Flash — the regular Class 5A girls’ basketball powers are flexing their muscles, which isn’t a shock, and a handful of upstarts are compiling strong records, which is eye-catching.
Check the standings. The likes of defending state champion Grandview, Highlands Ranch and Regis Jesuit are winning games — lots of them — playing out-of-state storied programs and set to play each other. And, yes, Grandview (5-3) lost its first in-state game since March 2016, plus Denver East (7-1) looks to keep the city relevant among 5A leaders. Throw in Horizon (7-1) and Lakewood (7-2). But also add Fort Collins (9-0), Fruita Monument (8-1), Columbine (7-1), Ralston Valley (6-1), Castle View (10-2) and Mountain Vista (7-2), among others.
Add the two groups together and what do we get? Either more of the same-old among pretenders or some much-needed depth near the top of the big-school ranks.
To date in 2017-18, any additions to obvious powers would be welcomed.
Like the boys, girls’ players will begin on Tuesday while most schools remain on holiday break.
One team taking advantage is Mountain Vista (senior Dani Mills, averaging 12.2 points), which is competing in the Lady Seahawks Island Shootout in Hilton Head Island, S.C. The Golden Eagles will open the tournament with the Indianapolis Homeschool Trailblazers (I’m not making it up). Elsewhere, Columbine will take on winless Douglas County and don’t be fooled by Fairview’s 5-4 start. The Knights have fallen to Regis Jesuit and Ralston Valley in addition to a couple of out-of-staters and will resume their schedule against Adams City (5-3). Ashley Panem (18.3 points) and Denali Pint (16.7) remain a dynamic duo.
On Wednesday, the highlight will clearly be Highlands Ranch at Denver East, which doesn’t have the cache’ of the boys’ suburbs vs. city, but certainly remains attractive for multiple reasons. Falcons coach Caryn Jarocki recently won her 600th career game. Junior Autumn Watts is getting 17.1 points per outing and senior guard Tommi Olson adds 12.7. Angels coach Dwight Berry probably is due more credit for his annual job performance and this one is being led through R’manie Pulling’s 18.5 points. And don’t be fooled by Legacy at Horizon (Alyssa Jimenez, 18.3 points). It’s nonleague. Their Front Range League meeting will be on Jan. 26.
Thursday will mark the opening of the Centennial and Jefferson County leagues, notably the Jeffco matchup of Ralston Valley at Lakewood, 7 p.m. The visiting Mustangs have been enjoying senior Delaynie Burn, who is getting 18.6 points and 7.6 rebounds every time out. Meanwhile, the ever-challenging Tigers may have lost one Emsbo sister to a season-ending injury, but the one who’s playing, Camilla, is scoring 16.1 points nightly. And in the Centennial, don’t sleep on Cherry Creek (4-3), which has lost to Ralston Valley and twice beyond Colorado borders. The Bruins will begin league play in Greenwood Village against Cherokee Trail, 7 p.m., and are led by Emma Wrede (15.9 points), Jana Van Gytenbeek (13.1) and Jaela Richardson (10.1).
A less-than-full Friday slate figures to be topped by Fruita Monument traveling to 4A power Pueblo West (8-0), which fell the past season in the semifinals to eventual winner Evergreen.  The visiting Wildcats, who have lost only to Castle View, have won six games in succession and are topped by Riley Snyder’s 18.6 points. A strong Fruita showing the rest of the way would be one of 5A’s biggest boosts — a Western Slope team that could deal with metropolitan-area programs would be embraced.  The matchup with Pueblo West is part of the Rampart Tournament as the Wildcats will also meet 3A power Colorado Springs Christian and the host Rams this weekend.
A heavier Saturday schedule — ordinarily, the big nights for 5A are Tuesday and Friday — will include Regis Jesuit making the road trip to Grand Junction (3-6), plus a Jeffco toughie, Chatfield (6-3) at Ralston Valley.