4A GIRLS SWEET 16 PREVIEW

One week into the Class 4A girls basketball state tournament, and it certainly appears that most everything has fallen as expected.
After the first two rounds of the 48-team state tournament, only a handful of “upsets” took place. A few higher seeds may have been breathing a sigh of relief after the second round concluded last Friday, but the favorites have essentially proven their seeding correct.
There was only one bigger upset in the first round, though it very nearly led to an even bigger moment. No. 38 seed Green Mountain upended No. 27 Falcon 53-45 last Tuesday, setting up a Jeffco League second-round tilt with defending state champion Evergreen. Just two weeks after giving the Cougars all they could handle in a 48-47 Evergreen victory, the Rams (6-19) very nearly pulled off the stunner before falling 38-36.
With the Sweet 16 round slated for Tuesday night, 14 of the top 16 seeds are still playing. The only exceptions came via teams in the Pikes Peak and Colorado Springs Metro League. No. 22 Lewis-Palmer eliminated 11th-seeded Centaurus with a 34-33 victory, holding off a furious fourth-quarter rally from the Warriors to advance to the third round against Evergreen.
Sierra, the 20th seed, upended No. 13 Mead 55-41 to earn a game against another Tri-Valley League opponent in Windsor.
Here is a look at each of the eight Sweet 16 games that will take place Tuesday night. The Great 8 is March 2, with the semifinals and championship game taking place at the Denver Coliseum March 8 and 10:
 

Tricia Bader-Binford Region

  • No. 1 Pueblo West vs. No. 16 Greeley Central

The Cyclones (23-1) took care of business in a big way in the second round, scoring the most points in the tournament thus far in an 87-57 rout of Cheyenne Mountain. Four players scored in double figures, led by sophomore Maya Sanchez and her season-high 25 points. Pueblo West has won 14 games in a row, and the closest margin of victory was 10 points (twice against Pueblo County).
Greeley Central (20-4) took down Berthoud by 12 points in a hard-fought battle to earn the right to take on the No. 1 seed. The Wildcats have won seven in a row since an overtime loss to Centaurus, with junior Naomi Hidalgo (16 points a game) leading the way. It will be a long road trip for Greeley Central, which will have to find a way to contained sophomore Hannah Simental (18.5 ppg).

  • No. 8 Mesa Ridge vs. No. 9 Thomas Jefferson

The other third-round game in the region has the makings to be one of the best. The eighth-seeded Grizzlies (21-3) nearly saw their title hopes dashed last Friday against Littleton, with Mesa Ridge having to rally from a six-point deficit entering the fourth quarter for a 56-55 victory. Sophomore Jada Thompson led Mesa Ridge with 14 points; senior Chloe Welch finished with 10 points but struggled with a 3-of-12 shooting performance. Junior Ashley Bowen added eight points and 13 rebounds.
The Grizzlies have to find a way to contained Thomas Jefferson (22-2), which dismantled Frederick 72-42. Daija Robbins led four players in double figures with 19 points and Zoya Robbins had 17 points and 13 rebounds. Robbins and Bowen should be a fun match-up inside.
 

Anita Stites-Rowland Region

  • No. 2 Holy Family vs. No. 15 Widefield

Holy Family (21-3) finds itself up against another Colorado Springs program when it tangles with Widefield (19-5). The Tigers downed Sand Creek 56-45 in their playoff opener and have won 15 of their past 16 games. Senior Izzy Hren, who leads the team in scoring, rebounds, assists and steals, will attempt to help lead the team into the quarterfinals after falling in the third round last winter.
Widefield was the No. 43 seed a year ago, but the Gladiators are enjoying their best season in more than a decade. The team put a season-high 80 points on the board in a victory over Fort Morgan last Friday, with senior Charisse Fairley and Aaliyah Ricketts combining for 39 points, 13 assists and eight steals. Four of the team’s five losses have come to teams seeded in the top eight, so downing Holy Family will be a tall task.

  • No. 7 D’Evelyn vs. No. 10 Golden

It’s an all-Jeffco affair in the region’s other Sweet 16 contest as D’Evelyn (18-6) tries to find a way to get past Golden (20-4). The Jaguars downed The Classical Academy 52-38 in the second round, with seniors Bailey Marvel, Angi Reed and Victoria Szathmary combing to score 34 of the team’s points. D’Evelyn hasn’t matched up well with the Demons’ bigger lineup this year, losing by 14 points in the first meeting and eight points back on Jan. 26.
Golden allowed only 21 points a victory over Pueblo East, as senior Abby Garnett went for 16 points and Makena Prey added 14 points and 15 rebounds. The team’s four losses this season came to No. 5 Valor Christian and No. 6 Evergreen (twice each) but only by a total of 15 points overall.
 

John Mraule Region

  • No. 3 Air Academy vs. No. 14 Rifle

This is a bit of déjà vu for these two teams, which met in the Sweet 16 last February as well. Rifle pulled the upset in that game over the third-seeded Kadets before falling in the quarterfinals.
The Kadets (23-1) certainly will be thinking about that contest Tuesday. Air Academy, which has won 20 consecutive games, rolled Pikes Peak League rival Palmer Ridge by 30 points last Friday. Senior Mary Parchinski leads a balanced lineup at nearly 10 points a game.
Rifle will need to figure out a way to put up points against a Kadet defense that allows only 32 points a game. The Bears (22-2) defeated another PPL squad in Discovery Canyon in the second round, 45-32. Only five players scored for the Bears, with Katy Manuppella leading the way with 15 points.

  • No. 6 Evergreen vs. No. 22 Lewis-Palmer

Fresh off its nail-biter with Green Mountain, Evergreen (22-2) has another upset-minded foe on the horizon in Lewis-Palmer. The Cougars have been living somewhat dangerously since a loss to Littleton on Feb. 3, winning three of their past six games by two points or less. Kristina Schreiber, who had a season-high 29 points in a double-overtime victory over Golden to close the regular season, paced the Cougars with 12 points against the Rams and Claudia Dillon added 11 points and 15 rebounds.
Don’t expect the Rangers (17-8) to back down either, especially after defeating a 20-win Centaurus team last Friday. Senior Kaity Hovasse leads the team at 12.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and more than three steals a game. Centaurus shot just 32 percent against Lewis-Palmer.
 

Steve Hill Region

  • No. 4 Windsor vs. No. 20 Sierra

Windsor (20-4) is a team on a mission after making the semifinals a year ago. The Wizards have won 13 games in a row, including Friday’s 54-41 victory over Glenwood Springs. Eight players scored for Windsor in that game, with juniors Hollie Hoffman and Karly Mathern combining for 21 points.
Sierra is the only other 20-plus seed to make it this far. The Stallions (17-8) received a huge effort from Aubrey Robinson against Mead, with the senior scoring a season-high 26 points and adding 11 rebounds. Robinson (16.1 ppg) is the team’s big scoring threat, though sophomore D’nae Wilson averages more than 12 points a game. The Stallions lost to another Tri-Valley team, No. 2 Holy Family, by only five points earlier in the season.

  • No. 5 Valor Christian vs. No. 12 Pueblo South

The fourth Jeffco League team in the field is Valor Christian (18-6), which draws state runner-up Pueblo South for the second time this season. The Eagles handled the Colts by 18 points in early December, but that was before Valor lost freshman standout Kindyll Wetta for the season. The Eagles toppled Jeffco foe Standley Lake 44-32 in the second round behind 16 points from Madison Altman, but the team shot just 24 percent from the field. The defense was on point though as the Gators shot only 20 percent.
Pueblo South (15-9) defeated fellow South Central League team Pueblo County 66-56 to advance to the third round. Four players scored at least 10 points, led by Gabi Lucero’s 19 points.

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