Even though we didn’t see as many games in Class 3A, 4A and 5A girls basketball, Colorado Preps can still provide some thoughts and facts on teams still fighting for their respective state championships. Eight clubs remain in the 3A bracket with quarterfinals starting on Thursday. Classes 4A and 5A conduct their Final Four on Thursday and Saturday.
Platte Valley has spent the entire season ranked number one. Despite that pressure, the Broncos have stayed unbeaten and are just three wins away from repeating as state champions. The strong push was expected as the Broncos returned their top four scorers from last year’s title team.
That group includes Cora Schissler (16.7), Bree Bunting (15.4), Andi Schissler (12.7) and Brooke Bunting (8.4). Cassie Riddings (4.0) is a quality fifth starter as well and has made strong contributions throughout the year.
This season, the Broncos have outscored 23 opponents by almost 500 points including quality wins over top 4A opponents Mead, Roosevelt and Thompson Valley. In Class 3A, they’ve beaten second seeded University twice and Vanguard once. They also scored an important league win over an Eaton club that was ranked ninth in the bracket.
The defending champs continue their postseason run against a Lamar team that is a perfect example of why district tournaments are played. Seeded 5th in the Tri Peaks bracket, the Savages won three straight games to take the title and earn home games in the regional round last weekend. It paid off as they downed Eaton last Saturday to earn a berth in the quarterfinals this week.
Saturday’s win was their ninth straight. They were 10-6 at one point this season with losses to St Mary’s, Vanguard and Colorado Springs Christian. Those losses became even more impressive when all three qualified for the Great 8; giving the Tri Peaks half the state tournament field. Another loss came against Sanford who happens to be the number one seed in Class 2A.
Abby Robbins is the top scorer with 13 points a game and the junior also chips in eight rebounds. Freshman sister Brooklyn Robbins has played a major role with 11 points and nearly 10 rebounds. Ally TIce is also a key contributor.
Another factor to keep in mind is coach Brian Dunning who has a state championship with Wiley on his resume.
Two of the four Tri Peaks qualifiers collide on Thursday when Vanguard tangles with Colorado Springs Christian. Vanguard won both regular season contests, but only by a total of six points. Outside shooting could determine this one as the Coursers have a whopping 134 three-pointers and the Lions 85.
Vanguard is paced by Juliana Garcia with 48 treys. She also tops the team with 17 points per game. Hailey Blanchard has 33 treys and Delicia Bustamante 24. Blanchard is second in scoring overall with 11 points per game.
Colorado Springs Christian is led on the perimeter with 31 threes from Wilna Colopy and 26 from Emily Hoekert. Grace Minihane is next with 17.
The final Tri Peaks state entrant is St Mary’s and they face Grand Valley in the quarterfinals. St Mary’s lost to Lamar in the district finals and that forced them on the road where they played two wild games with wins over Skyview Academy in overtime and Lutheran in Parker. Elle Hartman was easily the best player in Class 3A last week. She notched a career best 49 points against Skyview Academy with four treys and an outstanding 25 of 26 effort from the foul line. She followed up with “only 31” against Lutheran; an effort that included three treys and 16 of 19 from the charity stripe. On the season, Hartman is averaging 18 points and has hit 80 percent of her foul shots (107-134).
There is more to the St Mary’s offense as four others average at least eight points per game including Bailey Darneal, Payton Kutz, Emerson Kutz and Maeve Salveson.
Grand Valley is hitting stride at the best stage of the season. They lost to Delta and Moffat County in Western Slope league action but avenged both losses while winning the district championship. They’ve won eight straight and get 34 combined points from the trio of Abbey Parker, Jaycee Pittman and Bailey Radel. Those three will have to get it done this week as the rest of the club totals 18 per contest.
Delta is a second Western Slope league club in the field. The Panthers loss to Grand Valley in districts forced them on the road where they beat Alamosa and Jefferson Academy. JA may helped out the Panthers by upsetting 7th ranked Academy on Friday. Senior Erika Kuta is the unquestioned leader of an otherwise young squad. She averages 15 points and eight rebounds per game. Five others score at least four points a game and only one, Kaelynn Porter, is a senior.
University is Delta’s opponent in the state quarterfinals. The Bulldogs are the number two seed and have just four losses on the season. Two of them are against top seeded Platte Valley and a third came early against #3 Vanguard. The Bulldogs have good depth but some of it is very young. Junior Taryn Kravig and senior Emily Trujillo provide great experience and shooting at the guard spot but the inside is patrolled by freshman Addison Harding. She chips in nearly nine points and seven rebounds a game. Harding is not a stranger to big games as she was the number one pitcher on the Bulldogs state tournament softball club.
Throughout the entire season, we’ve believed that Mullen and Windsor would square off in a repeat of last year’s state championship. Both teams are one win away from making that prediction a reality as top seeded Windsor meets #5 Mead in one semifinal and second seeded Mullen is challenged by #6 Green Mountain in the other.
The Mustangs and Wizards are favored. Windsor has a win over Mead during the regular season while Mullen is part of a tremendous Centennial league which has three teams still alive for a state championship; joining Grandview and Arapahoe in Class 5A.
The difference between Mullen and Windsor this year is size. The Mustangs are very long at nearly every position and while the Wizards have a solid 10-11 player rotation, Olivia Reed provides most of the size and must stay out of foul trouble if the two teams collide in a state final on Saturday.
Reed leads a very balanced Windsor attack with 12.5 points per game. Five others score at least six points per game. Outside shooting comes from Jolie Jiricek with 43 three-pointers.
Windsor has great defense. We saw them beat Holy Family in conference play and the perimeter defense was suffocating against a very good Tigers backcourt. The Wizards have 428 steals in 25 games with 89 coming from Mykaela Moore and 72 from Samantha Darnell. They will need that type of defense to prevent Mullen from just punching it inside to a much bigger frontcourt.
But before we focus completely on a state finals rematch, both clubs must win semifinals on Thursday to advance. Neither will be easy.
Green Mountain is led by Jayda Maves. The junior has already surpassed 1,000 career points and averages 20 points a game on the season. She has 171 three-pointers in 70 career games and will need to knock down some of those shots to keep the Rams close. The problem may again be size as we will not be surprised if Mullen uses Gracie Gallegos to defend Maves. Gallegos is also a 1,000 point career scorer but her lanky 6-2 frame could be difficult to shoot over.
Other players to watch in this one are Avery Oaster and Kilah Freelon. Oaster is at 16 points and nine rebounds a game this season and will have to battle agains the Mullen size inside. Freelon is some of that size and average 14 points and seven rebounds per game. She missed five games due to injury this season but appears back to full strength in the final week of the year.
We mentioned Mead lost to Windsor earlier this year but the game was close (56-48). With 182 three-pointers this season, the Mavericks rely heavily on the 20 foot attempt. They were just 3 of 11 in the first game with Windsor and will need more attempts and a better percentage in the rematch. Two things could make that difficult; the aforementioned Windsor perimeter defense and the shooting background at the Coliseum. Many teams struggle with shooting their first time in the arena.
Much like 4A, most experts figured Valor Christian and Grandview would clash in a highly anticipated state final. Both are in the semifinals this week and need one win to set up the rematch of a regular season contest won by Valor 59-52. The Eagles and Wolves each feature a McDonalds All-American in Valor’s Reagan Beers and Grandview’s Lauren Betts. Both were effective in the regular season game with Betts totaling 10 points and 12 rebounds while Beers totaled 12 and six. Valor got a big game from freshman Quinn Van Sickle as she finished with a game high 17 points.
Arapahoe and Highlands Ranch are the other two semifinalists left in the field and neither will just had a win to Valor Christian or Grandview. The Warriors feature Sam Crispe who is listed at 6-2 but looks and plays a bit bigger. She averages 14 points and nearly six rebounds. Highlands Ranch is comfortable at the Coliseum and shot it well in the quarterfinal win over Doherty (54-39). Emily Hovasse paces the Falcons with 16.9 points per game and has 76 three-pointers this season.