On the pretender-to-contender scale in high school boys basketball, Mesa Ridge has proven to be the real deal.
Or is it, Riehl deal?
At this time last year, the Grizzlies were just 5-8 — though, they found traction late in the year and ran all the way to the state round of 16.
This winter, they’re ranked as the No. 1 team in 5A in the latest CHSAA coaches’ poll. This month alone though, they’ve beaten defending champ Lewis-Palmer and a 2022 round of 16 team in Vista Ridge.
The Riehl brothers lead the way. Junior Tevin is averaging 14.4 PPG, while sophomore Bryce (11.2) has nearly doubled his scoring production from his freshman season.
In this week’s look-in on the sport, we’ll go through a couple of the biggest surprise teams in the bigger classifications.
Dakota Ridge (10-2): The Eagles were a solid team a season ago, starting 7-5 at this point before going on to lose in the 5A first round.
This year feels like a step forward.
All hands in, Dakota Ridge has won seven straight behind seven players averaging more than six points per game.
Sophomore Ethan Berninger has boosted his production from five points and 2.2 rebounds per game to a team-leading 10.8 and 3.2 this season.
The Eagles are at Green Mountain Wednesday and are on the road at Evergreen Friday.
Pagosa Springs (9-2): Junior Blake Laner averaged less than five points and four rebounds per game a season ago.
Now his production has shot through the roof and the Pirates are rolling because of it.
Laner leads the team at 14.1 points and 7.8 rebounds coming into the week.
With him and third-year coach Wes Lewis at the helm, Pagosa Springs has won eight of its last nine, holding teams under 40 points in eight of its 11 games.
The Pirates host Alamosa Friday, then Bayfield Saturday.
Severance (8-3): The Silver Knights were just 4-7 at this point a season ago, ultimately reaching the second round of the state playoffs.
Parker Gazdik has elevated his game since, going from seven points per game to 10.
Star Ty Adam, meanwhile, has stayed consistent, posting near 20 PPG and a double-double average for a third straight season.
The Colorado State-Pueblo commit is currently at 19.8 PPG and 8.6 boards.
Severance is at Thompson Valley Tuesday, Roosevelt Thursday and hosts Frederick Saturday.
Smoky Hill (10-2): Senior Rickey Mitchell was a standout last season, averaging 16 PPG, 3.5 boards and 2.9 assists.
What do we call him now?
The senior has been a points factory this winter, scoring at least 25 in seven of his 12 games, averaging 26.1.
In a 72-60 win over California-school Gardena last week, Mitchell scored 30, his fourth game with 30-plus.
The Buffaloes are 4-0 this month, last beating Manual 97-46 Thursday. They open play in the Centennial League Wednesday, facing Eaglecrest.
Fountain-Fort Carson (13-0): The Trojans have reached 13 wins just three times over the last decade.
This winter is the latest. And it’s only January.
Senior Antonio Martinez is averaging 12 points per game more than last year, averaging 19.6.
Fellow-classmate William Toney has nearly doubled his scoring production at 12.1 points to go along with his 6.6 rebounds and 2.8 steals.
The Trojans are 3-0 this month and face Pine Creek later Tuesday night.