This is it. The final week of the regular season for Class 5A boys basketball. And so much needs to be decided.
Here’s a chance to forget about the RPI for a spell, a playoff-qualifying system that most everyone in big-school ball has openly bad-mouthed since the first game of the season, and center on final games, senior nights, reflect on what has happened so far in 2017-18 and look ahead.
First and foremost this week, the Thunderdome at Manual, the Mecca of city games, will host George Washington vs. Denver East on Saturday. The Denver Prep League title will be on the line as will bragging rights that have meaning and involved such lofty names over recent decades as John Hodges, Tracy Jordan, Chauncey Billups and Fred Edmonds on one side, and J.B. Bickerstaff, Sean Ogirri, Ronnie Harrell and Brian Carey on the other.
GW (16-5), which beat Denver North 55-36 on Monday, is led by Jon’Il Fugett’s 12.6 points and Xavier Cooper’s 12.2. The Patriots are 7-0 in league and have won 31 consecutive city games. The last time they dropped a DPL game was on Feb. 21, to Thomas Jefferson by 76-59. And the last time East beat GW was the game before, Feb. 18 of that year by 76-51.
As for the Angels (19-2), who ripped Denver West 88-26 on Monday, they’re also 7-0 in the city. Their only losses were right before and after the holiday break, to Culver City, Calif., and Chaparral, and they’ve been trying to improve as a group and point to the bracket as usual behind University of Colorado signee Daylen Kountz (22.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists) and junior Kwane Marble (16.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists).
Another matchup everyone wants to see before playoffs and basically carries the same importance as the above but goes down in the suburbs is Rock Canyon at ThunderRidge, both 20-1 and both bidding for the Continental championship. The visiting Jaguars, 7-1 in league and who will host Castle View (12-10, 1-8) on Wednesday, will lean on senior guard Sam Masten (22.2 points) and Tyson Gilbert (15.3 points). Meanwhile, the Grizzlies, 8-0 in league, winners of 16 games in a row and who have lost to Chaparral (on Dec. 9 in nonleague), are topped by Kaison Hammond’s 16.9 points.
The Continental also will have Chaparral (17-4, 7-1) and Ronnie DeGray (19.5 points, 6.8 rebounds) hosting Regis Jesuit (17-4, 6-2) and Jamil Safieddine (14.1 points) on Wednesday.
It seems like a long time ago that a Chatfield-Columbine matchup in Jefferson County required getting into the gymnasium before the start of the junior-varsity game in order to be assured of a seat, and it has been, but this version of Chatfield (11-10, 7-5) at Columbine (11-10, 8-4) on Friday at least will carry significant league meaning. Plus, the Chargers, headed by longtime coach Stephen Schimpeler and senior Liam Mann (11.9 points, 6.5 rebounds), and the Rebels (sophomore Luke O’Brien, 16.5 points, 7.0 rebounds) hope to be at least tough outs once the playoff bracket begins.
Time and opportunity may be just about out for Smoky Hill (15-6, 8-4) and Eaglecrest (12-9,7-5) to catch Overland for the Centennial crown, but the two will face off on Wednesday and it will go a long way in terms of deciding league runner-up. The Buffaloes have been priming behind Kenny Foster (16.8 points) and the defending state champion Raptors, up and down for weeks, are led by Branden Bunn (12.9 points).
And in the Front Range, Fairview surely is the most-surprising league champ among big schools. Raise your hand if the Knights (14-7, 9-1) were your favorites coming … thought so. They have assured at least a tie for the championship and can clinch outright with a victory on Tuesday at home against Loveland or Thursday at Greeley West. Junior Jalen Page (15.0 points, 5.7 rebounds) and sophomore Mark Dolan (14.7 points) are due for bows.
However, other significant shuffling is due by the finish line. The records aren’t that impressive, but the ramifications certainly may be — Tuesday’s important matchups include Mountain Range (13-8, 6-4) at Fossil Ridge (10-11, 7-4) and Rocky Mountain (9-12, 6-4) at Monarch (10-11, 6-4). And a big league finale with feeling will be Thursday, when Broomfield (14-7, 7-3), currently in second place behind Devin Martinez (15.2 points, 8.5 rebounds), will head to Boulder (12-9, 6-4).>