Four top 10 battles, a great rivalry and two nights of interesting matchups in Northern Colorado highlight the final week of girls’ basketball games in December.  Matchups begin Wednesday night and we preview the top contests.
CLASS 5A:  #5 Lakewood vs #10 Fossil Ridge (Wednesday)
A nice top 10 battle to close the December schedule for both teams.  Lakewood (6-2) has just one in-state loss as they came up short to Regis (59-42) but has won five in a row since.  Fossil Ridge scored a third straight win in impressive fashion last Saturday edging 4A-ranked Windsor 63-61.
Scoring at least 22 points in three of her last four games, Lakewood standout Camilla Emsbo has been very good of late. She enters the contest averaging 16 points and four rebounds per game.  Help through the early part of the schedule has come from sophomore Nadia Trevizo with over nine points per contest.
Fossil Ridge, who also has a game with Cherokee Trail on Tuesday, features a solid one-two scoring punch of Katey Guzman (12.3) and Ashley Steffeck (12.0).  Steffeck also chips in six rebounds, three assists and three steals per game.
CLASS 1A:  #10 North Park at Cornerstone Christian (Thursday)
Narrow wins over larger schools Gilpin County (37-33) and Skyview Academy (46-42) have kept North Park perfect on the season and this week pushed the Wildcats into the 1A top 10.  There may be a little rust on Thursday as the Wildcats have not played since December 8th when they topped DeBeque 59-44.  The Wildcats have just one senior on the roster, Marti Elze, who also serves as one of the team captains.  There’s not much size either as Bailey Van Valkenburg is the tallest listed Wildcat.
Against Cornerstone Christian, North Park’s defense will focus on the Durrill sisters.  Freshman Bryn is the top scorer with 18 points a game and she also pulls down nine boards a night.  Senior Morgan leads the team in rebounds with nearly 11 per game and provides offensive depth with 11 points per outing.
Cornerstone finished sixth at last week’s St Mary’s Academy where they were the only 1A team in the bracket.  Losses were suffered to 3A opponents Academy and St Mary’s Academy.
CLASS 3A/2A:  #1 Centauri at Sanford (Thursday)
This is one of the more intense rivalries across the state as the two schools sit just four miles apart.  Ranked #1 in Class 3A, Centauri heads to Sanford as the heavy favorite.  The Falcons have outscored seven opponents by 175 points including a solid 61-38 decision over Buena Vista last week.  Melissa Wilson led a balanced attack in that win, scoring 11 points.  Alyssa Gomez added nine.
The Falcons also have a high-level win over defending state champion Lamar on their December resume.  Caroline Van Berkum netted 12 points in that victory as the Falcons captured the La Junta Tournament championship.  Wilson added eight points and Ember Canty chipped in seven.
Sanford also competed at the La Junta Tournament and finished with the consolation crown.  They lost to Lamar 56-23 in the first round there and enter Thursday’s contest off an eight-point loss to nearby rival Monte Vista.  Senior point guard Taylor Larsen is their key.  She must shoot well and handle the defensive pressure put up by Centauri.  Larsen is one of just two seniors on an otherwise young Sanford club.
CLASS 3A:  #3 Colorado Springs Christian vs #5 Pagosa Springs (Thursday)
Both teams are ranked in the top five and both teams return a good amount of talent from state tournament teams a year ago.  The outcome could also impact seeding as both teams have plans for another deep post-season run.
The Lions (4-0) have not been pushed this year winning each game by at least 39 points.  Their best win likely came in the opener against Grand Valley (77-34).
Megan Engesser (28.0) leads the Lions explosive offense but she is much more than just an offensive threat.  The junior adds nearly eight rebounds, five assists and five steals each time out.  A very good second option on offense is fellow junior Rachel Ingram (18.0).  Both she and Engesser are three-year starters and have helped build the Lions back into a state championship threat.
Pagosa Springs (4-1) suffered their only loss to #2 St Mary’s during the Buena Vista Tournament earlier this month.  It’s their second straight week along I-25 as the Pirates captured the Lutheran Tournament title last weekend.  They whipped Olathe in round one and then dropped Manitou Springs to grab the trophy.  Averaging a double-double through five games, Morgan Lewis is the top scorer (17.0) and rebounder (10.2).  More offense is provided by the likes of Taylor Lewis (8.4), Devin Wilson (5.2) and Ada Peshlakai (5.2).
#1 Pueblo West at #9 Windsor (Thursday)
#1 Pueblo West at #5 Holy Family (Friday)
Pueblo South at #9 Windsor (Thursday)
Pueblo South at #5 Holy Family (Friday)
It should be a fun weekend as two of the best teams in the Northern part of the state welcome in the top two clubs from the Pueblo region.  Three of the four are ranked in the top 10 again this week and Pueblo South (3-4) has played a strong early schedule after finishing second in the state a year ago.  Outcomes could impact seeding as we look to March for the regional and state tournament.
Top ranked Pueblo West (5-0) is well rested as they haven’t played since December 9th.  They’ll get a chance to break off some of the rust against Canon City on Tuesday.  They’re favored to win there but could get challenged in both games on Thursday and Friday.
The Cyclones have won each game by at least 24 points.  Complete stats have not been posted to MaxPreps but West is led by the trio of Olivia Lough, Hannah Simental and Jordyn Keck.  Lough averaged 17 points and 7 rebounds during her all-state junior campaign.  Simental dropped in 10 points per game as a freshman and Keck chipped in eight points and six rebounds a year ago.
As mentioned, Pueblo South reached the state final last year before falling to Evergreen but the Colts return a good list of talent from that team.  They’ve struggled early with losses to Mesa Ridge, Valor Christian, Air Academy and Horizon but most basketball experts still expect the Colts to make another bid for a Final Four appearance.
Gabi Lucero (18.2), Drea Nelson (12.4) and Maya Austin (10.7) are the top three scorers.
Holy Family (6-1) has won six straight since starting the season with a two-point loss to Air Academy (33-31).  Included in that stretch is a 58-54 win over defending state champion Evergreen and a 28-point decision over Broomfield.  Izzy Hren (15.6) is the lone double figure scorer and she also averages 12 rebounds and seven assists per game.  She’s one of the top players in Colorado but she gets help from Kaitlyn McKenzie (8.0), Genevieve Gudino (8.0) and Amanda Ward (7.3).
Windsor fell to 4-2 with the 63-61 loss to Fossil Ridge last Saturday.  Six players score at least six points per game for the Wizards; a group led by Hollie Hoffman (10.5).  Michaela Morgan (8.0) is next in scoring while Ally Kennis chips in seven points and a team best five boards per game.