It’s a very important night of basketball in the boys division as several conference champions could be crowned. Much of the focus is found in Class 2A with big battles in the Black Forest, Southern Peaks, Union Pacific and Mile High.
Fleming at Prairie: Briggsdale (6-1) leads the 1A North Central but the winner of this one takes over second place. Both teams have two league losses and Prairie right now has the tiebreaker based on the 64-56 win over the Wildcats on January 25th. That win started off the Mustangs current five game winning streak. A win also keeps Prairie in line for a share of the league title as they have a game remaining with Briggsdale next week. Fleming has lost two straight with losses to Genoa Hugo last week and Merino on Tuesday but they’re also the only league club to beat Briggsdale this season. In game one with Prairie, freshman Braylen Feather scored a career high 19 points.
Dolores Huerta Prep at Peyton: This is the first of many important games on the 2A level on Friday as the winner takes over the top spot in the Black Forest. They’ve combined to win all nine conference games to date and each has a two-game lead on the rest of conference. DH Prep is 11-1 since Christmas with their lone loss to 3A ranked DSST-Byers. They outscored 4A Pueblo Centennial 87-78 and 2A Independent Banning Lewis 67-57 already this week. Most of their points come from the trio of Isaiah Trujillo (16.8), Xavier Gomez (15.8) and Charles Winston (15.3). Peyton is 8-1 since the holiday break with an overtime loss to Burlington as their only blemish. Simla is their latest victim as they beat the Cubs 53-35 two nights ago. Brennen Meyers (12.5) is the lone double digit scorer but Gavin Miller (9.5), AJ Lashley (8.4) and Gibson Gellerman (7.4) all average at least seven.
Fowler at Crowley County: Fowler has already clinched the Western division of the 2A Santa Fe and now they can clinch the overall best record. They’re currently 11-0 with this game and a home date with Swallows Charter next week left on the schedule. Crowley County has played twice this week with an overtime loss to Rocky Ford (48-42) and a win over Ellicott (65-40).
Center at Sanford: Both teams have a league loss to Crested Butte so the winner could end up second in the 2A Southern Peaks. The Indians beat Center 49-38 earlier this season and had won nine straight before a 47-38 road loss to Crested Butte last week. Following the earlier loss to Sanford, Center also came up short to Crested Butte in their next game but has won four in-a-row. Included in the winning streak is a 53-50 win over Del Norte last week. In the first meeting with Sanford, Devin Porres led the Vikings with 19 points including three treys.
Denver Christian at Highland: Possibly the top game statewide as Highland is ranked #1 in Class 2A and Denver Christian #3. RPI also comes into play as the Huskies lead the division with the Thunder sitting in fourth. And there’s the Mile High title where both teams are unbeaten in league play and share the top spot going in. As always, pace and turnovers are important against Highland. The Huskies have played one more league game than Denver Christian but have scored 293 more points (812-519). Overall, Highland averages 87 points a game compared to 58 for the Thunder. Highland also averages nearly 22 steals per game and their full-court pressure often turns those miscues into quick points. Both Jase and Tate Bessire average over five steals per night and three others have two. Tate Bessire (25.6) is the top offensive threat for the Huskies and he needs just six points to reach 1,500 for his career. Jase Bessire (15.4), Bowen Tolle (15.1) and Holden Morgan (12.4) also average double figures for the Huskies. Denver Christian leans heavily on Ben Buhler (20.0) and Henry Vandenburg (11.0) who also combine for 12.6 rebounds per game.
Byers at Limon: This is the last hurdle for Limon and their quest for another 2A/1A Union Pacific championship. They enter the game at 5-0 with a one game edge on the Bulldogs and Burlington. The Badgers topped Burlington last week with Byers suffering their only league loss to the Cougars on February 1st. Another concern is RPI standings as those numbers will help seed the bracket. Limon is #2 in the polls but could be placed behind Denver Christian (#4) as they lost to the Thunder earlier this year. Byers is #25 and is currently projected as the fourth seed. Both teams will work deep off the bench but each is led by a very good duo on the offensive end. Zane Mikita (17.0) and Caden Eyerman (11.7) top Byers while Limon is paced by Kory Tacha (16.8) and Caden Smithburg (16.3).
Machebeuf at Faith Christian: Lutheran clinched the 3A Metro championship by beating Colorado Academy on Thursday so this game will now impact spots two through four. Faith Christian (7-1) is alone in second with Machebeuf tied with Manual in third one game back. Manual has just one league game left as they go to Lutheran on the 18th so if the ‘Bolts lose there, the winner between Faith and Machebeuf should finish second. Machebeuf lost to Manual 59-53 to close January but has won all three games thus far in February. They scored a nice 69-63 win over Kent Denver earlier this week with Ryan Schmitt and Darius Richard both scoring 17. Faith Christian has won their last five and is coming off a 62-49 win at Peak to Peak three nights ago. They led 36-19 at intermission to gain control.
Grand Valley at Gunnison: Another game to help sort out a very crowded 3A Western Slope chase. Gunnison shares first place with Coal Ridge but has the tiebreaker based on their win over the Titans early in league play. Grand Valley is part of a three-way tie for third with Moffat County and Delta but the Cardinals have already beaten both the Bulldogs and Panthers. Grand Valley’s offense is paced by Emilio Garcia (15.3) and Blade McCormick (10.9). Four others average at least five points a game. Gunnison senior Hunter Wood (20.9) is the top scorer in the conference with support coming from Braden Wood (13.8) and Aidan Hulbert (10.4). Should Gunnison get the win, then Coal Ridge must beat Aspen to keep pace. Losses by the Cowboys and Titans will leave five teams tied for first going into Saturday.
Arvada West at Valor Christian/Dakota Ridge at Columbine: All four teams have one league loss and share the top spot in the 5A Jeffco with Ralston Valley. Winners of these two games will stay in first place with Ralston Valley provided the Mustangs beat Bear Creek as expected. The biggest game so far this week took place two nights ago as Valor Christian down Dakota Ridge 79-53. Dakota Ridge was alone in first before the loss and the outcome created the current five-team logjam. Dakota Ridge continues their rugged stretch with Columbine tonight and then Ralston Valley next Wednesday. Valor has won four straight; Columbine their last six and Arvada West their last three.
Chaparral at ThunderRidge: Several teams have been involved in the 5A Continental chase but the race may come down to this matchup. The Wolverines and Grizzlies are both 6-1 in league play and are tied atop the standings by one game over Regis, Mountain Vista and Legend. The winner cannot clinch as each has two conference games still on the schedule next week. ThunderRidge lost to Rock Canyon (45-39) in their conference opener but has won their six and seven consecutive overall. It’s a balanced attack with six players averaging between six and 11 points per game. That group is led by Nolan Marold (10.9) who also tops the Grizzlies with 6.2 rebounds. Justin Smith (8.1), Colton Sanders (7.7) and Tommy Crawford (7.7) are next on the scoring list. Chaparral’s lone league loss (Mountain Vista) also came early and they’ve grabbed wins in their last five. Kobe Sanders leads the Wolverines in points (19.8) and assists (4.3) while Jeremiah Coleman adds 10 points and Joel Speckman five boards a game.