If the first two rounds of the Class 3A, 2A and 1A state tournaments were any indication, the girls basketball Great 8 that gets rolling Thursday is going to be intense.

Regional tournaments Friday and Saturday were highlighted by a bevy of upsets, none bigger than 3A No. 1 and unbeaten Peyton falling at home to Buena Vista by two points.

It didn’t stop there. No. 13 Grand Valley upended No. 4 Yuma to advance to the quarterfinals. In 2A, fourth-seeded Dayspring Christian and No. 5 Gilpin County each fell in the second round, and in 1A, seeds 6-8 also lost.

Buena Vista reaching the Great 8 was the biggest shocker – not because the Demons weren’t a strong team, but because of who they were facing. Only once during the regular season had Peyton won a game by less than a 12-point margin.

Buena Vista finished sixth in a Tri-Peaks League that has five squads in the final eight. The team finished fifth in the district tournament, and then took down No. 17 SkyView Academy 37-33 on Friday.

Going up against a Peyton squad that had set the tempo all season, Buena Vista took control early, only for the Panthers to force overtime. The Demons had the slight edge in OT, taking a 46-44 victory.

The 3A field may be more wide open, but there are plenty of teams that could take the title. Two-time defending state champion Platte Valley is in the mix, but has to get past Tri-Peaks champion Colorado Springs Christian on Thursday.

In 2A, a new champion will be crowned Saturday night, with Merino the top overall seed.

In 1A, Flatirons Academy is the two-time defending champion but opens as the No. 2 seed behind unbeaten McClave.
Going into Thursday’s games, here is a quick look at the quarterfinal matchups in all three classifications:

Class 3A Great 8

University of Denver
Full bracket

No. 9 Ellicott (19-5) vs. No. 16 Buena Vista (16-8), 8:45 a.m.

An all-Tri-Peaks League opener kicks off the tournament Thursday. Buena Vista allows less than 30 points a game, with the offense focused around senior Autumn Wingo and junior Audrey Johnson, each of whom averaged close to 14 points this season. Ellicott finished fifth in the league, but upset St. Mary’s in the district semis before falling to The Vanguard School. The Thunderhawks defeated Buena Vista 47-28 on Jan. 14. Ellicott overcame a hot North Fork team in the second round, winning 45-40. Senior guard Alyssa Lagasse averages a little more than 17 points a game.

No. 3 Colorado Springs Christian (22-2) vs. No. 6 Platte Valley (17-7) 11:45 a.m.

This may be the best of the four quarterfinals played Thursday, featuring two teams that can score at will but also shut down opponents.

Colorado Springs Christian’s only regular-season loss came to 6A Rangeview. The Lions lost a nailbiter to The Vanguard in the district semis, 43-41 in overtime. The team’s first two opponents managed a combined 43 points against CSCS. Junior Grace Minihane averages more than 21 points a game, more than seven rebounds and nearly six steals.

Platte Valley dropped six of its first eight games this season, going up against a number of teams in higher classifications. Four of its seven defeats came to teams in the Final 4 in their respective classes: 5A Roosevelt and 4A Holy Family, University and Lutheran. The Broncos have won 11 in a row since an overtime loss to Lutheran.

Rocky Ford and Woodland Park combined to score only 46 points in the first two rounds of state. Seniors Andi Schissler and Bree Bunting average more than 16 points a game.

No. 5 The Vanguard School (19-5) vs. No. 13 Grand Valley (18-6), 4 p.m.

The Vanguard School comes into the tournament knowing how to win in close games. The team’s first two district games were won by a combined nine points, and the Coursers had to rally to survive Strasburg 63-61 in the second round of state. Senior Juliana Garcia led the way with 26 points in that game. Hailey Blanchard leads the team in scoring at 18.1 points a game.

Western Slope League champion Grand Valley entered regionals on a bit of a slide, having lost three of six – two of which came to North Fork. But the Cardinals dominated Bennett on Friday, then took down host Yuma 52-46. AbbeyRose Parker’s 25 points led the upset. She averages just more than 20 points a game.

No. 2 Centauri (21-2) vs. No. 7 St. Mary’s (19-5), 7 p.m.

A number of teams in the quarterfinals play sound defense, and Centauri is no exception. The Falcons allow just more than 30 points a game, and haven’t lost since a two-point setback to The Vanguard on Dec. 10. Olathe had a one-point halftime lead in the second round Saturday, but Centauri allowed only 10 points in the second half for a 42-34 victory.

Seniors Amaya Garcia and Abbey Smith combined to score 27 points. St. Mary’s lost only three regular-season games, falling to 4A semifinalists Lutheran and University, as well as Colorado Springs Christian. The Pirates dropped consecutive games in the district tournament before rolling past Gunnison and Highland. Junior Emerson Kutz leads the team in scoring, assists and steals, but the Pirates have a handful of players who can score in bunches.

Final 4: 4 p.m./7 p.m. on Friday at University of Denver

Championship: 4 p.m. on Saturday at University of Denver

Class 2A Great 8

Budweiser Events Center, Loveland
Full bracket

No. 12 Heritage Christian (18-5) vs. No. 13 Limon (17-6), 8:45 a.m.

A matchup of two upset-minded squads opens the 2A tournament, with one guaranteed a spot in the state semifinals. Heritage Christian received a second chance against Mile High League foe Gilpin County in the second round. After falling to the Eagles by two points on Feb. 2, Heritage Christian took a 46-27 victory to move on. The Eagles allow only 29.1 points a game, and are paced on offense by all-around talent Avery Hughes.

Limon has won of nine of 10 since a three-game skid that got February off on the wrong foot. But the Badgers downed Burlington to start its run, and the only blemish since is a district loss to the Cougars. Junior Katelyn Tacha scored 17 points as Limon eliminated No. 4 Dayspring Christian 39-36 in the second round. Tacha and fellow junior Jentri Marx lead the team in scoring. The Badgers reached the semis a year ago and played for the title in 2021.

No. 3 Burlington (19-4) vs. No. 6 Del Norte (19-5) 11:45 a.m.

Speaking of the Cougars, they find themselves back in the thick of the chase after a rough 9-14 campaign a year ago. Two losses came to out-of-state Goodland (Kan.), and Burlington has won nine in a row. Eight players scored in the team’s 52-32 second-round victory over Sanford, led by sophomore Kiyarra William’s 17 points. Williams averages more than 20 points a game.

Del Norte started the season with three losses to 3A programs, and has won 19 of its last 21 games. Like Burlington, the Tigers had a rough 2021-22 season, going 10-13. Senior Kelci Madrid scored 22 points in the team’s 42-38 victory over a tough No. 11 Simla squad in the second round.

No. 1 Merino (21-3) vs. No. 9 Wiggins (17-7), 4 p.m.

An all-Lower Platte quarterfinal pits the two teams who finished first and second in the league against one another. Merino has two victories over Wiggins this season, though both came in the first eight games. The Rams swept through the Lower Platte, but lost to Sedgwick County in the district semifinals.

A 20-win Hoehne team managed only 17 points against Merino in the second round. Freshman Kya Piel emerged as the team’s leading scorer this winter.

Wiggins was 8-5 as of Jan. 21, but the Tigers proceeded to win seven of eight before a loss to Sedgwick County in the district title game. Wiggins upended a Fowler team that had won nine of its last 10 games, winning 54-29 behind 18 points from Kennedy Kerr.

No. 2 Sedgwick County (19-5) vs. No. 7 Rangely (19-4), 7 p.m.

Sedgwick County may be the field’s hottest team. Since a six-point loss to Wiggins on Jan. 27, the Cougars have won 11 of 12, with the only loss coming to No. 1 Merino. Sedgwick County defeated Merino and Wiggins to win the district tournament, and took out another Lower Platte rival in Wray in the second round. Sophomore Abigail Dille scored a game-high 21 points in the 60-50 victory over Wray. Dille leads the team at 15.4 points a game, with Jensen Rehnquist not far behind at 12.7 points.

Rangely has to travel from the northeast corner of the state, but the Panthers won’t be an easy out. After a three-game losing streak to end December and into January, Rangely has won 14 of 15. That includes a 52-45 victory over Akron on Saturday, with Ryann Mergelman and Miah Wren each scoring 15 points.

Final 4: 4 p.m./7 p.m. on Friday at Budweiser Events Center

Championship: 7 p.m. on Saturday at Budweiser Events Center

Class 1A Great 8

Thursday at Bank of Colorado Arena, University of Northern Colorado
Full bracket

No. 3 Briggsdale (21-2) vs. No. 11 Fleming (15-7), 8:45 a.m.

Last year’s 1A runner-up, Briggsdale, opens play with the 2021 runner-up in Fleming. Briggsdale’s two losses came by a combined seven points to two-time defending champion Flatirons Academy and 2A’s No. 2 Sedgwick County. The Falcons defeated Fleming twice this winter, most recently a 50-41 overtime victory in the district tournament. Junior Jenna Krise pour in a game-high 29 points in a 68-31 rout of Eads in the second round. Krise averages 24.2 points a game, and Briggsdale allows just more than 33 points a game.

Fleming overcame a pair of three-game skids during the regular season and upset No. 6 Kiowa in regionals. Freshman Ciana Lousberg scored 14 points in the 44-36 triumph. Senior Kally Kirkwood leads the team in scoring at 11.9 points a game.

No. 1 McClave (23-0) vs. No. 9 Granada (20-3) 11:45 a.m.

McClave won four titles from 2004-09, but hasn’t made a title game since. The Cardinals are the only unbeaten team in the field, and allow less than 27 points a game. McClave owns two victories over Granada this season, the most recent coming Jan. 27. Freshmen Ashlynn Steinbrunn and Abrielle Gomez had a combined 28 points in Saturday’s victory over Cheyenne Wells, and senior Kennedy Vallejos added 14. Five freshmen are on varsity, with Gomez averaging 15 points a game.

Granada held off North Park 52-48, after the Wildcats upset No. 8 Sangre de Cristo in the first round. Senior Kiana Herrera and junior Marissa Valenzuela combined for 41 points in the victory. Two of the team’s three losses came to McClave, with the third to Kit Carson in the district tournament.

No. 2 Flatirons Academy (22-1) vs. No. 10 Kit Carson (17-7), 4 p.m.

Two-time defending champion Flatirons Academy loaded up with a tough non-league schedule, where the only loss came by two points to 4A Resurrection Christian. Along the way, the Bison defeated 2A No. 1 Merino and Briggsdale.

Senior Kenlee Durrill is one of four players scoring in double figures at 16.7 points, to go along with more than seven assists a game. Emma Cox averages 15.4 points and nine rebounds for an offense that averages 65 points a game and allows just more than 25.

Kit Carson topped No. 7 Springfield to reach the Great 8, with Tess Johnson pouring in 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting to go with 15 rebounds.

Three of the Wildcats’ losses this winter came to No. 1 McClave.

No. 4 Dove Creek (21-2) vs. No. 5 Stratton (16-8), 7 p.m.

Dove Creek is riding a 20-game winning streak. The team’s only losses came back in December to 3A Ignacio and Centauri. The Bulldogs fell by only one point to the Falcons, who are the No. 2 seed in the 3A quarterfinals.

A 43-35 victory over Cheraw gave the team a contest against an opponent outside of the Western Slope. Senior Rylee Hickman led the way with 13 points. Lexi Gray averages a double-double at 12.9 points and 12.2 rebounds.

Stratton dropped three in a row in mid-February to the 2A programs in its league, but the Eagles have won six in a row since that time. … Three of those victories came over Idalia, including Saturday’s 51-38 triumph. … Sedonia Isenbart averages more than 18 points a game for Stratton.

Final 4: 4 p.m./7 p.m. on Friday at University of Northern Colorado

Championship: 4 p.m. on Saturday at Budweiser Events Center