Girls having fun in Class 5A basketball continues on Tuesday, a Sweet 16 full of regular powers with eyes towardÂ Friday’sÂ quarterfinals at the Denver Coliseum.
A surprising four Jefferson County League teams account for one-fourth of the field, which is devoid of teams from the Colorado Springs area, but contains the defending state champion (Grandview) among three Centennial entries, four from the always present Continental, three from the Front Range and one each from the Denver Prep and Western Slope.
Tip-offs begin this evening:
(16) Denver East at (1) Fruita Monument
The city’s Angels (19-5) won another Denver Prep league title, have won five games in a row, played another demanding nonleague schedule and have a serious opportunity right in front of them — the opportunity to knock off the field’s top seed. Senior R’Manie Pulling (16.5 points) heads coach Dwight Berry’s troops. Meanwhile, the Wildcats enter as the hunted, they share the bracket’s best record (22-2 with Horizon) and here’s where it should begin to interesting in terms of justifying their seed. Both of their losses came against Denver-area teams, Castle Rock and Ralston Valley. Seniors Riley Snyder (18.2 points) and Angelique Gall (14.5) top Fruita Monument scoring
(9) Mountain Vista at (8) Fossil Ridge
With their best record (18-6) since going 20-5 in the 2013-14 season, the Golden Eagles are feeling saucy. They also have a rematch. The SaberCats beat them in Fort Collins 60-49 onÂ Dec. 12. Mountain Vista ended the regular season by getting pasted by always powerful Highlands Ranch 71-29. However, after a first-round bye it handled Rampart 59-48 last week. Eighteen Golden Eagles have broken into the scoring column, led by senior Dani Mills’ 12.0 points. As for the SaberCats, they were third in the Front Range and consider themselves ready to advance to the final week of play. A highlight of their regular season was the 58-57 victory over Highlands Ranch on a last-second shot by junior Ashley Steffeck, who also leads the Chad Salz-coached team at 12.0 points.
(20) Columbine at (4) Grandview
The Rebels (18-7) were only 6-6 in Jeffco, won their opening game by the odd score of 29-20 and have won only four of their last seven games, but they stand equally in the Sweet 16. They also haven’t played Grandview since 2007, when they fell 50-45. Sophomore Quincey Baum’s 9.6 points heads the Rebels. Concerning the Wolves, the defending 5A state champions, their loss in December to Regis Jesuit was their first against a Colorado team in two seasons, they ran the Centennial table again — they have won 48 league games in succession — are on a 17-game winning streak and probably have the best inside presence with the likes of senior Leilah Vigil (15.6 points, 7.7 rebounds) and junior Alisha Davis (11.3 points, 8.5 rebounds).
(12) Fairview at (5) Highlands Ranch
On an 11-game winning streak — all but two of the victories by double figures — that carried them to runners-up in the Front Range, the Knights (19-5) have gotten very hot at the right time. And if Denali Pinto and Ashley Panem can steer Fairview to a run at a state title, the first step has arrived. Pinto is averaging 18.8 points, 7.2 points and 3.1 assists. For Pinto, the numbers are 16.6, 5.6 and 4.3. However, these are the Falcons (20-4), their coach is the celebrated Caryn Jarocki and the program tradition remains unmatched among big schools. Since losing to Regis Jesuit, their past six foes haven’t scored more than 31 points. Junior Autumn Watts (16.3) leads three other Highlands Ranch players in double-figure scoring.
(15) Dakota Ridge at (2) Lakewood
This one’s all about Jeffco and we’re going to have rematches in the postseason. Here, the Eagles (15-9) have their work cut out for them — they will be playing league-rival Lakewood, which twice waxed them, by 60-42 and 83-31, the latter whipping in the final game of the regular season. Senior Alexa Buchli (8.8 points, 5.5 rebounds) tops the Eagles. Lakewood (21-3) has won its past 14 games and a tip of the cap is in order toward coach Chris Poisson — it’s the Tigers’ sixth consecutive season of at least 20 victories. Fact is, senior Camilla Emsbo continues to have a player-of-the-year-type of season with averages of 18.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks.
(10) Castle View at (7) Ralston Valley
The SaberCats’ finest season has included a strong showing in the Continental (8-2) as well as a victory over top-seeded Fruita Monument in December. They also won their first 14 in-state games before losing by a respectable 49-39 to perennially good Regis Jesuit. Junior India Cole’s 12.7 points leads coach Matt Hema’s group. No secret here, the Mustangs (20-4) will ride Minnesota-bound Delaynie Byrne (20.1 points, 7.8 rebounds) as long as they can. Ralston Valley took consecutive hits to Dakota Ridge and Cherry Creek a couple of weeks ago, but finished the regular season strongly.
(19) Arapahoe at (3) Horizon
Unsung Warriors coach Jerry Knafelc has overseen eight consecutive winning seasons, including a 10-4 showing in the Centennial. Now 17-8 and winner of five consecutive games, Arapahoe also needed overtime last round to get past Chaparral by 55-47. Junior Eliana McClarie (10.0) leads Arapahoe scoring. Horizon (22-2), which lost a late nonleague game earlier this month to Grandview, it’s only in-state loss, is gathering final-four comments, and why not? The Front Range champion (12-0) has displayed a variety of game, including firepower. And the Hawks can create matchup problems. Alyssa Jimenez (15.8 points, 4.0 assists), Izzy Allen (14.5 points, 5.0 rebounds) and Samantha Deem (14.0poits, 9.1 rebounds) head the charge.
(11) Cherry Creek at (6) Regis Jesuit
Potentially, this is the top — and most interesting — matchup of the round. The Bruins (19-5) began the season 3-3, then finished regular play by winning 12 of 14 games in the Centennial, both losses to Grandview. Cherry Creek has enjoyed assorted contributions throughout the season, but the leader that has emerged is sophomore Jana Van Gytenbeek, who’s getting 16.2 points as well as a robust 7.9 assists. She also contributes 5.3 rebounds. Regis Jesuit (21-3), a curious sixth seed as the Raiders haven’t lost an in-state game, and defeated Lakewood, Grandview and Highlands Ranch — all three are seeded ahead of them — will have to make its point by advancing. The Raiders, who earlier beat Ponderosa 100-28, have won 10 games in succession, are topped by junior Fran Belibi’s 14.0 points and 8.2 rebounds.