Note: For more photos from Alan Versaw, click here.

There is a feeling-out process to the first few weeks of the basketball season.

From tournaments to out-of-state games to pre-holiday challenges, teams are just starting to get a feel for what they have headed into the winter break.

That doesn’t mean that perennial powers – or up-and-comers, for that matter – can’t make their presence felt early.

Take the Salida boys basketball team. The Spartans are off to a 4-0 start in Class 3A going into a big contest Thursday against 4A Pagosa Springs. Salida notched a big early-season victory last Thursday, taking down 2022 state runner-up Centauri 54-40 in a rematch of a Sweet 16 contest from last March.

Crowley County (5-0) and Holly and Evangelical Christian (4-0) are each off to strong starts in Class 2A. Crowley County took down previous 1A No. 3 Granada, while Evangelical Christian has looked just as strong thus far after moving up a classification.

In 1A, 2021 state champion Belleview Christian has looked dominant behind Nathaniel Owen through four games, as has Denver Jewish Day with Gavin Foonberg. Both teams were upset in regional tournament play last March.
With a few more games remaining in the upcoming week before winter break, here is a quick look at the 3A, 2A and 1A classifications:

Class 3A

Salida, currently ranked No. 2 in the CHSAA coaches poll, already had a big victory on its schedule after defeating last season’s 1A runner-up, Sanford, back on Dec. 2. But the Spartans made a bigger statement against Centauri, with Tristan Jackson going for an 18-point, 11-rebound double-double, and Nate Yeakley adding 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals.

Next up for Salida is the Pirates (4-1) on Thursday in its last game before the break.

Top-ranked Faith Christian (4-0) posted three victories last week, including a 65-45 victory over 5A Montrose. Keegan Page led four players in double figures with 15 points.

Highland (4-2), ranked third, responded to a five-point loss to 4A University by sweeping through three opponents in the Sailor Invitational in Steamboat Springs. The Huskies defeated Central of Grand Junction 73-65 in the title game, paced by Hyatt Tolle’s 20 points.

That run came to an end Tuesday to Prospect Ridge Academy (4-0), with the Miners earning an 83-74 victory. Senior Max Vacco came into the game averaging more than 24 points a contest.

Along with Faith Christian, Salida and Prospect Ridge Academy, the only other team that was 4-0 after last week was a surprise. Montezuma-Cortez climbed into the rankings at No. 10 behind four victories over out-of-state opponents. The Tigers were just 5-14 a year ago.

Class 2A

With Yuma now up in 3A, the rest of the 2A classification is eager to stake its claim as the team to beat.

Limon (2-0) is currently sitting in the top spot through two weeks, though the Badgers have a tall task awaiting them Friday in 4A Sterling.

Evangelical Christian made quick work of Cheraw and Kiowa last weekend, handing the Wolverines their first loss of the season.

Crowley County moved to 5-0 on Tuesday night with a 70-20 victory over Swallows Charter Academy. Sophomores Gunner Hughes (13.3 points, 8.3 rebounds) and Elijah McNeil (12.8 points, 9.3 rebounds) have done the heavy lifting early.

Holly is headed into the Lamar Basketball Holiday Tournament with sophomore Truman King leading the Wildcats at 15 points a game.

From a numbers perspective, John Mall junior Elton Chavez has had a monster start to the season. Chavez has already topped the 20-point, 20-rebound mark in three games.

Class 1A

Defending champion McClave fell from the top spot in the 1A poll after going 1-2 in a tournament in Kansas to start its season. With Granada’s loss to Crowley County, that allowed Belleview Christian, Denver Jewish Day and Genoa-Hugo/Karval to move into the top three spots in the rankings.

Owen has averaged 28 points through four games for Belleview Christian, which put 106 points in a victory over Vanguard Classical East last Saturday. The Bruins are slated to compete in Denver Christian’s tournament to close out 2022.

Foonberg tallied 28 points and 13 assists in a victory over Longmont Christian last Thursday for Denver Jewish Day (3-0), which picked up a victory Tuesday night over Golden View Classical Academy.

Trey Smith has averaged more than 22 points a game through three games for Genoa-Hugo/Karval (3-0).

Flatirons Academy is off to a 4-0 start as well. The Bison, which plays in the same 5280 league as Belleview Christian and Denver Jewish Day, topped 2A Merino 58-57 last Friday. Freshman Pistol Chavez led Flatirons with 18 points and 11 rebounds.