Conference play gets started in Class 3A girls’ basketball this week and we use our weekly report to preview each league and the top contenders. Several important games are on the early schedule and results will help determine which clubs can make a serious run at the title. Previews also include the week one conference schedule for each league.
Not much change in the direction of this conference as Centauri (8-1) and Pagosa Springs (6-2) should again battle for the title. The first of their two annual meetings is set for Saturday in La Jara and Centauri may have two big advantages in the matchup. First, they’re playing at home and second, they’ll face a Pagosa Springs that had a game on the road in Cortez the night before. So, this weekend, the Pirates head two hours west on Friday and then return home before hitting the bus again on Saturday for a two hour drive up north.
The one change in the series is a new coach for Centauri as Troy Reynolds has guided the Falcons to an 8-1 start is his first year at the helm. Melissa Wilson (14.6) tops the scoring chart and she’s the top returnee from last year’s team which set a school record with a fourth consecutive trip to the state tournament. Newcomers Brenna McDaniel (9.9) and Mia Garcia (7.1) help on offense along with Courtney Hamilton (5.3) who also leads the team in rebounds with nearly seven per game.
Pagosa Springs (6-3) opened the second half with a strong 45-27 win over 2A Sanford last week. They’ve won five of six with the lone blemish in the stretch a loss to Colorado Springs Christian. A second loss came at the hands of St Mary’s (52-30) so the Pirates have already faced the top two teams in Class 3A.
Hannah Griego (12.0) scored 11 points against Sanford. Elisa Lindner added 10 points and a team best six rebounds. Both numbers were well above season averages of 4.6 and 4.7. Devin Wilson (8.9) and Teagan Stretton (5.4) are two others who contribute on both ends.
Alamosa (5-3) seems a good bet for a third place. The Moose open at Bayfield on Friday and then face SLV rival Monte Vista the next night. They’ll be favored in both.
|Alamosa at Bayfield||Montezuma Cortez at Bayfield|
|Pagosa Springs at Montezuma Cortez||Pagosa Springs at Centauri|
|Monte Vista at Centauri||Alamosa at Monte Vista|
It appears that Lutheran (4-3) should be considered the heavy favorite to land the Metro championship. The Lions have played the strongest schedule with losses to St Mary’s, Colorado Springs Christian and Pagosa Springs so they’ll likely not face a better team through the conference race. The Lions are 11th in RPI with Skyview Academy next at 15th. No other league team is ranked in the top 25 this week.
Lutheran’s offense is paced by Stephanie Schultz (16.0). They host Prospect Ridge and visit St Mary’s Academy this week.
It will be interesting to see how well Skyview Academy (6-1) fares in the league chase. They have the best record and most wins entering the league slate but they also feature a weaker schedule than most opponents they will face down the stretch. Their lone loss came against Lutheran by 41 points in non-conference play.
Natalia Miller-Forrest (16.8) and Hannah Banko (12.6) are off to good offensive starts and will draw much of the attention from opposing defenses in Metro play. Those two will get tested early with games this week against Faith Christian (3-5) and Machebeuf (2-6). Both opponents are below 500 but each has excellent tradition in past league action.
Machebeuf also features one of the best players in the conference as Adet Malbeny averages nearly 16 points and 11 rebounds. Losses by the Buffs are against the likes of St Mary’s, Eaton and Platte Valley. Faith Christian nearly upset a solid Academy squad last week before falling 45-39.
|Stargate at St Mary’s Academy||Manual at Jefferson Academy|
|Manual at Colorado Academy||Kent Denver at Peak to Peak|
|Jefferson Academy at Kent Denver||Faith Christian at Stargate|
|Skyview Academy at Faith Christian||Machebeuf at Skyview Academy|
|Prospect Ridge at Lutheran||Lutheran at St Mary’s Academy|
For the first time in five years, it appears that some team other than Sterling could land the league championship. The Tigers are 51-1 in conference play over the last four years but they enter January with just one win while playing many new faces. Who will succeed Sterling is the difficult question as a championship case could be made for several teams including University, Eaton, Resurrection Christian and Platte Valley. Eaton is 7th in RPI, Platte Valley 10th, Resurrection Christian 14th and University 19th. Estes Park (7-1) sits 16th but the Bobcats have not played a strong schedule to date.
On Tuesday night, Eaton faces Estes Park and Platte Valley meets Resurrection Christian. Platte Valley and Eaton also collide this week and Resurrection Christian battles University so we’ll get a good idea of how the teams may stack up after the next several days.
Eaton (8-1) has just one loss as they fell to Pagosa Springs (54-31) near the end of December. They’ve had three games decided by single digits (Gunnison, Highland & Prospect Ridge) and they’ve won all three. Coach Todd Hernandez plays a long roster with 11 players scoring between two and nine points per game. Sydney Booth is third in scoring (7.3) and tops in rebounds (6.0). Nakaiya Kuskie has added 19 three-pointers.
Six of eight games played by Estes Park are against 2A clubs including a 22-point loss to Heritage Christian. Olivia Hamel leads the Bobcats in scoring (13.5) and rebounds (12.9) and has six double-doubles on the season. But she was held to just two points and eight rebounds against Heritage Christian.
University (6-3) and Resurrection Christian (5-3) had high expectations at the start of the season but have struggled with consistency through the first half of the schedule. The Bulldogs played very well in a loss to St Mary’s (19 points) but also suffered an unexpected loss to Prospect Ridge. They finished December by beating Kent Denver (48-39) and should make a serious title run behind the likes of point guard Kylee Kravig, forward Madelyn Malm and center Taylor Gollhofer.
JuJu Hemeyer is averaging 6.9 points per game for Resurrection Christian which is well off the nearly 15 per game she scored a year ago. Elisabeth Perl is the leading scorer (13.5) and rebounder (5.3).
Platte Valley (6-1) has received a nice boost from the freshman duo of Cora Schissler (11.9) and Brooke Bunting (9.9) who combine for nearly 22 points per game. Senior Faith Fetzer provides leadership and quality play with nine points and a team best seven boards per contest.
|Strasburg at Liberty Common||Liberty Common at Frontier Academy|
|Resurrection Christian at Platte Valley||Estes Park at Strasburg|
|Valley at Sterling|
|Eaton at Estes Park||Friday|
|Brush at University||University at Resurrection Christian|
|Sterling at Brush|
|Platte Valley at Eaton|
St Mary’s (2-0), Salida (2-0), Colorado Springs Christian (1-0) and Manitou Springs (1-0) share the early conference lead but all experts expect the head-to-head matchup between CSCS and St Mary’s to determine the top two spots. They face off January 26th. The Pirates and Lions have flip-flopped spots one and two in the statewide rankings throughout the year and could meet in the state finals for a second straight year.
The Pirates (7-0) have outscored opponents by 241 points this year and rolled past Vanguard (75-26) and Trinidad (78-41) last week. They step away from the Tri Peaks this week; going to 4A Pueblo East on Wednesday.
Colorado Springs Christian goes to Salida on Friday in likely the most important game on this week’s schedule but while both teams are unbeaten in league play, the Lions are heavily favored. They handled Lamar 77-26 last Saturday; jumping to a 22-4 lead after one and a 46-6 advantage at halftime. Salida meantime moved past La Junta 60-43 the same night for a fourth straight win.
Rachel Ingram had 21 points and Megan Engesser 19 for CSCS against Lamar. You know about those two, but Corrie Anderson also had a big day with 20 points. It was her third double digit scoring game this year and fourth in her career. She also netted 17 in the quality win over Pagosa Springs.
Alejandra Godina (18) and Taylor Hadley (14) paced Salida and combined to hit 14 of 20 shots in the win. Godina was also 3-4 from the three-point line. They led 20-5 after one quarter.
|Colorado Springs Christian at Salida||Vanguard at Buena Vista|
|Trinidad at Vanguard||Salida at Trinidad|
|Lamar at Ellicott||Ellicott at Manitou Springs|
League play gets started this week and based on RPI at least four teams should have thoughts of landing the championship trophy. Delta (6-1) is ranked 4th in the power standings with Grand Valley (6-1) sitting sixth. Cedaredge (5-2) is ninth and Roaring Fork (13th). Moffat County and Coal Ridge are both 6-3 and could make some conference noise but they’re also down the RPI list a bit at numbers 27 and 30.
Despite the good depth and number of quality teams, there’s only game on this week’s schedule pitting two of those clubs against one another. It takes place Friday as Roaring Fork heads to Delta.
Roaring Fork had not faced a strong schedule until mid-December when they closed with losses to Montrose, Colorado Springs Christian and Eaton. Despite coming up short, those games will only help the Rams in conference play and hopefully the state tournament. Logan Erickson (11.6) is their top scorer with Emily Broadhurst (9.2) and Gabriella Santana (9.0) also pushing toward double figures. Broadhurst and Santana each average over seven rebounds a game as well.
Delta (8-1) has a single loss to Centauri (53-43) but finished up the pre-Christmas schedule with a strong 57-36 win over Cedaredge. They led 31-13 at halftime and cruised into the holiday break from there. Sara Geddes scored 15 points and Alexa Huff added 10. Freshman standout Erika Kuta chipped in 11 points and a club best seven rebounds.
|Basalt at Coal Ridge||Delta at Basalt|
|Coal Ridge at Gunnison|
|Friday||Moffat County at Olathe|
|Olathe at Grand Valley|
|Moffat County at Gunnison|
|Aspen at Cedaredge|
|Roaring Fork at Delta|
Academy (6-1) has the most wins and has played the most difficult schedule and that adds up to the Wildcats landing the conference championship. It’s a long road with 12 conference games but they will be favored in every matchup where at home or on the road. Lake County (4-3) and Middle Park (4-2) are the only conference teams above five hundred entering the week.
Academy opens with Clear Creek on Wednesday and then goes to Bruce Randolph on Saturday. Mikylah Espinosa (16.5) and Aryanna Perez (13.0), both freshmen, lead the attack nearly 30 points a game between them.
|Jefferson at Middle Park||Pinnacle at Middle Park|
|Bennett at Arrupe Jesuit||Bruce Randolph at Bennett|
|Platte Canyon at Pinnacle||Sheridan at Platte Canyon|
|Bruce Randolph at DSST-Stapleton||KIPP Collegiate at Jefferson|
|Clear Creek at Academy||Platte Canyon at Arrupe Jesuit|
|Lake County at Bennett|
|Pinnacle at KIPP Collegiate|
|Academy at Bruce Randolph|
|Jefferson at DSST-Stapleton|