5A BOYS BASKETBALL FINAL FOUR PREVIEW

The Class 5A boys final four and championship, set to begin on Friday at the Denver Coliseum, will be historic.
The switch to the Coliseum after bigger schools’ final rounds were housed at the old McNichols Sports Arena, the Pepsi Center and the Coors Events Center in Boulder is modified by 5A regular challengers Eaglecrest, ThunderRidge and George Washington being joined by newcomer Rock Canyon.
So with the new being modified by the old, below are capsule looks at the semifinals (championship will be Saturday) matchups:

(5) Rock Canyon vs. (1) Eaglecrest, 8:30 p.m.

OK, let’s get this out of the way — indeed, video evidence confirms Nick Janedis’ tip-in at the buzzer to knock off Grandview on Saturday at the Denver Coliseum should not have counted, but referees said it was good. It’s that simple for Rock Canyon (23-3), which won 42-40. The Jaguars are here for the first time. There’s nothing retroactive about any of this, so let them have their fun. … The Jags have won five games in a row and beat Eaglecrest in nonleague on Dec. 6, 60-55. … Junior Sam Masten, who made the steal to set up Janedis’ controversial basket off a miss, continues to lead Rock Canyon scoring. He’s getting 22.6 points per outing. Colin Rardin is adding 13.5 and Tyson Gilbert is contributing 12.5. Janedis, by the by, came into Saturday’s Great 8 game averaging all of 2.0 points per game. Gotta love tournament ball. … Rock Canyon averages about 63 points per game, but a slow-down has been no problem — including the victory over Grandview, the Jags are 5-0 this season in games in the 40s, one of them over ThunderRidge. … Eaglecrest is 22-4 and here for the third consecutive season. … Colbey Ross probably has something to do with it. In fact, with the Pepperdine-bound guard on the roster, the Raptors are 87-20 over four seasons, with this season’s final four appearance, a runners-up last season, another final four two seasons ago and a Great 8 showing in 2014. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s consistency in big-school ball. … Longtime coach John Olander Jr. probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves, does he? … Eaglecrest’s lone title was in 2013. … The Raptors’ Victor Garnes, a junior, averages 8.0 points and already is considered as one of the top footballers for next season.

(3) George Washington vs. (2) ThunderRidge, 7 p.m.

George Washington (24-2) has won 14 games in a row and is seeking its first finals appearance since 2009, when it lost in overtime to Regis Jesuit. … The Patriots also are in hot pursuit of their first title since 1994, when they were led by a kid named Chauncey Billups, then a junior. They beat Horizon and the Grabel twins, Dean and Keith, in a memorable final at the defunct McNichols Sports Arena. GW also won in 1993. … As is the case in the other final four matchup, the Pats and ThunderRidge played earlier this season in nonleague. On Jan. 6 in Highlands Ranch, the Grizzlies won 71-61. It was GW’s only in-state loss. The other was to Lone Peak of Highlands, Utah, in a Las Vegas tournament. … The Pats rank 14th in scoring nationally at 83.5 points. … The shot 24-of-40 from the floor in the Great 8 to down Fort Collins 65-52. … Junior Jon’ll Fugett led the eay with 18 points and team leading scorer Jervay Green added 12. Three others had as many as seven to add balance. … ThunderRidge rolling into another final four isn’t a shock. The Grizzles (24-2) have won at least 21 games the past three seasons. Their legacy has been considerable, from Jesse Nading to Matt Bouldin to today’s group. They were in the final two seasons ago, losing to Overland, won back-to-back titles from 2002-03 — Rock Canyon coach Kent Grams was tournament MVP in 2002 for coach Joe Ortiz — and advanced to the championship round four consecutive times, from 2002-05. … Grizzlies are fresh from knocking off a very hot Chatfield, building a 42-28 halftime lead on the way to a 72-64 victory. … Corey Seng and Kaison Hammonds, who combine for about 35 points per outing, top ThunderRidge scoring.

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