting with third place Alamosa this week.  Both teams collected double digit wins over the Moose in the first battles.  Pagosa Springs won 53-31 and Centauri 39-27.
The Western Slope chase got more interesting when Grand Valley downed Cedaredge last week.  That result left Moffat County and Delta as remaining league unbeatens and sharing the top spot.  Moffat County is on the road for two conference meetings this week as they go to Coal Ridge on Friday and Basalt Saturday.  Delta also spends the week away from home against Aspen Thursday and Gunnison Saturday.  The two leaders meet on February 16th.
Cedaredge though is far from out of the race.  They’ve already beaten Delta in overtime twice this season and face the Panthers for the conference tilt next Tuesday.  The Bruins recovered from the Grand Valley loss by edging Basalt 40-31 the next week.  They’re favored against Olathe and Gunnison Friday and Saturday.
Weld Central plays a predominant 4A schedule but drops into the 3A bracket for the post-season.  The Rebels have a key league game with Fort Morgan on Friday.  Both teams are unbeaten in the Colorado 7 and the winner likely lands the championship trophy.  Freshman Kaydee Sims tops the Rebels in scoring (13.1) and rebounds (7.9).  She was held to seven points and three rebounds in a 66-37 loss to Eaton last Saturday.
The Rebels had won six straight before the loss.  They’re 33rd in RPI but need some wins to improve that number in case they don’t qualify automatically through the district tournament.  They’re one of several teams from the Colorado 7 that join the Confluence for district action.