CLASS 1A BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW
BY: KERRY SHERMAN
With just a few weeks of regular season play, a quick glance at the CHSAA Selection and Seeding Index tells you there are some serious challengers for the state title and three are in the same league. As the teams makes a late push for the postseason, our focus is on the top games in the leagues this week. All rankings, unless otherwise noted, are from the most recent Seeding Index released by CHSAA.
The top three teams in the Seeding Index call the 5280 home, one of which is looking to claim its second state title in a three year span. Belleview Christian sits atop the Seeding Index but the Bruins have company at the top of the 5280 standings. Denver Jewish Day (2nd) visits Flatirons Academy (3rd) on Thursday and the winner will continue to share the league lead with Belleview Christian. At least for a few days.
Denver Jewish Day collected its sixth straight win by defeating Beth Eden Baptist 73-24. The Tigers led 53-16 at the half. Andrew Zimmerman continues to shine on the offensive end of the floor for the Tigers, as the senior set a new career-high last Friday, pumping in 41 points against Mile High Academy. He has a good shot at surpassing 1000 career points if he can keep up his current pace, averaging almost 25 points a game. Gavin Foonberg is closing in on that same milestone. He’s averaging 18 points a game and was less than 200 points away entering the week. Foonberg is also on pace to reach 500 career assists, and he has a shot at 200 career steals.
Flatirons Academy bounced back from a loss to 2A #1 Evangelical Christian two weeks ago with two consecutive lopsided wins last week. The Bison have two losses going into Thursday’s big clash, with both coming against teams ranked #1 in the Seeding Index for their respective class, with the other coming against Belleview Christian in non-league play. Josiah Durrill averages 12.5 points a game, and he has plenty of help in the likes of Nolan Sheppard (11.6 ppg), Pistol Chavez (11.2 ppg), Jude Meyer (9.2 ppg), and Parker Wilson (7.8 ppg). The Bison had a four-game winning streak over Denver Jewish Day snapped last year when Zimmerman poured in 28 points, being on the receiving end of a large number of Foonberg’s 15 assists.
Wiley is the highest ranked team from the Ark Valley in the Seeding Index, checking in at #11, but it’s Springfield (23rd) who has the lead in the league chase at 2-0. The Longhorns will have a chance to improve to 3-0 in league play on Tuesday when they host South Baca (51st).
The biggest match-up for the week in a non-league affair between Wiley and Cheraw (9th) on Saturday. The Panthers went into Thursday’s league tilt with Walsh (44th) having won seven straight. They have five players averaging between eight and 13 points, from Cade Phillips up to Cooper Tixier. Between them are Jace Parker, Devon Louellien, and Evan Larrick. Larrick is the only one in that group in double figures at 11.4 ppg. Tixier has recorded a double-double seven times this season and is pulling down 14.6 boards a game.
Cheraw had won four of five before last Friday’s 35-34 loss to Cheyenne Wells in High Plains league play. The other two losses for the Wolverines came against two of the top three teams in the 2A Seeding Index, #1 Evangelical Christian and #3 Crowley County. With Wiley sliding into the same district in the postseason there is a chance that this is a preview of another meeting in tournament play.
The biggest game in the Black Forest happens on Friday when the Hanover (36th) hosts Pikes Peak Christian (10th). That match-up is between the league leaders and the winner most likely wins the Black Forest title. Hanover dropped a tough contest to 2A Elbert on Wednesday, but the Hornets have still won five of their last seven. That’s after opening the season 0-4. The Hornets have four losses by single digits. Ben Kyne is having a strong senior season, averaging 15.5 points and four steals a game.
Pikes Peak Christian has been on a tear lately, winning six of its last seven and averaging close to 67 points a game in that stretch. Even in the loss to 3A Thomas MacLaren the Eagles scored 66, losing by five. Trey Merrill heads up a quartet of scorers in double figures at 14 a night. He’s followed closely by Eddie Harmon (13.0 ppg), Gabriel Fletcher (12.6 ppg), and Trevor Roney (10.2 ppg). The Eagles nearly have a fifth member of that club, as Noah Sachsenmaier comes in at nine points a game. Pikes Peak Christian lost the last meeting between the two clubs, 53-50, but dating back to 2006, they own a 19-6 lead in the series.
With only two members in the Fishers Peak league, most of the bigger games will be non-league. That’s the case this week as La Veta (19th) visits Springfield. The Redhawks will be in the same district as Springfield when the postseason begins, so neither team will have to go far to get a scouting report if they meet in late February.
La Veta has won three straight and four of its last five, overcoming a 1-4 start to the season. A win on Friday puts the Redhawks over the .500 mark for the first time this season. Joe Autry hasn’t quite matched the production from his junior season, but he’s still putting up very good numbers. His average of 16 ppg leads the team, and he’s also near the top in steals and blocked shots. Fellow senior Race Lessar is also in double figures at 11.6 ppg, and his rebounds (6.4) and steals (2.2) are both tops for the squad.
Springfield lost for the third time in four outings, dropping a 59-47 decision to 2A Cotopaxi at a neutral site. That dropped the Longhorns below .500 on the season. Youth leads the team in many categories, with sophomore Colby Batterton leading in scoring (13.6 ppg), rebounding (5.7), and steals (1.8). A pair of juniors follow him in the score book, with Cooper Stolebarger chipping in 8.8 ppg and Kurt Parks adding six points a night. Stolebarger is the team leader in distributing the ball, averaging just a tick under three assists a game. Treven Batterton is tied for the team lead in rebounding, also pulling down 5.7 boards a night. This will be the fifth meeting with La Veta since 2019 and the Longhorns have won three of the previous four, including the last two. They needed overtime to claim a 61-55 victory. Autry went off for 30 points, and Springfield had three in double figures, led by C. Batterton with 20.
There are always a number of great games inside the High Plains, but a top-20 match-up on Friday is too good to pass up. The defending state champion, McClave (4th), pays a visit to Granada (18th), pitting two of the three teams without a league loss against each other. Cheraw hosting co-leader Eads (22nd) isn’t a bad consolation prize, and would grab the spotlight most nights.
A lot of people wrote off McClave after losing their two talented exchange students who helped the Cards win the championship last year, but they forgot about all the homegrown talent that would be returning. The core of that title squad has only dropped three games so far, and none to a 1A opponent. They opened the season by pushing one of the top small school programs in the state of Kansas, Greeley County, before falling by 15. They would suffer another loss in the Border Wars before going on a five-game winning streak that included winning the Lamar Holiday Tournament. That streak was snapped by 2A #4 Simla right after returning from the holiday break. Aiden Martinez is one of the top scorers in the classification, coming in just under 18 points a game. His running mate, Aydin Gomez, adds 11.2 points a night, and Connor Forgue goes for just shy of 10 per contest.
Granada had high expectations after taking home the third place trophy at last year’s state tournament, but the Bobcats have been hit hard by injuries. A 55-47 loss to McClave in the title game of the Lamar tourney started a five-game skid. The Bobcats have since won three straight and are within one game of getting back to the .500 mark for the season. They have four players in double figures, but none have played in all 11 games. John Hainer is the closest, as he’s only missed one. He’s averaging 15 points and almost 10 boards a game. Maddox Coleman made his season debut last week and is scoring 13 ppg. Jonus Guevara has missed three games, but is he scored 22 on Tuesday against South Baca. Brandon Gonzales has not played since that first meeting with McClave in December. He was averaging 11 points in those first four games.
Once again, it looks like the North Central will come down to Briggsdale (8th) and Fleming (12th). We don’t have to wait long for that clash, as they meet this Saturday in Fleming. The winner most likely wins the league title.
Briggsdale ran out to a 4-0 start to the season, but the last three were closer than they would have liked. The Falcons beat Cheyenne Wells (15th) by 11, Idalia (25th) by six, and Stratton (5th) by seven. They’ve since lost two of their last three, both to 2A teams. Tanner Fiscus is among the state scoring leaders at 21.7 ppg, and his seven assists a night are also right up there with the best. John Krise is close to a double-double guy, averaging 15.7 points and 9.1 rebounds. He’s also shooting 40% from three. Briggsdale faces Otis (14th) on Friday.
The Wildcats dropped the first two games of the season, but have responded with six wins in their last seven contests. Like Briggsdale, they won’t be able to focus on this game until game day since they have a home game with a top-15 2A #6 Merino on Friday. Kolten Houser (15.9 ppg) and Braylen Feather (14.3 ppg) combine for just over 30 points a night, and Feather also adds more than 10 boards per contest. The Wildcats have lost five of the last seven meetings with Briggsdale, including the last two, but they still own a 22-12 lead in the series during the MaxPreps era.
SAN JUAN BASIN
Dove Creek (6th) and 2A Mancos are tied atop the San Juan Basin at 3-0 and they meet on Friday. Dove Creek will have the home court advantage, and the Bulldogs are unbeaten at home this season. The Bulldogs have won seven straight going into the contest, the last four each by at least 21 points. Kade Hankins pours in better than 20 points a game to go with close to three steals. Tanner Williams adds 11.6 points.
Mancos puts a six-game winning streak of its own on the line, and the Bluejays have put up a lot of points during the run. They’ve scored more than 80 twice and also had games with 66 and 67 points. A win really gives them an inside track to the league title, as they already own a win over third place Telluride and still have another game with the Miners next Saturday. Five of the six players who have seen action in all 12 games average between seven and 13 points a game. Kaiden Wyatt (13.4 ppg) and Brian Veach (12.8 ppg) combine for more than 26 a game.
Very few games have been played inside the Southern Peaks, only two as of Thursday. With most of the slate still to be played, it’s too early to call any game a potential “league championship” game. However, there appears to be two front runners in the league.
Sangre de Cristo (27th) is 1-0 in the league but just 6-5 overall. The Thunderbirds had a three-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday by La Veta and they step up to face 2A Swink on Friday. They’re home on Saturday to face Centennial (13th) in what is the league opener for the Rams. Kaiden Smit averages a double-double of 16.2 points and 12 rebounds, while also blocking three shots a game. He has recorded eight double-doubles on the season. Andreas Olivas adds 12.6 points and seven boards.
Centennial has not had a 10-win season since the 2012-13 campaign, but the Rams are just one victory away from that plateau. They’re also closing in on their first winning season since 2015-16. They had a four-game winning streak broken last Saturday in a 60-52 loss to 4A DSST: Byers. They dug a deep hole, but rallied in the fourth, coming up short of eliminating the 25-point deficit. Devon Vigil, who averages 15.6 points went for 18 in the loss. The Rams are looking for their third straight win over Sangre and second this season. They won 60-39 in early December with Vigil scoring a game-high 19 points. Smit had a dozen for the T-birds.
Only one team inside the UP went into the week without having played a league game. Stratton won’t see their first league opponent until Tuesday when the Eagles head to Deer Trail (48th). But, they have plenty of work to do before then. The Eagles host Merino on Thursday as they rescheduled last Friday’s contest that was snowed out.
Stratton takes a three-game winning streak into that contest. The three losses on the ledger were to a top-10 3A Colby (KS), and a pair of seven-point defeats by Briggsdale and Cheyenne Wells. Cyler Notter leads the team at 16.2 points, while Daniel Tanner (9.2) and Von Isenbart (8.7) combine for just under 16 more. Stratton routinely goes nine deep as they look to push the tempo with their constant pressure.
Merino hasn’t had many struggles in its move back up to 2A, as the Rams are just one game behind LPAA leader Yuma and Wray. They’ve won four straight since a two-game losing streak to Wiggins and Wray. That loss to Wray was by two points. They also opened the season with a one-point loss to Flatirons Academy. The Rams have to avoid looking ahead to games with Fleming on Friday and Limon on Saturday. Junior sharpshooter Tyler Miller (21.6 ppg) has been shooting the ball well, hitting 36% from the perimeter and 86% from the free throw line.
Otis (14th) shared the lead with Arickaree (20th) in the YWKC heading into Thursday. The Bulldogs already own two wins over Idalia, one in league play, while Arickaree has yet to face the Wolves. That changes on Friday when the Bison travel east.
Arickaree only had one game before the holiday break and with several cancellations this month, the Bison are incredibly busy. They lost to 2A #17 Byers on Monday, beat Peetz (35th) on Tuesday, hosted Lone Star (46th) on Thursday, and will visit Denver Waldorf (26th) on Monday. Idalia will test their legs on Friday, as the Wolves utilize a variety of pressures. Logan Wright leads the Bison with just under 15 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 4.3 steals. Nick Hermes is just a shade under 10 points a night. If the Bison can beat Lone Star and Idalia, their game at Otis would be for the league title.
Idalia has slowly started getting healthy, as the Wolves recently got guards Eddy Estrada and Fernando Herrera back. There is still hope that talented junior Tarek Glanz will make it back before the end of the season after having surgery to repair a torn ACL in the first football game of the fall. He had the procedure as soon as he could and has already started going through pregame workouts. The Wolves made it back to .500 on the season with a 69-34 win at Flagler on Tuesday. It was their second straight victory and fifth in seven games this month. Logan Breyer has been in beast mode, with four straight double-doubles before the game on Tuesday. Kale Morris has scored at least 13 points in every game, and he’s already connected on 53 three-pointers. He’s made three or more in all but one game, and in that one he connected on a pair. The junior is likely to finish the season just short of 1000 career points.