For the second consecutive season, the Centaurus and Greeley Central girls basketball teams represent the powerhouses of the Northern League. Those new to the area might simply assume it’s always been that way.
It hasn’t.
Centaurus is four years removed for a 2-12 league record, and Greeley Central endured that same downtrodden mark a year prior. It qualifies as remarkable that both teams have cycled to the top in such a relatively short amount of time. And it just so happens the two meet Tuesday night in what makes a good case for the game of the week in Class 4A.
Each squad enters 7-1 in league play, which makes for a two-game cushion against third-place Mountain View. Centaurus won the first matchup in relatively breezy fashion, a 63-43 decision on the Greeley Central’s home court in the first game after the holiday break. Now the Warriors will welcome the Wildcats to their home floor in Lafayette (6:30 p.m. tipoff) in hopes of gaining sole possession of the league’s top spot.
Junior Helen Gover led Centaurus (14-3 overall) with 19 points in the earlier win and paces coach Chris Mischke’s balanced squad with 11 points per game. Greeley Central (13-3) has won seven straight since the setback to the Warriors and counters with 5-foot-11 junior Naomi Hidalgo, who averages a team-best 15.6 points. She has shot a scorching 51.2 percent from the floor in the Tigers’ win streak.
As the calendar prepares to turn to February and the final few weeks of the regular season, here are a few other matchups of note this week:
Pueblo South at Pueblo East (6 p.m., Tuesday, Pueblo Events Center)
Pueblo West is running away with the South Central League behind the dynamic duo of Olivia Lough and Hannah Simental — but the battle for second place is heating up. Pueblo South (8-8, 3-1) currently occupies that distinction, having only lost to West, but the Colts will have to win this one to maintain that distinction and hopes of evening the score with West in the rematch on Feb. 9.
Gabi Lucero averages a double-double for South (16.5 points, 10.3 rebounds) and is one of three players regularly producing double-digit scoring. Pueblo East (10-7, 2-2) will be aiming to stop a three-game skid and counters with high-scoring senior Riley Harding (17.2 points a game). She has been held to single figures only once, a nine-point effort against Widefield on Jan. 4.
Mesa Ridge at Widefield (6 p.m., Wednesday)
Mesa Ridge (14-2, 10-0) can all but clinch the Colorado Springs Metro League with a win here. Widefield (13-3, 8-1) represents the Grizzlies’ closest pursuer, and Mesa Ridge already defeated the Gladiators on Jan. 9.
If Widefield wins, then we’ve got a league race on our hands. The Gladiators certainly are looking to even the score after the earlier 62-45 loss, and Charisse Fairley, Aaliyah Ricketts and company will have the benefit of home court this time. Mesa Ridge, led by senior standout Chloe Welch, averages a hefty 65.6 points per game and has reeled off 12 straight wins.
Valor Christian at Golden (5:30 p.m., Friday)
Second place in the Jeffco League will equate to a solid postseason seed. It might also be these teams’ best option at this point. With defending state champion Evergreen running away with the league, Valor Christian and Golden suddenly find themselves jockeying for the No. 2 spot.
They meet again Friday night, and if the first matchup serves as any indication, this is a can’t-miss showdown. Valor and freshman Kindyll Wetta held off a late Golden charge and triumphed 55-53 on Jan. 10. Witta scored 21 in that one and averages a team-best 13.4 points for the Eagles (13-4, 6-2). Golden (15-2, 6-2), which underwent a midseason coaching change, is led by senior Makena Prey, who averages 20.8 points and 10.9 rebounds. Teammate Abby Garnett nearly averages a double-double as well with 15.8 points and 9.3 boards.
Weld Central at Fort Morgan (5:30 p.m., Friday)
The Colorado 7 crown likely will be decided here. Each team enters 4-0 in league and no other team has fewer than two losses. Weld Central (12-3) had a six-game winning streak snapped Saturday with a loss to Eaton, but the Rebels and top scorer Kaydee Sims (a freshman) will look to get back on track in their biggest game of the season to this point.
Fort Morgan (9-6) has won seven of its last eight and has been getting steady play from senior Haley Lewis, who averages team bests of 17.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 1.1 blocked shots.
Rifle at Palisade (6 p.m., Friday)
Rifle has won 11 straight and boasts a perfect Western Slope mark, having swept six games. Palisade is eager for the opportunity to put both streaks to rest.
Rifle (14-1 overall) defeated the Bulldogs by 15 in the first matchup and has been thriving behind 5-9 senior Elly Walters (16.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.6 steals per game). In quest of the upset, Palisade (9-9, 5-2) is hoping a home game against the Bears equates to a positive difference. Anita Ramos (9.5 points, 10 rebounds) has been the Bulldogs’ most consistent force.