Past December scheduling in Class 3A has always involved traditional powers meeting in non-conference battles and that trend continues here in the 2018-19 season. The week one slate includes a top 10 battle, another top 10 club possibly pushed in a season opener and other matchups involving programs hoping to land league titles. Our report looks at those contests and others of note in Classes 4A and 5A.
St Mary’s is the defending state champion and begins the season ranked #1 in pre-season polling released by CHSAA. The Pirates get in a good test right away as they host 10th ranked Resurrection Christian on Friday and will play without head coach Mike Burkett on the sideline. According to gazettepreps.com, the veteran coach has been placed on administrative leave by the school. No other details are known at this time.
The backcourt tandem of Josephine Howery (14 pts) and Sierra Hackley (10 pts) will likely carry the Pirates until new inside players develop. The Pirates lost both Makenna Bodette and Mary Cummings to graduation and they combined for 21 points and 11 rebounds a year ago. Howery and Hackley should be up to the task as both have been in the starting lineup since their freshman seasons. Howery also provides five rebounds, four assists and three steals per game. Hackley last year chipped in three rebounds, three steals and two assists.
They will be paired up against Resurrection Christian standout JuJu Hemeyer who is coming off a junior season where she averaged 15 points, three assists and four steals a game. She hopes to lead the Cougars past the 17-win mark and into the state tournament. Other key returnees include Elisabeth Perl (8 pts), Gracie Stults (6) and Molli Peacock (5). The Cougars enter the game ranked 10th.
On the same night, #4 Pagosa Springs faces a tough road opener at Salida. The Pirates are a regular visitor to the state tournament and have a recent state championship but this year must find a replacement for Morgan Lewis. She finished her stellar career by averaging 18 points and nine rebounds a game. She was also the vocal leader of the club.
Like St Mary’s, the Pirates will likely lean on their backcourt early on as both Devin Wilson (8 pts / 3 assists) and Taylor Lewis (6 pts / 4 assists) return to the lineup. Inside, the Pirates will turn to Hailey Griego and Teagan Stretton who combined to scored eight points and pull down seven rebounds as sophomores.
They will line up Friday against a Salida club that returns their top nine scorers from last year and a team that wants to find out if they can play with the top programs in Class 3A. Alejandra Godina is the top returnee as she led the Spartans in both scoring (11) and rebounding (5) last season. Bailey Golden and Kyler Weaver were 2-3 in scoring and combined for 15 points and seven rebounds a night.
One of the new tournaments on tap this year can be found at Faith Christian and the Eagles wasted little time in developing a good field. Faith opens with Manitou Springs with Delta and Vanguard sitting on the other side. All four teams should finish at or near the top of their respective conferences.
Faith Christian averaged just 34 points a game last year so they’ll seek more offensive punch this year. Ashley Finch, with eight points per game, led the Eagles in that category and rebounding (7.5) last season. She’s joined by Makenzie Connor at six points per game.
Manitou Springs won 15 games last year under first year coach Justin Armour. Caileen Seinknecht returns after averaging 12 points and eight rebounds a game. Bridget Bodor, with six points and six rebounds a game, is another key returning Mustang.
Vanguard is trending up. The Coursers ended last season at 14-9 but welcome back talented sophomore Alexis Garcia. She paced the team with 14 points a game and was the teams’ lone double-digit scorer. Cortney Arrasmith averaged six points and eight rebounds per game as a sophomore.
Delta was part of the four-way tie for the Western Slope championship last year and based on their returnees could be favored to land the title outright this year. Sara Geddes (12) led the team in scoring as a sophomore and Keely Porter chipped in seven per game in her freshman season. Melissa Webb (9) and Jenna Sutliff (7) are two other crucial components back in the lineup.
Grand Valley is a second WSL team that will spend some time in the metro area this week as the Cardinals go to Jefferson Academy. The game is a matchup of great balance from Jefferson Academy against one of the best scorers statewide. J-A had ten players average between three and seven points per game with six of those returning this year. Grand Valley is paced by Shaya Chenoweth who poured in 23 points a night as a junior.
Pair of Early Top 10 Battles are Featured in Class 4A
The 4A slate is headed up by two top 10 matchups. #3 Evergreen tangles with #8 Thomas Jefferson on Wednesday and then #4 Air Academy meets #5 Holy Family on Friday.
Evergreen (26-2) finally jumped the last hurdle in winning the state championship last March. The game served as the last for Coach Amy Bahl as she stepped away from the program shortly after. She led the Cougars to 75 wins in three seasons but now the reins have been given to Maddy Hornecker.
The Cougars could challenge for another title as Claudia Dillon returns for her final season. The player of the year averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds per game as a junior and we won’t be surprised if those numbers increase this year. That’s because the next three scorers from the championship team graduated last Spring.
Thomas Jefferson enters the game at 0-1 following a huge 31-point loss to #10 Sierra on Monday night (74-43). Kharial Clark dropped in 20 points and Daija Robbins added 18 but the rest of the Spartans combined for just five points. Clark and Robbins connected on 13 of 22 shots; the rest of the club just 1 of 10. T-J last year finished 22-3.
Holy Family picked off 21 wins last season but suffered through a third round exit in the state tournament as they lost to Widefield 59-53. Genevieve Gudino averaged nine points per game as a freshman and could become the first scoring option this year as Izzy Hren graduated. Hren led the Tigers with 17 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game last season. Amanda Ward (7.4) and Kaitlyn McKenzie (5.6) also return for the Tigers.
Air Academy, which won this battle 33-31 in overtime last year, used the victory to spark a nice 24-2 season. The Kadets were bounced from the state tournament by the eventual champions (Evergreen) 50-36. 10 of the 12 players who scored on the varsity level last season return so expectations are again high in the Springs. Kylee Blackstun (8.7) is the top returning scorer with Zoe Sims (6.3) next in line. Both pulled down over four rebounds a night as well. The Kadets cruised past Classical Academy 68-22 in their season opener on Tuesday.
A nice rivalry game out west finds Fruita Monument (5A) against Palisade (4A). The Wildcats have captured 65 wins in the past three years and last year made the Great 8 before a loss to Fossil Ridge (58-52) ended their great run. Riley Snyder (18.2), Angelique Gall (14.9) and Mackenzie Wells (6.1) were all lost to graduation so the Wildcats have several holes to fill as the season begins. Palisade has won 56 games over the past three years and has been a strong challenger to the WSL title each year. Their top returnee is Alexandra MacAskill at nearly six points and four rebounds per game.
#2 Pueblo South and #6 Mesa Ridge picked up easy wins to open their 2018-19 seasons on Tuesday. The Colts handled Sand Creek 76-30 and Mesa Ridge rolled Pueblo East 64-28. Serin Dunne led the Grizzlies with 23 points including a four of six outing from beyond the arc. Kylie Lenberg added eight rebounds.
Windsor and Valor Christian Make Jump to Class 5A
In 5A, the two most attractive games left on the week one schedule find Fossil Ridge at Windsor (Wednesday) and Chaparral at Valor Christian (Friday). Fossil Ridge and Valor Christian are favored as they’re ranked 5th and 10th respectively in the pre-season polls.
Fossil Ridge is coming off a state semifinal appearance and a 20-win season. Ashley Steffeck averaged nearly 13 points and six rebounds a game and is considered among the best players in Colorado. She dropped in 33 treys last season and also averaged four steals per game defensively. Windsor (20-5) joins the 5A ranks this year and returns the senior duo of Hollie Hoffman (12.6) and Ally Kennis (7.5). Both played important roles on the volleyball team that made the 5A state tournament and grabbed two wins while there.
Valor Christian joins Windsor as former 4A clubs that are playing in the 5A division this year. The Eagles final run through 4A included 18 wins but also an earlier than expected exit in the state tournament. They fell to Pueblo South in the Sweet 16. Sophomore Kindyl Wetta could be in for a breakout season after averaging team highs in scoring (13.4), rebounds (6.1), assists (5.0) and steals (4.8) as a freshman.
Chaparral opened with an easy win (72-35) over Overland on Tuesday and the Wolves look to improve on last year’s 16-8 record. It could happen as the top four scorers return including seniors Mack Maier (12.0) and Sydney Speights (11.6).