Teams throughout Colorado return to the basketball court this week with the hopes of shaking off the rust from the long Christmas break. Many of them have little time to get that done as they face strong opponents and in some cases, crucial league games. Colorado Preps takes a look at the top matchups on Friday and Saturday and also recaps some highlights from earlier in the week.
PHOTO PROVIDED BY OT SPORTSCHECK
Two top 10 matchups headline the Class 1A schedule
Each game features two unbeaten clubs as #2 Fleming (5-0) meets #4 Merino (6-0) on Friday and then top ranked Briggsdale (5-0) hosts #6 Stratton (3-0) on Saturday. Neither is a conference game but since all are ranked in the top 10 this week, results will factor into post-season bracketing. That’s especially true for Fleming & Merino as the Wildcats and Rams will be placed in the same district in late February.
Fleming and Merino both have quality wins over Haxtun on their December resume and they were by a combined five points. The Wildcats won 47-43 and then closed the month by downing a good 2A club in Gilpin County (48-36). In addition to the 37-36 win over Haxtun, the Rams have taken out Lone Star and Simla this year as well.
Merino won this matchup 59-46 a year ago with Taysa Conger scoring 21 points with 10 rebounds. The senior is again leading the Rams on both ends of the floor this season. Fleming’s offense is designed to get shots for Whitney Chintala (15.0) and Kally Kirkwood (13.2) with Madi Serrato a solid third option (7.2). Chintala had 13 against Merino last year but Kirkwood did not play due to injury.
Briggsdale hasn’t played since scoring that quality road win over defending state champion Flatirons Academy on December 17th (60-46). They also play Weldon Valley on Friday so they will get on the court before the showdown with Stratton. Kylie Krise netted 27 points on 10 of 19 shooting against Flatirons Academy and Macie Klem (14) and Emily Johnson (9) combined for 23 rebounds. The Falcons also hit 10 of 16 from the free throw line.
Stratton has played just three games including wins over Idalia and Akron to win the Akron Tournament before Christmas. Their key is Sedonia Isenbart as the sophomore averages 24 points, five rebounds, five assists and a whopping ten steals per game. Those numbers lead the Eagles in three of those categories with Isenbart sitting second to Claudia Sanza (6.0) in rebounds. They too get in a game Friday; against Arickaree/Woodlin so they will have some of the holiday rust taken off before facing the top ranked Falcons.
Four teams with a chance to win the 1A High Plains league collide in the opening weekend
In the six-team High Plains league, at least four of the teams have hopes of landing the championship and top district seed. And those four meet on Friday in conference openers as Cheyenne Wells (4-1) meets Kit Carson (4-1) and Cheraw (3-3) challenges McClave (5-1). Of those four, McClave is considered the favorite right now as they beat Kit Carson in the semifinals on their way to the Lamar Tournament championship last month. They’re also filled with experience as seniors Anna Beckett (11.8) and Maggie Chase (11.0) are the first two options on offense. Cheraw looks to snap a two-game skid by upsetting McClave after falling to Soroco and Kim/Branson in their final two December games.
Cheyenne Wells has won four in a row since falling to Idalia in their season opener. Freshman Paige Reyser (11.8) is their top scorer. Kit Carson is very good on the inside with the tandem of Stephanie Framel and Tess Johnson. Framel is the leading scorer (14.4) and second in rebounds (5.2) Johnson is second in scoring (8.3) and tops on the boards (7.0). There’s also more size off the bench for the Wildcats.
Several non-league games of note on the Western Slope
All three matchups on our list take place on Friday night:
- #3 Sanford (2A) vs #10 Pagosa Springs (3A) – POSTPONED
- Centauri at #8 Delta (3A)
- Sangre De Cristo at Cotopaxi
Before the game was postponed, Pagosa Springs was set to be the fourth 3A opponent for Sanford. The Indians are 2-1 in such games this year; beating La Junt and Lamar with a loss to Colorado Springs Christian (42-38). Those games and the planned date with Pagosa Springs this week are designed to help a veteran group prep for a conference title run and deep playoff push. Seniors Asia and Cheyenne Caldon are the leaders. Asia averages 14 points with nearly six rebounds a game while Cheyenne tallies 11 points with three boards. Haley Faucette also grabs four rebounds a game, which is second on the club.
Conversely, the Pirates are very young as the top two scorers are freshman in Karsyn Shahan (11.3) and Elizabeth Currior (10.1). Trista Tully provides senior leadership along with nearly 10 points and seven rebounds a night. The Pirates won six of seven in December with a lone loss to Grand Valley (41-34) at the Buena Vista tournament. Quality wins were earned over 4A Durango and 2A Ignacio.
Delta and Centauri are meeting for the fourth time in five years with the Falcons winning the first three. With several new faces in the lineup this year, Centauri (3-2) may be the underdog going in but have talent in Amaya Garcia (9.0 points), Dyani Ojedau (8.4) and Abbey Smith (8.2). They have losses to 2A Cedaredge and 5A Westminster and Friday marks their first game back since the Christmas break. Delta (3-1) has a loss to 4A Montrose (47-40) which is their only tight game thus far. The Panthers have three wins by a combined 140 points so they could use a quality win to gain confidence for the conference run. Senior Erika Kuta is crucial to their success as she enters the second half averaging 15 points, five rebounds and four steals. Support comes from the youthful tandem of sophomore Tatum Miller (9.8) and Taylor Somers (8.0).
Sangre De Cristo and Cotopaxi could be a battle of eventual league champions as the T-Birds are expected to land the 1A Southern Peaks crown and the Pirates will challenge for the West Central championship. But Sangre is favored as the Pirates are coming off a 47-10 loss to Evangelical Christian in their final game before Christmas. They need a win to restore some confidence entering the second half. They also get challenged against Kim/Branson on Saturday. Sangre De Cristo should easily move past winless Primero on Thursday as they prep for the Pirates. Peyton Metz tops Sangre in scoring (11.3) with Ashley Mortensen a solid all-around player. She is second in scoring (9.2) and also leads the team with six rebounds and six steals per game.
Longtime rivalry a key game inside the 3A Tri Peaks
Due to proximity and talent, Colorado Springs Christian and St Mary’s are no strangers to one another. They’re based in the same city, play in the same conference and squared off in the 3A state championship game in both 2019 and 2018. Now they meet on Friday with the outcome directly impacting the top three spots in the league race.
Both teams may be chasing 3rd ranked Vanguard for the Tri Peaks crown. And since CSCS fell to the Coursers 44-38 earlier this week, the game with St Mary’s is very important. Another loss likely takes the 7th ranked Lions out of the local championship picture. St Mary’s does not play Vanguard until mid-February but a win here keeps them in strong contention for the league crown.
The Pirates (5-2) have won four straight and scored at least 79 points in three of them. Senior Ellie Hartman played on the 2019 state championship team and now as a senior, she averages 15 points and six rebounds per game. Sophomore Maeve Salveson scores a team high 20 points an outing and also provides three steals.
Colorado Springs Christian has lost four straight and five of the last six against St Mary’s. They were outscored 17-2 in the second quarter in the Vanguard loss but responded with a 15-4 run in the third quarter to climb back in.
Quality league openers set inside the 4A/5A Longs Peak
Three teams from the conference are ranked in the 4A Top 10 this week and three others received votes so the league race should come down to the wire. Matchups on Friday pit #7 Northridge (8-0) against Roosevelt (5-2) and #8 Thompson Valley (6-1) at Frederick (5-2). Berthoud (7-1) is the third ranked team in the conference (#10) and they open with and are heavily favored against Riverdale Ridge (2-7).
Northridge has outscored their eight opponents 441-219 and their 51-41 win over Palmer Ridge in the finals of the Greeley tournament was their only December game decided by less than 17 points. Karly Beck scored 19 points and Seneya Martinez 15 against Palmer Ridge. Beck and Katy Jo Werner each pulled down six rebounds. The Grizzlies also face Thompson Valley on Tuesday so they have a crucial stretch to begin the league slate.
Roosevelt (5-2) has enough talent to spring the upset as their two losses were close battles with ranked opponents Mead (67-56) and Platte Valley (78-70). Against Platte Valley, the defending state champions and number one team in 3A, the Riders trailed 66-39 after three but tallied 31 fourth quarter points to climb back in. Sophomores Brynn Price (16) and Brook Meza (14) led the offense. Both average double figures for the season as does freshman Ryanne Bahnsen-Price.
Thompson Valley has played a strong schedule including a hard fought 53-48 loss to Holy Family to finish up December. Amelia Solt had 20 points and Charlie Durtsche 13 in the loss. Those two were 12 of 22 from the field but the rest of the Eagles managed just 15 points while hitting just three of 26 shot attempts. For the Eagles to make a run at the conference crown, others will need to step up a bit more.
Frederick has also faced a strong list of opponents with losses to #4 George Washington (72-32) and #5 Mead (58-47). The Warriors though responded with a strong December finish; winning their final three games by at least 27 points apiece. Savanna Staff (12.2) and Ali Davis (12.0) are the top two scorers but they combined for just 14 in the loss to George Washington and 16 versus Mead.
Early week notes feature several important conference wins
Lone Star and Dove Creek are two 1A teams that have already taken major steps in winning their league championships. The 7th ranked Longhorns won at Idalia 51-31 on Tuesday and the 9th ranked Bulldogs stopped Ignacio 69-56.
Dove Creek won the San Juan crown last year and the win over Ignacio puts them in the drivers seat to defend that title. The rivals tied in the first and fourth quarters (24-24) but the Bulldogs won the middle two periods 45-32. Both teams have dominated league play over the years. Dove Creek was 30-4 coming into the season with Ignacio 70-5 since the 2014-15 season.
Lone Star outscored Idalia 28-11 over quarters two and three. Aleighcea Kuntz buried seven three pointers on her way to a game high 21 points. Alivia Weathers added 15 and also hit six of ten shots.
Defending 4A state champion and top ranked Mullen opened the rugged Centennial slate by downing #3 Grandview (5A) 58-46 on Wednesday. They face another top 10 opponent in Cherry Creek on Friday. Mullen limited Grandview to just 40 percent shooting (18-45) overall and surrendered only two three pointers. The loss dropped Grandview to 1-7 on the season but despite that record, they will stay in the top 10 and remain a title threat. Lauren Betts is their key and she turned in 17 points and five rebounds in the loss. No other player reached double figures.