Girls basketball fans across Colorado could be treated to an abundance of talent this year as 14 players who received first-team all-state honors last year and 12 others who were named to the second team in their respective class return for their clubs.  And two teams, Golden (4A) and Kit Carson (1A), feature two first-team returnees in their lineup.
Kit Carson is the defending state champion in Class 1A and is favored to win again this year thanks to the return of Micayla Isenbart and Tess Hornung.  Both were named to the first-team all-state squad last season and by years end, both could be over 1,000 points for their careers.  Isenbart, a senior, needs 113 points to get there and Hornung, a junior, is 270 points away.  Both starters since their freshman seasons, the Wildcats are 73-2 with Isenbart in the lineup and 49-1 with Hornung as a starter.
The Wildcats open the season on Friday against Wiley and a highlight of their season will come on February 3rd when they host Fleming in a rematch of the 1A state championship game from last March.
Jodel Erickson of Briggsdale, Erykah Tallman of Antonito and Ashley Yergert of Kim/Branson are three returning second-team all-state selections in Class 1A.  Erickson netted 11 points with nine rebounds in leading the Falcons past Union Colony Prep in their season opener (63-23).  Tallman helped push Antonito to their first ever state tournament appearance a year ago and has led the Trojans to a 2-1 start this season.  They lost to Sangre De Cristo in the finals of the T-Bird Classic last Saturday.  Yergert scored 12 points with seven rebounds a game last season and played a major role in the Mustangs winning the Springfield tournament last weekend.  She’s joined by Joni Brown (14.4) to give Kim/Branson a very good one-two offensive punch.
In Class 2A, returning first-team selections involve league rivals Cody Robinson of Yuma and Morgan Smith of Wray who could see a lot of each other again this season.  The Indians and Eagles met five times last season including a 46-44 Wray win in the state semifinals.
Both teams are involved in the Goodland KS Topside Classic and could meet in the championship game on Saturday.  The Indians and Eagles are also scheduled to play on December 15th and again January 27th plus there’s a great chance they could meet up again in the post-season.
Robinson averaged 15 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals while helping Yuma win the Highland Canine Classic last week.  Her Indians outscored two opponents 136-43 in winning the championship.  Smith finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals as Wray downed Perkins County NE 67-20 in their season opener.  Smith was also 8-10 from the field.
Dawson Knode of Haxtun and Jerraldawn Rector of Simla both earned second-team all-state honors last season but neither has stepped on the court this season.
Simla sees their first game action at Akron on Friday and then faces Merino on Saturday.  Rector, a four-year starter, is coming off a junior campaign where she totaled 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals per game.
Haxtun scored a 46-45 win over Merino in their first game last week.  Knode did not play in the game and could miss significant time this season as she deals with an off-the-court health issue and we hope she returns to the lineup quickly.
Lamar is the returning champion in Class 3A and with the return of first-team all-state selection Cali Clark to the lineup, the Savages could be in the mix again.  Clark averaged a double-double as a freshman with 15 points and 11 rebounds per game.  She also chipped in nearly four steals and capped off a great opening campaign by hitting a last second jumper to upset Centauri in the state semifinals.  The Savages and Falcons could meet again in the La Junta Holiday Tournament this weekend.  Lamar opened their season by beating Rye 54-17 last week.
A second returning first-teamer in 3A is also from the Tri Peaks.  Colorado Springs Christian standout Megan Engesser has led the Lions to a dominating 3-0 start where they’ve scored at least 72 points in each game and not allowed more than 34.  Engesser scored 60 points in the first two wins to go along with 14 rebounds, nine assists and five steals.
Returning second-team all-state selections in 3A include Centauri’s Ember Canty, Morgan Lewis of Pagosa Springs and Sterling’s Brooke Polenz.  As mentioned, Canty and the Falcons will look forward to a possible rematch with Lamar this weekend.  They enter the La Junta tournament red hot after scoring three impressive wins at their own tournament last weekend.
Canty spent the first week sharing the basketball with three double-digit scorers and returning starters Caroline Van Berkum, Alyssa Gomez and Melissa Wilson but is still averaging seven points and eight rebounds.  She also chips in two steals and assists per game.
As a junior, Lewis led Pagosa Springs to another state tournament appearance by scoring 20 points and hauling in ten rebounds per game.  That same type of effort may be needed this weekend as the Pirates meet perennial powers and top 10 ranked St Mary’s and Sterling at the Buena Vista Invitational Friday and Saturday.  Pagosa Springs enters the event 1-0 after handling Salida 47-23 in their season opener.
Polenz and the Tigers have struggled out of the gate, dropping three of their first four games.  They went 1-2 at a Nebraska tournament in week one and then fell one point short to 4A Fort Morgan (32-31) earlier this week.  Stats have not posted to MaxPreps but Polenz remains one of the better shooters and scorers on the 3A level.
A whopping five first-team selections return in Class 4A this year and as mentioned two of them are in the Golden lineup on a nightly basis.  The Demons are 2-0 already this season and both Makena Prey and Abby Garnet have played at a high level.  Prey nearly produced a triple-double in an opening win against Conifer totaling 33 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists.  She’s averaging 28 points and 11 rebounds through two games.  Garnett has provided nearly 12 points and six rebounds over the same stretch.
Claudia Dillion is back to lead defending state champion Evergreen to another playoff run.  She started her junior season with 13 points and 14 rebounds against Elizabeth and has averaged 14 and six through the first three wins.  A tough test is waiting for the Cougars as they meet Holy Family on Thursday.
Chloe Welch of Mesa Ridge and Olivia Lough of Pueblo West also return after being named to the first team a year ago.  Scoring at least 20 points in each of her first four games, Welch has arguably been the top individual in 4A thus far.  She began her final high school season with 27 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in a quality win over Pueblo South.  She also hit 9-10 FT’s in that victory.  Welch also hauled in 17 rebounds in a win over George Washington.
Lough provided 17 points and 7 rebounds a game for Pueblo West a year ago.  Her Cyclones blew past Cheyenne Mountain 66-19 in their season opener and will be involved in the Pueblo County Invitational this week.  Schedule wise, it’s a difficult event as each team plays four games in three days including a doubleheader on Saturday.
Windsor’s Michaela Moran and Pueblo South’s Maya Austin were named to the all-state second team last season.  Morgan scored nearly 10 points per game as the Wizards finished third at the Vista Peak tournament last week.  She began the run with 18 points against Fort Morgan.  Austin and the Colts are 2-3 against a rugged early slate that includes losses to Mesa Ridge, Valor Christian and 5A Horizon.  Austin dropped in 20 against Mesa Ridge in the opener and is scoring nearly 12 points a game thus far.
In Class 5A, Camilla Emsbo of Lakewood is the sole first-team returnee but Francesca Belibi (Regis), Jana Van Gytenbeek (Cherry Creek) and both Tommi Olson and Autumn Watts of Highlands Ranch also return after receiving second-team honors.
Lakewood is 3-2 on the young season with just one game played inside the state borders.  They beat Arapahoe 55-39 earlier this week after splitting four games at the La Jolla CA Tournament last week.  They lost to Regis in that event 59-42.  Emsbo scored 23 in the Arapahoe win and is totaling 16 points per game overall.
Belibi netted 12 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and two steals against Lakewood last week.  That was the first of two double-doubles for the senior as she also produced 11 points and 10 rebounds against Alemany CA.  She fell one rebound shy of a third such effort in a win over Mullen with 15 points and nine rebounds.
Van Gytenbeek and the Bruins finally made their debut on Tuesday night beating Broomfield 65-39 in the opening round of the Fairview Festival.  They will play two more games there this week and then prep for the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix later this month.  Van Gytenbeek led the Bruins with 21 against Broomfield and during her freshman season a year ago, finished with nearly 15 points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals a game.
The duo of Olson and Watts again make Highlands Ranch a legitimate championship threat.  They joined Lakewood and Regis at the La Jolla Country Day event and finished with three wins in four outings.  Olson scored 28 points over the first two games and was limited to 15 in the next two.  That adds up to almost 11 points per game.  Watts had her best scoring night in game one; netting 18 points against Spring Valley NV.  She also returns to Colorado averaging 11 points a contest.

Girls Basketball — All State Returnees


Camilla Emsbo Lakewood Senior 1st Team
Francesca Belibi Regis Junior 2nd Team
Tommi Olson Highlands Ranch Senior 2nd Team
Jana Van Gytenbeek Cherry Creek Sophomore 2nd Team
Autumn Watts Highlands Ranch Junior 2nd Team


Claudia Dillon Evergreen Junior 1st Team
Abby Garnett Golden Senior 1st Team
Olivia Lough Pueblo West Senior 1st Team
Makena Prey Golden Senior 1st Team
Chloe Welch Mesa Ridge Senior 1st Team
Maya Austin Pueblo South Senior 2nd Team
Michaela Moran Windsor Senior 2nd Team


Cali Clark Lamar Sophomore 1st Team
Megan Engesser CS Christian Junior 1st Team
Ember Canty Centauri Senior 2nd Team
Morgan Lewis Pagosa Springs Senior 2nd Team
Brooke Polenz Sterling Senior 2nd Team


Cody Robinson Yuma Junior 1st Team
Morgan Smith Wray Junior 1st Team
Dawson Knode Haxtun Junior 2nd Team
Jerraldawn Rector Simla Senior 2nd Team


Tess Hornung Kit Carson Junior 1st Team
Micayla Isenbart Kit Carson Senior 1st Team
Jodel Erickson Briggsdale Senior 2nd Team
Erykah Tallman Antonito Senior 2nd Team
Ashley Yergert Kim/Branson Senior 2nd Team