CLASS 1A BOYS BASKETBALL WEEKLY PREVIEW
BY: KERRY SHERMAN
After having the December slate dominated by tournaments (and winter storms that forced postponements), Class 1A boys basketball starts to heat up as many teams begin league play.
The only game played in the first couple days of the new calendar year saw the Tigers of Denver Jewish Day suffer their first loss of the season, 75-53, against 3A #5 Highland on Tuesday. Andrew Zimmerman came out of the holiday break red hot, hitting 13 of 17 shots from the floor in scoring a game-high 29 points. The junior raised his scoring average to 23.2 a game, good for fourth in the classification. Gavin Foonberg had an off night, being held to just three points. That dropped him to 18.4 a game. After being held to three assists, he fell from 11.5 to 9.8, which still leads the entire state, regardless of classification.
There is only one game on the slate on Wednesday, as Deer Trail hosts Arickaree in a contest that has been moved twice because of snow. No team has played fewer games that Arickaree, who saw three games postponed in December, leaving the Bison with just one outing. They dropped that against #5 Genoa-Hugo, 35-32. Logan Wright recorded a big double-double in the loss, posting 16 points and 15 rebounds. The Bison have been off for almost a complete month.
Deer Trail (2-1) started the season slowly, dropping their opening contest 27-26 to Bethune. That was in their annual tournament. The Eagles bounced back to win their last two games of 2022. Dominik Mingee is averaging 15.3 points and a ridiculous 13.7 steals a night. The latter of those leads the entire state, regardless of classification, by a full five steals a game. Second in the state is his teammate, Ivan Paredes, at 8.7 per contest.
It might seem counterintuitive to spotlight a game featuring a one-win team against the defending state champion and third-ranked team, but it’s one with a lot on the line. Cheyenne Wells (1-4) is ranked 13th in the latest coaches poll and they travel to #3 McClave (4-2) in the High Plains opener for both. Cheyenne Wells dropped all three games against Kansas schools during the Border Wars, all without Blake Gilmore, who suffered a broken collarbone early in the football season, and Perry Chadwick, who broke his arm late in the season. Gilmore returned for the final two games, a close loss to #6 Briggsdale and a win over Longmont Christian. He’s averaging 10 points, second to Ty Scheler’s 16.4 a night. Carson Noe is giving close to 10 a game at 9.6. Chadwick missed all five games in the month.
McClave was also involved in the Border Wars, going 1-2. The Cards opened with a 15-point loss to Greeley County, the defending Class 1A Division 2 champs and #1 team in Kansas. Back in Colorado, the Cards won the championship of the prestigious Lamar Holiday Tournament, beating Wiley in the opener and taking down 2A #8 Holly in the semifinals. McClave faced another ranked team in the finals, as the Cards won a tough 55-47 contest against #8 Granada. Aiden Martinez is one of three members of the team to average double figures in scoring at 16.7 ppg. Connor Forgue is next at 11.8 and Aydin Gomez checks in at 11.2 a game.
Snow forced Otis (2-2) and Stratton (2-1) to postpone their game from December, but they’re getting together on Thursday. It’s a rematch of the Akron Holiday Tournament championship game that Stratton won 50-47. For the Bulldogs it was their third game that was decided by single digits, and their second loss in those contests. Along with their game at Stratton, the Bulldogs also had a trip to Weldon Valley moved because of the snow.
Both of Stratton’s wins in the Akron tournament were by single digits, as the Eagles also beat Akron 53-47 in the opener of the event. They were able to get out of the snow and on the road on December 17th and visited Colby (KS). That group of Eagles won the big Topside Tip-Off in Goodland and kept rolling, claiming a 69-45 victory to improve to 7-0 and hand Stratton its first loss.
Friday’s schedule isn’t the sexiest, but there are still a few games that catch your attention. In the Union Pacific, Genoa-Hugo (5-0) travels to 2A #1 Limon (2-0) with the Pirates looking to stay perfect in the league after claiming a lopsided win over Flagler in December. Three of their five wins were by single digits, adding a six-point win at Idalia and a one-pointer over Hi-Plains at home to their three-point victory at Arickaree. Trey Smith is second in the classification in scoring at 24.6 points a night, and the junior adds 5.6 steals a contest. No one else on the team is in double figures for scoring.
It’s been more than a month since the Badgers last took the floor, with their last contest coming on December 3rd. They defeated Simla in that last game to win their own tournament. Jordan Rockwell leads the team at 13.5 ppg and Kaden Becker adds 10 points. Limon last lost to the Pirates in 2017 and has won 16 of the last 17 meetings.
Top-ranked Belleview Christian (7-0) return to action by visiting 2A Golden View Classical (5-3) for a rematch of their semifinal clash at the Denver Christian tournament. The Bruins claimed a 55-42 victory, thanks largely in part to a 13-1 edge in the second quarter. Nathaniel Owen, who leads the classification in scoring at 25.3 ppg put up a game-high 26 in that contest. He added 10 rebounds for a double-double, as well as six blocks. Davin Hunter had his own double-double with 18 points and 11 boards.
Golden View Classical went through a stretch where the Sentinels dropped three of four games, with the loss to the Bruins being the third defeat. They also had a loss to Denver Jewish Day during that part of their schedule. The Sentinels closed the month of December with a win over Fowler, the 12th ranked team in 2A. They have two big scorers in Jakob Gonzalez (18.7 ppg) and MinZheng Wahlers (17.5 ppg). Wahlers went for 22 in the first meeting with the Bruins, but Gonzalez was held to 10.
Eighth-ranked Granada (2-2) opened the season with a loss to the second-ranked team in 2A, Crowley County, and closed the first month with the loss to McClave in the finals of the LHBT. In between were wins over Kit Carson and Eads. The Bobcats get back to action by hosting Springfield (3-3) in a non-league contest.
Springfield was 2-1 heading into the tournament in Lamar, but the Longhorns dropped two of three, finishing sixth in the event, and ending 2022 with a 3-3 mark. Their roster is loaded with younger players, and one of them leads the team in scoring. Sophomore Colby Batterton is averaging 12.8 ppg, while a junior, Cooper Stolebarger, is on the fringe of double figures at 9.7 ppg.
The Fleming tournament that was postponed in December also tips off on Friday. Opening round match-ups have Arickaree facing 2A Gilpin County (0-3) and the host Wildcats (1-2) squaring off against Flagler (1-4).
One of the featured games on Saturday has #18 Sierra Grande (4-3) visiting 2A #7 Evangelical Christian. The Panthers own a win over Springfield to open the season, and their losses are to 2A #2 Crowley County, 2A #8 Holly, and a 3A Ellicott. With a big roster turnover due to graduation, Brian Ontiveros has stepped into more of a scoring role. He leads the team at 15.3 ppg, and Manuel Miranda is next at 10.6 ppg. No one else is over five points a night.
The addition of Class 6A caused a lot of realignment, moving teams up a classification. One of those teams was Evangelical Christian, who had become a fixture at the state tournament over the last few years. The move up to 2A hasn’t changed one thing… the Eagles know how to win. Included in their victory total are wins over #7 Cheraw and 2A #12 Fowler.
McClave will also take on a top 2A team when the Cards visit Simla (5-2). The Cubs are ranked sixth in 2A. They are also one of the teams that had to move up a classification. Their two losses haven’t been against slouches. The Cubs pushed the top-ranked team in 2A, Limon, and the ninth-ranked squad, Merino. They closed December with a nice win over Peyton, who is adjusting to life in 3A.
Sixth-ranked Briggsdale (3-0) finally gets to return to action on Saturday, with the Falcons visiting #11 Stratton. The Falcons have scored at least 62 points in all three of their games to date behind Tanner Fiscus. The junior is among the state leaders in scoring (23.7 ppg) and assists (9.3). His assist numbers rank him second in the entire state, trailing only Gavin Foonberg from DJDS. John Krise has been on the receiving end of a lot of those dimes, as the big senior averages 20 points, along with 11.3 rebounds a game. Zach Bauer makes it a three-man game for the Falcons, as he scores just over 14 points a game. No one else averages more than two points a night.
The Trojans of Ouray, ranked 15th in the coaches poll, can even their record inside the San Juan Basin with a win at home against Nucla (2-2). The visiting Mustangs host DeBeque (3-3) in a non-league contest on Friday, looking to make it two wins over the Dragons this season. Nucla got the Dragons by a 50-49 count in a tournament last month,and they play again at the end of this month. The Mustangs feature three good scorers, beginning with Hemmy O’Brien at 15.7 ppg. Not far behind is freshman Brycen Hummel at 15.0 ppg, and Steele Arnold adds 11.3 ppg. Hummel and Arnold both grab 7.7 boards a night.
Ouray (5-3) also owns a tournament win over DeBeque, 41-33, as well as a 57-56 decision over #9 Dove Creek (6-2). The Trojans do enter the game having lost two of their last three. They have seven players averaging at least six points a game, led by DC Miller at 12.3 ppg and Kortlan Nelson at 10.3 ppg. The Trojans have won 29 of the 31 meetings with Nucla during the MaxPreps era.
There are only two games currently on the schedule for next Monday, and one features a team in the top-ten of the most recent rankings. Tenth-ranked Pikes Peak Christian (3-1) hosts 2A Elbert (3-1) in non-league play. For the Eagles this will be their second game of the new year, as they also visit Liberty Tree Academy on Friday. Their lone loss this season was against 2A Colorado Springs School in a tournament. Gabriel Fletcher (14 ppg), Eddie Harmon (13.5 ppg, 14 rebounds), and Trey Merrill (12.5 ppg, 10.3 rebounds) are a three-headed monster for the Eagles.
Elbert’s wins have come in lopsided fashion, with the Bulldogs winning by 48, 39, and 27. Their lone loss came against Byers, a game in which they were outscored 21-12 in a pivotal second quarter. They will visit 2A Burlington on Saturday in a non-league game. They are in the same district this year. Logan LaFollette (15 ppg) and Eli Cornell (13 ppg) combine for 28 points a night, while Ethan Tesman (9.7 ppg) and Caleb Cornell (8 ppg) add close to 18 more each night.