After a sprinkling of games on Monday and Tuesday, the schedule for week one of the girls’ basketball season picks up speed this weekend. Several good matchups are on tap and many more could take place based on tournament results.
Two top 10 battles are on the weekend schedule and a third could take place if tournament brackets play out. #9 Haxtun is involved in two of the matchups as they meet #3 Fleming on Friday and then tangle with #8 Merino on Saturday. #4 South Baca and #7 Springfield are both in the Ballard Classic tournament in Springfield and should face off for the title Saturday night.
Haxtun made a run all the way to the state championship game last year before falling to Kit Carson (63-33) in the finals. The loss concluded a great campaign where the Bulldogs finished 20-6. A new era begins this year as Arlan Scholl succeeds Rich Gerk at the helm. Scholl had several successful years at nearby Holyoke and returns to the sidelines with the Bulldogs this season.
Four-year starter and all-state standout Dawson Knode graduated last Spring and took with her nearly 18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and four steals per game. She will be a very difficult replacement but there is a good nucleus to build on as both Brooklyn Davis (9.1) and Taylor Schram (4.5) return. They also combined for 20 three-pointers last year.
Beating Fleming will be difficult. The Wildcats have momentum from a state volleyball championship last month as many of the key players from that group now turn to hoops. The Wildcats may also seek some revenge after falling to Haxtun 48-32 in last year’s state semifinals.
Jenna Lengfelder (13.8) was lost to graduation but the Wildcats get back the tandem of Kendyl Kirkwood (15.8) and Whitney Chintala (12.5). Kirkwood also pulled down a team best 13 rebounds per game while Chintala added five rebounds, five assists and four steals a night. The sophomore also led the team with 26 three-pointers.
Merino finished 13-11 last season but welcome back seven of their top eight scorers. Last year’s record is also misleading as they play in the same conference with 2A powers Yuma, Wray and Holyoke plus tangle with Haxtun. Four of their losses came against those programs with three other losses coming to 1A state semifinalist Briggsdale. They also fell to state qualifiers Limon and Fleming.
Returning for the Rams are Hannah Pejsa-Stegner (9.0), Taysa Conger (6.0) and Rylyn Nelson (5.0). Pejsa-Stegner also topped the team with 25 treys.
Both South Baca (22-1) and Springfield (14-9) return almost their entire roster from last year. The Patriots suffered their only loss to Haxtun in the state quarterfinals but responded well by beating Sangre De Cristo and DeBeque to land the consolation championship. Springfield ended one game short of a state tournament bid due to a 53-41 loss to Sangre De Cristo in the regional finals.
Alyssa Hebberd returns after leading South Baca in scoring (12.2) and rebounding (10.4) last season. Another key returnee is Delaney Eskew with 12 points, five assists and four steals per game. She also knocked in 43 three-pointers to share the team lead with another returnee Patience Crane (8.5).
Julia Mondragon (11.1), Alexis Crane (9.9), Kylie Parks (6.5) & Brinlyn Dukes (5.2) were the top four scorers for Springfield last season and all return to the court this year. Three others who basically averaged three points a game are also back as the Longhorns will be one of the deepest teams in the division this year.
A fourth game of note this weekend is found at the Jeff Sherman Classic hosted by Arickaree/Woodlin. It pits #5 Genoa Hugo against Lone Star. Both are league championship contenders as Genoa Hugo could push Limon for the Union Pacific title and Lone Star should factor into the YWKC race.
A 52-35 loss to DeBeque in regionals ended a 17-win season for Genoa Hugo. The Pirates won that many games without a senior on the roster and now that young group is a year older and thinking about a state tournament push. Ryely Smart topped the Pirates with 14 points and 10 rebounds a game and she’s joined on the list of returnees by Brylee Miller (7.9), Dixi Lockhart (7.2), Glorya Carr (5.0) and Tessa Smith (3.0).
Lone Star (14-4) was even younger as freshmen ended up as three of the top four scorers. Lamya Kuntz (10.4) and Alivia Weathers (7.6) were 1-2 with Alison Davis (7.2) fourth. In-between was sophomore Andrea Kuntz (7.4).
It’s only week one but exciting rivalry games can be found on the schedule as #3 Wray tangles with #4 Yuma and #2 Sanford steps up to 3A against #7 Alamosa. The Indians-Moose collide on Friday with the latest installment of the Wray-Yuma clash waits until Saturday.
Underclassmen played major roles in pushing Sanford to the state tournament last year. They earned quite a bit of confidence by knocking off top seeded Limon (46-39) in round one. A narrow two-point loss to Swink in the semifinals kept them from reaching the state championship game.
Mackenzie Peterson paced the Indians with eight points and five rebounds as a junior. Next on the scoring list were Asia Caldon (7.8) and Cheyenne Caldon (7.6) who combined for over 15 points a game as freshmen. Cheyenne scored a dozen in her high school debut last year in leading Sanford to a 36-35 win.
Alamosa picked up 19 points from Lily Lavier in the loss and she returns for her senior season. She averaged 12 points, five rebounds and five steals in leading the Moose to 17-wins and a state quarterfinal appearance. They lost to eventual state champion St Mary’s (53-38) in that round.
Yuma (23-3) landed another state title last Spring and while the Indians could factor into the title chase again, there are two big holes to fill on both ends of the court. Cody Robinson (17.5) and Chasey Blach (12.0) were both three-year starters that finished up their high school careers last March. They also averaged 16 rebounds, five assists and nearly four steals together last season.
Reagan Nolin (8.1) will serve as the team leader this year with support from Ema Richardson (5.2) and Elle Roth (2.2). The goal could be similar to what the school went through as defending champs in volleyball. They struggled early as new faces stepped into new roles but played well down the stretch to earn a state tournament berth.
Wray won 21 games last year but saw an end to their state championship hopes with a 41-31 loss to Swink in the quarterfinals. Wins over Limon (49-41) and Heritage Christian (54-38) still allowed them to bring back tournament hardware to Eastern Colorado.
Morgan Smith (11 pts / 10 rebs) is gone from that team through graduation but Coach David Reed can lean on returnees Taby Jones and Abby Shay. Jones led the Eagles with 12 points per game last season and also pulled down six rebounds. Shay was fourth in scoring (7.1) and provided two steals defensively.
Tournament results will determine if we get two more quality matchups on Saturday. Top ranked Limon and #10 Ignacio could meet for the Limon tourney title while #8 Holyoke and Highland could square off for the Highland Canine Classic crown.
Holyoke was scheduled to have their top six scorers back with them this year but lost two to graduation as both Taryn Trumper (11.7) and Taylor Trumper (2.7) are now at Ogallala NE. There is plenty of talent remaining with the likes of Kristen Vieselmeyer (8.8), Emily Jelden (6.2), Sarah Razo (5.7), Lauren Herman (5.4) and Victoria Race (4.9) as the Dragons will again battle Yuma and Wray for Lower Platte supremacy.
Highland (18-6) has some holes to fill after their top three scorers from last year graduated. Sidney Brown (5.2) is the lone returnee who averaged more than three points a game.
Limon returns eight of their top nine scorers including Tori Lopez (9.8), Sidney Hines (7.2), Tristen Marx (7.0), Amy Weisensee (6.2) and Elivia Hilferty (5.8). That group helped the Badgers to a 22-3 mark a year ago.
Ignacio won 16 games last year and has their top eight scorers back on the floor. All averaged between three and nine points per game in a very balanced attack. Makayla Howell (9.1), Jayden Brunson (7.1) and Charlize Valdez (6.8) were the top three on the list.
When the pre-season rankings were released last week, we were somewhat surprised that Academy was not included in Class 3A. The Wildcats won 22 games last season and return the sophomore tandem of Mikylah Espinosa (16.0) and Aryanna Perez (10.7) who combined for nearly 27 points a game as freshmen. And they are not alone as Janaya Steffy (8.0), Alyssa Renny (6.5) and Jordan Peterson (4.8) also return from a team that had just two seniors on the varsity roster.
We’ll find out early if the Wildcats should be in the rankings as they face three top 10 opponents at the Northern Colorado Roundball Classic hosted by Platte Valley. The host Broncos are ranked 8th and will battle Academy on Saturday. On Thursday, the Wildcats face #10 University and then on Friday they tangle with #5 Eaton.
Eaton (25-2) placed third at the state tournament last season with their lone loss coming to eventual champion St Mary’s (54-2) in the semifinals. The top two and three of the top five scorers are gone through graduation but the Reds also field a very competitive club. Leading the list of returnees are Addie Randel (7.4) and Nakaiya Kuskie (6.7).
Platte Valley posted 20 wins in 2018-19 but loss to Alamosa (39-30) kept them from a trip to Denver and the state tournament. Their expectations are even higher this year as sophomores Cora Schissler (12.6) and Brooke Bunting (9.7) were 1-2 in scoring as freshman. They also return leading rebounder Kassandra Shoemaker (6.9).
University (14-10) was kept from a state tournament trip by league rival Eaton as they fell to the Reds 48-44 in a regional final. The Bulldogs graduated leading scorer Madelyn Malm (11.5) but return Kylie Kravig (10.0) who is also the top returnee across Class 3A with 4.8 assists per game. Inside, the Bulldogs can also lean on Taylor Gollhofer who averaged nine points and eight rebounds as a junior.
A fourth game of note is a first-round battle at the Faith Christian tournament between #3 Delta and Vanguard. The Coursers (14-9) are unranked but will be a tough out as leading scorer Alexis Garcia (15.4) and leading rebounder Cortney Arrasmith (10.5) both return.
Delta (23-2) is coming off a fantastic year as they reached the state quarterfinals. They lost to Eaton 53-45 there but with seven of their top players back for another run, they could easily go farther in 2019-20. Sara Geddes (10.7) led the team in scoring last year but she gets plenty of support in the balanced attack by Keely Porter (9.0), Erika Kuta (8.3) and Alexa Huff (7.4).
Not a ton of attractive matchups in this division this week but at least two caught our eye. The first is Wednesday between #5 Berthoud and #9 Evergreen and the second involves #4 Holy Family and their run through the Horizon Tournament. It begins Wednesday against 5A Arapahoe and continues Thursday against #7 Fossil Ridge (5A). Traditional 5A powers Horizon and Ralston Valley are also in the bracket.
Berthoud (20-6) won two games in the state tournament last year; beating Widefield and Mesa Ridge before seeing an end to their season against Air Academy (63-51). Double digit scorers Breanna Fowler (16.8) and Emily Cavey (14.8) both return to the lineup giving the Spartans more than enough talent for a deep post-season run. Other key returnees include Celsey Selland (6.7) and Ally Padilla (2.3). Selland also led the team in rebounds last year with eight a game.
Evergreen already has a game under their belt as they blasted Battle Mountain 66-15 on Monday night. The Cougars were also 20-6 last year but lost four-year standout Claudia Dillon (20 pts / 12 rebs) to graduation. Nicole Levine (8.9) and Hayley Dillon (8.5) will be among those asked to pick up some of the slack.
Holy Family also played a strong December schedule last year and despite the 2-4 start still won 21 games and reached the state semifinals. There they fell to champion Mullen 55-33. Returning from that squad is the junior trio of Genevieve Gudino (14.9), Cecillia Aanerud (6.3) and Tyler Whitlock (6.1)
The top four teams in the pre-season rankings are all out of state for high level tournaments this weekend with three of them at the same event. #1 Cherry Creek, #2 Grandview and #3 Valor Christian all compete at a tournament in Dallas but are not scheduled to face one another while there. #4 Highlands Ranch heads west for their annual visit to the La Jolla Country Day tournament.
In-state, we mentioned the Horizon Tournament where the Hawks will face Ralston Valley in pool play on Friday. The Haws are not in the top 10 to open the season but the Mustangs sit sixth. The two clubs met in the third round of the state tournament last March with the Hawks scoring a 58-40 decision.
Of the 58 points scored by Horizon, only eight were produced by underclassmen so the Hawks need many new players to step up. Olivia Waufle scored seven points in the win and freshman Audra Vine tallied one. On the season, they both averaged slightly over five points per game. Graduation losses include Alyssa Jimenez (14.6) and Samantha Deems (13.1).
Ralston Valley meantime returns all 40 points from that game including juniors Sydney Bevington (17) and Brooklyn Seymore (12) who combined for 29. Bevington led the team with 12 points and nine rebounds last year and Seymore added eight and seven. Also back is Shelby Nichols who totaled 10 points and seven rebounds as a junior.
One top 10 meeting inside tournament play can be found at the Castle View-ThunderRidge event where #8 Broomfield and #10 Cherokee Trial meet in the opening round on Wednesday. The Cougars are 1-0 thanks to a 79-61 win over Rangeview on Monday. Broomfield matched that with a 79-20 rout of Northglenn that same evening.