One of the four regions in the Class 4A boys basketball state tournament came very close last week to turning the field upside down.
The Larry Brunson Region was host to a pair of first-round upsets that nearly became second-round stunners. In the end the top seeds prevailed, but headed into Wednesday’s Sweet 16 round, the field could have looked very different.
It started with the 48th and final seed in the field, Centaurus. The Warriors knocked off No. 17 Elizabeth 53-50 last Wednesday behind 21 points from sophomore Owen Koonce. Centaurus then hit the road and traveled to the Western Slope to meet 16th-seeded Montrose.
The Warriors again were game, getting 15 points from Koonce, but the Indians held on for the 47-43 victory.
Another lower seed, No. 40 Greeley Central, went to Edwards in the first round and handled No. 25 Battle Mountain 74-48. Junior Jackson Hayslip scored a game-high 21 points and senior Steven Maldonado added 18.
Like Centaurus, the Wildcats nearly made it back-to-back upsets. Facing No. 8 Evergreen, Greeley Central used a big third quarter to make it a game before eventually falling 61-58.
In the Mark Randall Region, No. 42 Skyview upended No. 23 The Classical Academy 47-42 behind a combined 35 points from seniors Isaac Valdez and Deyvon Butler before bowing out 64-51 to 10th-seeded Widefield. No. 39 Erie toppled the No. 26 seed in Thomas Jefferson 50-46 before falling 73-63 to No. 7 Silver Creek.
Discovery Canyon, the No. 38 seed, upset No. 27 Pueblo East 75-49 thanks to 25 points from junior Zack Anderson. The Thunder couldn’t make it two in a row in Pueblo though, falling 72-63 to No. 6 Pueblo West.
Finally, 22nd-seeded Mesa Ridge was the only lower seed to reach the Sweet 16. The Grizzlies upended No. 11 Glenwood Springs 67-48 and will face Pueblo West on Wednesday.
The rest of the seeding played out as expected. Here is a look at each of the eight Sweet 16 games that will take place Wednesday night. The Great 8 is March 3, with the semifinals and championship game taking place at the Denver Coliseum March 9 and 10:
Larry Brunson Region
- No. 1 Pueblo South vs. No. 16 Montrose
Can anyone stop the Colts? That is the question as Pueblo South (22-2) takes its 16-game winning streak into the third round against Montrose. The team’s only losses came in the early weeks of the season to Golden and Lewis-Palmer, and the Colts have rolled in 2018 thus far behind the likes of Marcell Barbee, Tonay Aragon and Jeremy Cody.
Montrose (18-6) has a tall task to face and a long road trip to make. The Indians have won 19 of 21 games though, and withstood an upstart Centaurus squad to reach the third round. Senior Kade Terrell and sophomore Connor Imus have been the team’s go-to scoring threats this winter, but the team does spread the ball around.
- No. 8 Evergreen vs. No. 9 Valor Christian
Two of the four Jeffco League teams to reach the Sweet 16 face off for the third time this season and second time in four games. Evergreen (19-5) split its two regular-season meetings with Valor, but the Cougars took the last one 62-58 on Feb. 13 on the strength of 26 points from senior Bridger Tenney.
Valor Christian (16-8), the defending state champion, won 10 games in a row in the middle of the season but has dropped two of its past six games. The Eagles handled Vista PEAK Prep though 72-58 in the second round, with sophomore Richard Rosengarten leading the way with 16 points and junior Jack Foley adding 14 points. All of the team’s eight losses have come away from home.
Mark Randall Region
- No. 2 Lewis-Palmer vs. No. 15 Palmer Ridge
After a two-game losing streak in late January, Lewis-Palmer (22-2) has been dominant during a nine-game winning streak. The Rangers gained a measure of revenge against its upcoming opponent, Pikes Peak rival Palmer Ridge, with an 11-point victory on Feb. 16. That came after the Bears defeated Lewis-Palmer by nine points back on Jan. 24. Joel Scott had a monster performance in a second-round victory over Sierra, erupting for 33 points and a season-high 18 rebounds.
Palmer Ridge (16-8) has proven it won’t back down to the Rangers. The loss in the second meeting came only two days after a triple-overtime victory over Sand Creek, and even then the Bears made a game of it in the fourth quarter. Senior Maccee Reed scored a season-high 17 points on 6-of-6 shooting in the team’s 52-48 victory over Holy Family last Saturday.
- No. 7 Silver Creek vs. No. 10 Widefield
Silver Creek (20-4) will be looking to make a statement in the third round after downing Erie 73-63. Two of the team’s four losses this winter came to fifth-seeded Longmont, and the Raptors boast one of 4A’s top scoring threats in senior Trent Dykema (24 points, eight rebounds a game).
Widefield (20-4) captured the Colorado Springs Metro League crown. The Gladiators, who have played four overtime games this season, have won 14 in a row. Senior Tre Pierre poured in 26 points in the second-round victory over Skyview on 12-of-18 shooting, adding 11 rebounds for good measure.
Guy Gibbs Region
- No. 3 Golden vs. No. 14 Ponderosa
Golden (21-3), the Jeffco League champion, has won 12 games in a row. That includes a 69-34 dismantling of Pueblo Central in the second round where Ilja Bubkin and Jack McLaughlin scored 14 points apiece. The Demons are two victories away from a return trip to the Final Four.
Ponderosa’s record of 15-9 is deceiving given that the Mustangs compete in maybe the state’s best league, the 5A/4A Continental League. Ponderosa was 12-2 in non-league contests, and took down Roosevelt 80-69 in the second round. Seniors Braden Bradshaw and Connor Hawk combined to score 60 of the team’s 80 points. The team will have to find a way to slow down Golden’s Adam Thistlewood to have a chance.
- No. 6 Pueblo West vs. No. 22 Mesa Ridge
The Cyclones (18-6) got past one upset-minded squad, and now meet a very good Mesa Ridge team. West has had its struggles in the second half of the season, but has two talented scorers in Nieyem’e Smeyer-Williams and Pierre Taylor.
The Grizzlies (18-7) made it to the Sweet 16 behind 25 points from Deven Nelson and 14 each from DJ King and Zac Ring. After dropping four of its first five games, Mesa Ridge sandwiched winning streaks of 11 games and six games around a three-game slide. Four players average at least 10 points a game.
Ron Vlasin Region
- No. 4 Falcon vs. No. 13 D’Evelyn
Falcon (19-5) gets its first shot at a Jeffco squad this season when it hosts D’Evelyn. The Falcons opened the postseason with a 61-49 victory over Fort Morgan as four players combined to score all 61 points — senior Reece Warren led the way with 21 points and Brendan LaRose and Mitchel Ballage each recorded a double-double.
The Jaguars (13-11) held off Mead 57-56 in the second round, with senior Cole Clifton going for 23 points on 8-of-9 shooting. Charles Dinegar added 16 points and 16 rebounds. D’Evelyn is still searching for its first signature win, but the team has played a number of the state’s top seeds tough throughout the season.
- No. 5 Longmont vs. No. 12 Windsor
Longmont (22-2) put a loss in the regular-season finale in the past with a resounding 30-point victory over Cheyenne Mountain in the second round. Four players reached double figures, led by Luke Johnson’s 16 points, and 11 players scored overall. The Trojans are two years removed from a Final Four appearance.
Windsor is riding a six-game winning streak into the Sweet 16. The Wizards (18-6) have been on the edge at times during that span, winning three of those games by three points or less. But Brennan Seyboldt scored 16 points in a victory over Steamboat Springs in the second round and Windsor kept the Sailors off the scoreboard in the fourth quarter in allowing a season-low 31 points.