Many high school fans are still in football mode this week, but the new basketball season is already off and running and looking ahead to the weekend, there are several attractive matchups and a few more potential games that could take place in tournaments.
Defending state champion DeBeque begins the 2019-20 season where they started the title run a year ago and that’s at the Idalia Tournament. The Dragons are the pre-season number one team and could face #7 Briggsdale in the championship game on Saturday. DeBeque meets Idalia in their first game on Friday and Briggsdale takes on Twin Peaks Charter.
As defending champion, DeBeque will have a different look this year. Brennen Rigsby has transferred to Wasatch Academy in Utah and will not be with the Dragons for his junior season. But there is talent back led by returning Player of the Year Wes Ryan. He averaged 19.7 points and 6.5 rebounds as a sophomore last season.
Briggsdale won just 11 games last season but most of their lineup returns for what should be a bigger total in 2019-20. Wyatt Patton is back after averaging 18 points and six rebounds per game. He’s joined up front by Ty Dill as he’s coming off a season where he scored nine points with eight rebounds.
Haxtun does not return a player who averaged more than two points a game during their state tournament season so the Bulldogs are probably too high in the pre-season rankings. They’re ranked 6th and have a very difficult opening weekend. They meet local rivalry Fleming on Friday and then meet #5 Merino on Saturday. Owen Knode is the top returnee for Haxtun. He averaged 1.9 points, 1.2 rebounds and hit six three pointers in very limited time a year ago.
Merino is also coming off a state semifinal appearance but they too lost several key components. They do however return more players with varsity time compared to the Bulldogs. Cade Conger (8.6), Tanner Hutt (8.2) and Kayd Goss (6.0) all played important minutes in helping the Rams reach the Final Four last March.
Yuma is the defending state champion and the Indians start the season as the top ranked team in the division. They face a very strong test in their opener as they battle local rival and 9th ranked Wray on Saturday. It’s a non-conference game as the Lower Platte rivals will meet again a second time after Christmas.
Jakob Chrisman, who led the Indians in scoring (15.9) and rebounds (11.5) has graduated but the defending champs return the tandem of Clay Robinson and Chase McCreath. Robinson earned all-state honors as a freshman after averaging 11 points, 5 rebound and 3 steals. McCreath should improve his scoring (8.7) and rebound (5.0) totals from a year ago. They helped Yuma beat Wray three times last year; all by double figures.
Wray looks to build on momentum from last year’s post-season run where they just missed a state tournament berth with an overtime loss to Limon in the regional finals. The Eagles return three double digit scorers in Justin Pecar (13.7), Samuel Uyemura (13.2) and Junior Arambula (11.0). Uyemura also dropped in 64 three-pointers a year ago.
Top 10 clubs Limon and Ignacio could collide Saturday in the Limon Tournament championship game. The Badgers host Crowley County on Friday and Ignacio meets Colorado Springs School. Both will be favored.
Limon will be battling some football rust as many players took part in the championship win over Strasburg last Saturday. Even if the players were with the basketball club the entire week, they will have just four practices under their belt before suiting up for game competition. Camden Smithburg (16.2) and Kory Tacha (10.6) are Limon’s top returning scorers.
Ignacio went 10-10 last season and had a very rare year where they didn’t advance out of the district bracket. They had just one senior on the roster a year ago so they should be improved based on varsity minutes played by underclassmen. The Bobcats lost to Limon 63-46 in the tournament finals a year ago.
There’s a very good rivalry game set for the San Luis Valley as Sanford meets 3A Alamosa Friday night. The Indians won the matchup a year ago 46-41. Clay Canty (9.5) and Thomas Faucette (8.0) are the top returning scorers for Sanford. They helped the Indians outscore the Moose 30-16 in the second half to rally for last year’s victory. Alamosa received 24 combined points from Chad Jackson (14) and Ian Jackson (10) a year ago. Of that duo, only Ian returns.
Sanford did not make the state tournament last year as they lost to Denver Christian (36-34) in the regional finals. The Thunder are back for another run this year as they open the season ranked 7th. They also collide with a 3A opponent as they battle #9 Colorado Academy on Friday. Denver Christian lost their top two scorers to graduation but returns juniors Henry VanDenBerg (7.5), Ethan Lieber (6.7) and senior Josiah Romero (6.6).
Coming off a third place finish at the state tournament, Fowler is ranked 4th to begin this year. The Grizzlies have a critical Santa Fe league game with Rye for their opener on Thursday. Like Limon, the Grizzlies will have some football rust as they competed for the eight man state championship last Saturday. Val Leone (14.0) is a returning all-state performer for Fowler and they also get Johnathan Mobbley who averaged 11 points and 8 rebounds as a junior. Rye won just seven games last season and lost three of their top four scorers to graduation.
Resurrection Christian opens the season ranked 3rd in the division and will spend the weekend in Pueblo. They face three consecutive 4A opponents as part of the Pueblo County tournament. They went 2-1 there a year ago to get them started on a 19-win season that ended with a semifinal loss to eventual champion Manual at the state tournament.
Games this week are with Pueblo Centennial, Pueblo West and Classical Academy. 10th ranked Pueblo West is likely the top challenge but the Cyclones began their season with an 85-75 loss to Sand Creek earlier this week. Hopes are very high for Resurrection Christian this year as Reece Johnson (18.7), Josh Romero (13.8) and Jude Howell (10.5) all return for their senior season. They were the top three scorers a year ago.
A potential top five matchup could conclude the Faith Christian tournament on Saturday. The host Eagles are ranked 5th and #2 Vanguard is also in the field. Both are favored in first round games on Friday. Seth Fuqua (23.9) has graduated but Vanguard welcomes back CU-signee Dominique Clifford who averaged 18.9 points and 11.3 rebounds as a junior. Right now, he’s the leading candidate for Player of the Year. Joseph Padilla (13.6) is also back for the Coursers.
Faith Christian returns their top five scores including Caleb Ruter (16.4) and Isaiah Kroll (13.0). The Eagles begin a new era as Abram Zeimer takes over as head coach in succeeding Andrew Hasz. He led the Eagles to six state championships including five straight from 2008-12.
The annual Brenda Patch tournament in Roaring Fork includes three teams in the top 10. Top ranked Lutheran is there along with #7 DSST-Byers and #10 Coal Ridge. The Titans have the most difficult schedule as they face the other two on back-to-back nights. It starts with DSST-Byers on Friday and concludes with Lutheran Saturday afternoon.
Coal Ridge beat both opponents at this event a year ago; topping Lutheran 69-64 and DSST-Byers 51-49. Gone from that team are Kevin DiMarco, who led the team with 17 points and 10 rebounds, Jan Hernandez (11.4) and Payton White (11.0). The top returnee is Austin Gerber (8.3).
Lutheran made the Great 8 a year ago but like Coal Ridge must replace quite a bit of offense as the top four scorers graduated. Josh Grieving (6.9) is the top returnee.
DSST-Byers lost their first four games a year ago but then won 16 of their final 19. Their season ended with a 60-51 loss to Kent Denver on day one of the regional tournament. They have plenty of offense back in the lineup as the top 14 scorers all return. That list includes Kyrie Thomas (22.2), Elijah Hatch (16.7) and Shaqur Edmonds (10.0).
One of the better week one tournaments each year is the Golden/D’Evelyn Preview Classic. In addition to the two host schools, others on hand include Steamboat Springs, Lewis Palmer, Centaurus, Holy Family, Pueblo East and Sierra. Most of have solid basketball tradition and often are state championship contenders on the 4A level.
The only two teams ranked in the pre-season top 10 are Lewis Palmer (#3) and Centaurus (#9) and they meet in the quarterfinals on Thursday. They’re in the same side of the bracket as Golden-Steamboat Springs with the other four holding down the lower half of the pairings.
Lewis Palmer of course, is the defending state champion and the Rangers have three titles since 2012. They’ve won at least 24 games each of the past four years including a perfect 28-0 mark a year ago. Rolling through this season unbeaten might be a challenge as the Rangers lost a ton of talent including the top seven scorers from last year’s championship club.
Centaurus won 18 games last year and made a run to the state quarterfinals where the season ended with a 35-point loss to the Rangers. That loss came just five days after Centaurus topped Thomas Jefferson 62-60 in a great Sweet 16 battle. The Warriors lost four of their top five scorers to graduation but the leader, Owen Koonce (18.5), returns for his senior campaign.
#4 Cheyenne Mountain takes part in the Fountain Fort Carson tournament where they meet Sunrise Christian Academy from Kansas on Saturday. Based out of Wichita, Sunrise is ranked #19 in the nation by MaxPreps to start the season. They play a national schedule and have already played four games this year; going 2-2 against teams from Oklahoma and Texas last week. The Indians opened the season with 79-50 win over Widefield on Tuesday. Javonte Johnson, who is the top returning scorer and rebounder in 4A this year, netted 27 points and 14 rebounds in the win. Wade Jones added 25 points including three treys on the night.
One more possible top 10 matchup could take place at the Denver Tip-Off Classic. The bracket includes #7 Lincoln and #8 Thomas Jefferson and they could meet in the championship game on Saturday. Lincoln (18-7) returns seniors Tijani Bamba (13.5), Ty Foster (13.2) and Kwaheem Brown (9.8) and Thomas Jefferson (15-11) welcomes back Darius Hornbuckle (14.3), James Abbey (9.4) and Ryan Moe (8.0)
It’s already been an exciting start in the big school ranks and more attractive matchups are on the docket this week. #2 Overland held off Regis 63-60 on Tuesday and faces #6 ThunderRidge on Thursday. #4 Smoky Hill was upset by Highlands Ranch on Tuesday (70-64) and also has a date with ThunderRidge on Saturday. A third top 10 matchup is set for Friday between #1 Rangeview and #3 Grandview.
Overland has not posted stats from the Tuesday win but return their top three scorers to the court this year. That group is headed up by Graham Ike (17.6) who also pulled down 12 rebounds a game as a junior. Also back are Hezekiah Swanson (13.2) and Trevon Deden (8.5).
Smoky Hill led Highlands Ranch 53-47 after three quarters but were outscored 23-11 over the final eight minutes. The Buffs have to reorganize a bit this year after losing Kenny Foster (27.1) to graduation but most of his supporting cast is back. Quinten Rock averaged 13.9 points as a junior and Jalen Weaver (11.1) and Jordan Whitaker (9.3) combined for 20 points a game as sophomores.
ThunderRidge won 21 games last season; a year that ended with 57-46 loss to Chaparral in the Great 8. Nolan Marold (7.0) and Garrett Arnold (6.0) return after scoring 13 points a game as sophomores.
Rangeview (26-2) is the defending state champion as they beat Chaparral (61-47) for the title last March. They won all five tournament games by at least 10 points and return all nine players from their main rotation. That list includes five players averaging between four and 12 points per game.
Grandview (19-7) ended last season with a 49-39 loss to Rangeview in the Great 8 last year. Dayne Prim (14.5) graduated but Caleb McGill (11.4) and Lian Ramiro (8.4) both return. The Wolves beat Doherty 51-47 in their opener this week. For Rangeview, the matchup will be their first game of the campaign.