No surprises in the Class 3A state tournament bracket yet as the eight teams that held the top eight spots in the weekly rankings most of the season qualified through regional events last weekend.Â Now the quarterfinals are on tap Thursday with the 2017 state champion crowned on Saturday.Â We preview the teams involved and most have become regular visitors to the state event.
The tournament schedule is different this year as the consolation bracket will not be played out meaning teams that fall short on Thursday see an end to their season.Â All tournament games from D-U will be streamed live and can be seen at www.nfhsnetwork.com.
The entire schedule for the tournament is available by clicking here.
In the tournament for a fourth straight year, the Tigers have won 97 games since 2013 but are still searching for their first state championship in that span.Â They enter the bracket as the #1 seed but have a tough road to reach the title game on Saturday night and it starts in the quarterfinals against St Mary’s.Â Those two clubs spent much of the season ranked first and second in the weekly CHSAA polls.
Dominant for much of the season, Sterling has outscored opponents by more points (743) than they’ve allowed this year (656).Â Coach Kent Chrisman’s club has had just four games decided by 10 points or less and three of those came against Nebraska opponents.Â The exception is a 38-35 win over Manitou Springs on January 7th in the first game back from Christmas.Â If both teams win on Thursday, the rematch will take place in the state semifinals on Friday.
12 players score at least two points per game for the Tigers including six who average at least five.Â The list is headed by Brooke Polenz (11.2) who matched a season best 24 in the district championship win over Liberty Common.Â She also scored 24 in the regular season meeting with the Eagles.Â In limited minutes in the regional tournament, Polenz combined for 19 points as the Tigers easily took out Venture Prep (86-17) and Olathe (47-24).
Offensive support comes from Abbey Brower (9.5), Kylie Chavez (7.9), Taylor Knudson (7.7) and Kendall Feather (7.7).Â Cassidy Paxton (5.1), Taylor Huss (4.5) and Jenna Kellogg (4.1) also provide scoring punch off the bench.Â Brower tops the rebounding charts with almost 10 per game including 20 against both Liberty Common and Brush.Â Defensively, the Tigers collect nearly 15 steals per game and are led by Chavez (3.9), Knudson (2.5) and Feather (2.2).
ST MARY’S (21-3)
Last Saturday’s win over Jefferson Academy (59-29) ended a string of frustrating regional tournament losses and pushed the Pirates into the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2013.Â They reached the state finals that year before falling to Holy Family in two overtimes.
Unbeaten through the first 15 games, the Pirates are 4-3 over their last seven falling to Colorado Springs Christian inside Tri Peaks conference play and to Lamar and Manitou Springs in the district tournament.Â Since all three opponents are in the final eight, they’re all considered quality losses plus the Pirates beat both Lamar and Manitou Springs during the regular season.Â They’ve battled Sterling for the top spot in the 3A rankings much of the year and now battle the Tigers in what could be a tremendous state quarterfinal.
With three double figure scorers, Coach Mike Burkett has plenty of options on the offensive end.Â Olivia Florek (12.3) is the top scorer and leads the team with 59 three pointers.Â Makenna Bodette scores nearly 12 points a game and is the top rebounder with six a night.Â Third on the team with 10.4 points, talented freshman Josephine Howery also chips in three rebounds, two assist and three steals per game.
More scoring comes from Mary Cummings (7.5), Seneca Hackley (5.8) and Mary Piedad (5.4).Â Cummings joins Florek as an outside threat; dropping 46 three-pointers while Hackley is another skilled freshman that pulls down four rebounds a game.Â Piedad is third on the squad with 19 treys.
COLORADO SPRINGS CHRISTIAN (22-2)
The turnaround for the Lions is virtually complete.Â After winning just 23 combined games from 2012-15, the Lions are 30-9 over the last two years and capped off the run with a state tournament bid for the first time under Coach Mark Engesser.Â Engesser, of course, has won the last two state championships in the 3A boys division and has both clubs in the state quarterfinals this season.Â Their only 3A loss is against Lamar; a decision they avenged in the Tri Peaks district finals (37-31).Â The second loss came against Fruita Monument which reached the Sweet 16 in the Class 5A state tournament.Â Their resume includes a win over Pueblo west which is only two wins away from claiming in the 4A state crown.
Sophomores Megan Engesser (17.3) and Rachel Ingram (13.8) headline a Lions offense averaging 55 points a game.Â Engesser was limited to just 23 points in three district tournament games but responded with 47 total points in regional tournament wins over Strasburg (28) and Eaton (19).Â Ingram led the way against Lamar in the district finals with 16 points and added 18 in last Saturday’s win over Eaton.
Madison Mackie is the only senior in the main rotation and sits third on the team with nine points per game.Â She also tops the team in rebound (7.8) and pulled down a season high 14 against Eaton.Â Katie McGrath averages five points per game along with four rebounds and is one of four Lions picking up at least two steals per game joining Engesser, Ingram and Mackie on that list as well.
Thursday’s state quarterfinal meeting with Manitou Springs is the third with the Mustangs this year.Â Colorado Springs Christian won the regular season battle 34-31 and took the district tournament matchup 42-35.Â Ingram led the way in game one with 15 points while Mackie (12) and McGrath (11) were the top scorers in districts.Â Ingram and Engesser were limited to a combined 12 points.Â Shelby Megyeri led Manitou Springs with 13 points and Calleen Sienknecht 12 in the rematch but the Mustangs did not have a double figure scorer in the first meeting.
MANITOU SPRINGS (16-8)
With a 16-8 record, it’s been an up and down season for the Mustangs but they’re in the tournament for a fourth straight year.Â The senior class heads there with 82 wins in their careers and they hope they can take the final step this season.Â Manitou Springs made the state semifinals two years ago and lost to Lutheran in the third-place game.Â They then reached the state championship game last season but fell to Lutheran again (52-44).Â All that’s left is a run to the state finals to grab that elusive crown.
The schedule has been filled with quality opponents as losses have come against Discovery Canyon and Classical Academy from Class 4A along with 3A state powers Pagosa Springs, Sterling, St Mary’s, Lamar, and Colorado Springs Christian (twice).Â They avenged the loss to St Mary’s by bouncing the Pirates 49-47 in overtime during the district tournament.Â Manitou blew past Brush 73-41 in their regional opener and then took out Faith Christian (47-30) on their home court to land another state tournament invitation.
Shelby Megyeri (17.4) tops the team in scoring and moved past 1,600 career points earlier this season.Â Senior Ariana Olson (10.0) has plenty of state tournament experience and has played well against high level opponents this season; scoring 18 points in a loss to Sterling and 14 in the district win over St Mary’s.Â Sophomore Calleen Sienknecht (10.4) is second on the team in points but will be seeing their first state tournament action.Â Another reliable scorer is senior Ali Washington (6.5) who scored six points in a state quarterfinal over Eaton last March.
The 2006 state champions are back in the tournament for a third straight year but for the first time in the stretch do not meet league rival Pagosa Springs in the quarterfinals.Â Should both teams win on Thursday they will meet for a fourth time this season in the state semifinals but each of the past two years, the Falcons met the Pirates in the opening round.
Coach Dave Forster’s club has won 18 straight games and have not lost since dropping a La Junta Holiday Tournament game to Lamar in week two of the season.Â That rematch could also take place on Friday if both teams grab wins in the quarterfinals.Â After dispatching Buena Vista easily in round one (65-28), the Falcons were pushed but still downed Grand Valley (51-45) in the regional finals on Saturday.Â Sophomore Melissa Wilson netted a team best 13 points with Alyssa Gomez also in double figures with 11.Â Caroline Van Berkum added nine points and Ember Canty hauled in 16 rebounds.
Those four have paced the team much of the season with Canty averaging a double-double with 11.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.Â Wilson (9.9), Gomez (9.8) and Van Berkum (6.8) are next on the points list.Â Kyree Huffaker (5.1) can also score when called upon.Â Gomez leads the team in assists (4.4) and is tied with Canty for most steals (2.9).Â The Falcons are shooting 50 percent from inside the arc and 21 percent from outside.Â Huffaker (11) has the most three-pointers as the team relies heavily on the inside game.
Centauri is 4-0 against teams in state tournaments including three wins over Pagosa Springs and another over Swink which has reached the 2A state quarterfinals again this year.
LIBERTY COMMON (21-3)
After reaching the state tournament for the first time in school history two years ago, the Eagles are back in after missing out last season.Â They overwhelmed both Trinidad (60-35) and Delta (53-29) last week and enter the tournament with plenty of momentum.Â All three losses on their resume are against state qualifiers including two losses inside Patriot play to top seed Sterling and a non-league loss to #9 St Mary’s in the final week of the regular season.
The senior tandem of Halley Miklos and Hannah Kohl have been the key components in turning Liberty Common into a state power.Â Both played heavy minutes as sophomores when the Eagles made their first ever state tournament appearance and will rely on that experience this weekend.Â The program has yet to win a tournament game as they lost both games in 2015.
Miklos, a talented 6-3 senior headed to Cornell next year, has put together season averages of 22.4 points, 10.9 rebounds, 4.4 steals and 2.5 blocks per game.Â She asked to do a brunt of the scoring on the offensive end and is a major factor on defense either at the point or the back end of a press.Â Miklos has 16 double-doubles this year and combined for 41 points and 19 ‘boards in the regional tournament.
Kohl is a second double digit scorer (10.2) and when she shoots well from the perimeter, Miklos has more space on the inside.Â She’s dropped in a team best 29 three-pointers this season and provides two assists, three rebounds and nearly three steals per game.
For Liberty Common to advance, they must get points from other players such as Lizzie Tsiouvaras (6.5), Chloe Kohl (5.1), Anne Dutton (4.7) and Samantha Tsiouvaras (4.3).Â Other than Miklos and Kohl, the roster combined for just 16 points in the first loss to Sterling and only 14 in the rematch.Â The group did contribute 20 of the team’s 41 points in the late loss to St Mary’s.
Lamar is the fourth member of the rugged Tri Peaks conference to make the final eight and that schedule puts them in the category of a team that could win the Gold Ball Saturday night.Â Overall, the Savages have played seven games against teams still battling for a state crown.Â Their record in those games is a sparkling 5-2 with wins over Del Norte (2A), Centauri and Manitou Springs and splits in two games against both Colorado Springs Christian and St Mary’s.
In post-season action thus far, the Savages finished second in the Tri Peaks tournament beating St Mary’s in the semifinals and falling to Colorado Springs Christian in the championship game.Â Last weekend, they overcame a slow start to down University (42-20) and then knocked off Kent Denver (60-33) last Saturday to advance.Â Cassie Forgue came off the bench to knock in four three-pointers and tie for scoring honors with Callie Clark (14 points).Â Emily Ramsay added 11 points in the win.
The Savages are in the tournament for the first time since 2014 when they finished third overall.Â That year they lost to eventual state champion Holy Family (54-45) in the state semifinals but responded to edge Sterling (43-41) for the third-place trophy.Â They’re seeded third this year and entered the state tournament with the highest RPI numbers for teams that did not win a district tournament.
Stats from post-season games have not been added to MaxPreps but Clark, a freshman, led the Savages in scoring (16.1) and rebounding (10.9) through the regular season.Â She was followed in scoring by Brenna Vallejos (10.2) and Forgue (8.4).Â Brecken Payne (7.4) and Bailey Kee (6.0) also contribute on the offensive end with Payne second in rebounding (4.5) and Ramsay third (4.0).
PAGOSA SPRINGS (18-4)
Taking home hardware from the state tournament is becoming a regular thing for the Pirates.Â Â Back in the state tournament for a fifth consecutive season, the program has returned to Southwest Colorado with a trophy each of the previous four trips.Â Included in that run is a state championship in 2015 when they finished a perfect 26-0.Â They also placed second in 2014 (25-1 record) and captured consolation crowns both last year and in 2013.Â The Pirates overall record during those four years was a remarkable 98-6 and they’ve added 18 more wins against just four losses to that mark this season.
Three of the four losses this season are against Centauri as they lost to the Falcons twice in conference play and again in the district tournament.Â A fourth setback came early against St Mary’s (54-35) at the Buena Vista Tournament.
Morgan Lewis leads the Pirates on both ends scoring 20 points and pulling down 10 rebounds a game.Â The junior had a tremendous district tournament combining for 55 points and 16 rebounds in games with Alamosa and Centauri.Â She’s been in double figures in all but one game this season and has recorded ten double-doubles.
Other key players include Devin Wilson (8.5) and Megan Farrah (3.4).Â Farrah is the lone senior in the rotation and has been limited to just 13 games because of injury.Â Her absence though has led to more minutes and more development for the likes of Hailey Griego (4.9), Kena Murphy (4.0), and Ada Peshlaki (3.2).