CLASS 1A BOYS BASKETBALL REGIONAL PREVIEW – FRIDAY
BY: KERRY SHERMAN
Seven of the eight regionals will have semifinal today, while the remaining one, Region 7, will crown a champion and a state Great 8 spot. Only regional champions will qualify for the Great 8, and that bracket will not be reseeded.
REGION 1 (BELLEVIEW CHRISTIAN HIGH SCHOOL)
Belleview Christian (20-1) spent much of the season in the top spot in the coaches rankings and in the CHSAA Selection and Seeding Index. Even with last Saturday’s 57-49 loss to Denver Jewish Day, the Bruins still had a big enough lead in the Seeding Index to garner the top seed in the regional bracket. Those 49 points were the second fewest in a game this season for the Bruins. Davin Hunter (22 points) and Nate Owen (21 points) were the only two Belleview players with more than four points in the loss. Owen averages 22 ppg and Hunter is just under nine. Brandon Ewing, who averages close to 13 points a night, was held to two points by the Tigers.
The final team to make the bracket was #32 Ouray (9-11) after the Trojans reached the semifinals of District 1. The 60-32 loss to Dove Creek broke a modest two-game winning streak and dropped the Trojans to 2-5 in their last seven games. Ouray averages just over 48 points a game and allows close to 55. DC Miller (13.6 ppg) and Kortlan Nelson (9.7 ppg) combine for close to half of the team’s offensive production. The Trojans also have five players who contribute between four and seven points a night.
This will be the first meeting between the two teams since December of 2021, when the Bruins collected a 62-49 win in the Front Range Baptist Falcon Classic. Owen powered Belleview Christian with 25 points and 18 rebounds. Miller led Ouray with 14 points.
In the late semifinal, #16 Wiley (13-7) and #17 Pikes Peak Christian (13-7) meet for the first time in the MaxPreps era. Wiley dropped its last two games entering regionals, including a 45-35 loss to Cheraw in the D2 quarterfinals. Cooper Tixier and Evan Larrick each had 10 points in that contest. The final month of the regular season was all about highs and lows for the Panthers, who went 3-3 in February. Two of the three losses were by single digits. On the season, Tixier averages a double-double of 12.1 points and 12.7 rebounds. Larrick leads the team at 13.1 points, while Devon Louellien comes in at just over nine points a night.
Pikes Peak Christian had a good run in District 7, as the Eagles made their way to the finals. Against Genoa-Hugo in the championship game, the Eagles held a fourth quarter lead before the Pirates rallied to hand them a 64-59 defeat. They showed great balance, putting four players in double figures. Eddie Harmon led with 16 points, while Trey Merrill (15 points, 15 rebounds) and Noah Sachsenmaier (13 points, 11 rebounds) both posted double-doubles. Merrill had seven blocks. Gabriel Fletcher added 10 points and eight assists. Those four all average between 9.8 and 14.4 points a game.
REGION 2 (SIERRA GRANDE HIGH SCHOOL)
Despite a late season skid in which they lost three of their last five regular season contests, the #8 Sierra Grande Panthers (13-8) righted the ship in time to win the District 6 title, taking down Sangre de Cristo 66-34 in the championship game. The Panthers got 27 points from Brian Ontiveros, and had three more players in double figures in that title game. On the season, he’s averaging 16 points a game. Manuel Miranda completes the 1-2 punch, scoring a dozen points a night.
Two of the biggest surprises last weekend were provided by #25 Peetz (10-12). First, the Bulldogs took down the #1 seed (Briggsdale) in the District 4 semifinals, 62-56, behind 22 points from Rhyder Bayne. The freshman was far from done, as he scored all 15 of his team’s points in the first quarter of their final game against Fleming. He finished with a career-high 31 in the 53-42 upset. During the current four-game winning streak, Bayne is averaging 22 a game, and has been in double digits in 10 straight and 13 of the last 14. Chance Segelke and Noah Naegele have also been solid contributors down the stretch.
This is the first meeting between Sierra Grande and Peetz in the MaxPreps era.
The bottom half of the bracket has #9 Cheyenne Wells (14-8) facing #24 Centennial (14-6). Cheyenne Wells started the season slowly, as the Tigers had two key members recovering from injuries suffered in football. They dropped their first four and five of six before going on a four-game winning streak. The Tigers reached the District 2 finals, where they were defeated by Granada, 51-42. It was only their fourth loss to Colorado teams. Ty Scheler (14.4 ppg) and Carson Noe (11.0 ppg) lead the team in scoring, and Blake Gilmore (8.8 ppg) gives the team a solid shooter from the perimeter. He connected on seven of 11 from deep in scoring 23 points against Cheraw in the D2 semifinals.
Centennial probably hasn’t been on the radar of most folks outside of the San Luis Valley, but the Rams are having their best season in more than a decade. Their win total is the highest during the MaxPreps era, and this is their first winning season since 2015-16 when they went 8-7. The Rams were bumped in the D6 quarterfinals, 45-35. They were outscored 27-16 in the second half, breaking a short two-game winning streak. Devon Vigil (15.9 ppg) and Diego Romero (11.7 ppg) garner most of the attention from opponents, but the trio of Daniel Martinez, Martin Navarro, and Samuel Aguilera can make an impact if too much focus is on the other two.
There are no previous meetings between the two programs during the MaxPreps era.
REGION 3 (OTIS HIGH SCHOOL)
Otis (18-4) rolled into last Saturday’s District 5 title game having won 16 straight. The #5 Bulldogs had not lost since early January, but they met up with Stratton, who has proven to be their kryptonite this season. Prior to the winning streak, Otis had lost two straight to the Eagles. Round three also went to Stratton, 71-58. Jack Willeke goes into Friday’s game with #28 Nucla (8-10) just seven points away from 1000 in his career. He was held to three in Saturday’s loss. At close to 15 points a game, he’s one of three Bulldogs averaging double figures, with Charlie Kendrick (13.3 ppg) and Sawyer Packer (11.1 ppg) joining him. Packer also grabs right at 10 boards a game.
It was a rough ending to the regular season for Nucla, who dropped a pair heading into the District 1 tournament. The Mustangs were tied with De Beque heading into the fourth quarter of their semifinal clash, when they were outscored 15-10 to fall by a 51-46 count. It was their fifth loss this season by single digits. Freshman Brycen Rummel has had a breakout season, averaging 18..4 points and 8.4 rebounds to lead the Mustangs. Steele Arnold is a strong complement, chipping in 13.6 points and 6.5 boards.
With the schools being separated by more than 450 miles, it comes as little surprise that they have not met during the MaxPreps era.
In the other semifinal, #12 Cheraw (14-8) and #21 Arickaree (12-7) will meet on the hardwood for the first time since 2016. The programs are no strangers, as they seen each other quite a bit on the grid iron in recent years. Cheraw comes into the regional round with losses in its last two games. Both of those were in the D2 tournament. The Wolverines were bounced by Cheyenne Wells in the semifinals, 48-39, and then McClave avenged a 37-35 loss in the regular season finale with a 62-34 win in the third place game. Outside of Braeden Harris (14 ppg) and Tim Provost (10.6 ppg) the Wolverines don’t have anyone else who averages more than six points a night.
Arickaree had its four-game winning streak snapped in the opening round of the D5 tournament, as the Bison were handed a 50-48 loss by Lone Star. The Bison put together a late rally, but came up just short. They nearly had four players in double figures, with Nic Hermes (12), Dillon Noletubby (11), and Bryce Shaffer (10) all getting there, and Logan Wright coming up one point shy. On the season, Wright is the leader at 15.3 ppg and 7.7 rebounds.
REGION 4 (STRATTON HIGH SCHOOL)
Fresh off its D5 title, #4 Stratton (15-7) enter the regional round with four consecutive wins and the Eagles are averaging close to 72 points a game during that streak. It’s brought their season average up to 62 a game. Only three of their losses are to 1A opponents, with three more to 2A teams from their league, and the last to a top-10 3A team in Kansas. The Eagles have seven players averaging at least five points a game, with only Cyler Notter (15.7 ppg) in double figures. He’s also one of three players to grab more than six rebounds a night, with Daniel Tanner and Von Isenbart joining him.
Prairie (7-14) is tasked with slowing the Eagles down, as the #29 Mustangs come in averaging just over 41 points a night. They went through a 10-game losing streak during the season, but went into the D4 semifinals against Fleming having won two straight. After dropping a two-point contest to the Wildcats earlier in the regular season, the Mustangs were undone by a 16-7 first quarter, and a 31-24 second half. Brock Dollerschell leads the team at 12.3 points a game and he went over 100 career made three-pointers earlier in the year.
This is the first meeting between the two during the MaxPreps era.
Fleming (13-7) got hot in stretches this season, with the #13 Wildcats having winning streaks of four, three, and four. The last one led them to the D4 finals, where they were handed a 53-42 loss by Peetz. Nolan Japp was their only player to reach double figures with 15 points, and Harry Harms pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds. Braylen Feather (15.2 ppg) and Kolten Houser (14.8 ppg) combine for 30 points a game. They had a total of 13 in that loss.
Dramatic finishes have been fairly common for #20 Springfield (11-7), as the Longhorns had 11 games decided by single digits this season. Two came in the D3 tournament, with the Longhorns taking a 46-42 win over Kim/Branson in the quarterfinals. That was topped by the last second 50-48 win over La Veta in the finals. Kurt Parks tipped an outlet pass towards Reece Porter, who stuck it home with less than a second remaining. It was only his second basket of the game. Parks finished with a team-high 12 points. Colby Batterton added 10 points, eight steals, and six rebounds. It’s seemingly been a different player leading the way every night, but Batterton is tops on the team in scoring (12.7 ppg), rebounding (5.7) and steals (3.3)
This will be another first meeting of teams in the MaxPreps era.
REGION 5 (DENVER JEWISH DAY SCHOOL)
Denver Jewish Day got a big win over Hi-Plains on Thursday night, with the Tigers rolling 84-49. The Tigers got off to a 19-0 start. It was the fourth straight win for DJD and puts them one win away from the first trip to the Great 8 in program history. Hi-Plains finished its season with consecutive losses, leaving the Patriots with a 7-13 mark for the year.
Eads handled its business against La Veta, with the Eagles earning a spot in the regional finals thanks to a 56-38 victory. Porter Spady poured in 22 points for the Eagles, and Stockton Mitchek added 15, as Eads pulled away from a tight early portion. For a program that at one time was a regular visitor to the state tournament, the Eagles are trying to punch their ticket for the first time since the 2009-10 season. The program won the consolation championship that season. Most of their current players weren’t even in kindergarten that season.
This is the first time the two programs have met in the MaxPreps era.
REGION 6 (GENOA-HUGO HIGH SCHOOL)
The #7 Pirates (16-6) have already advanced to the regional final after receiving a forfeit from #26 Denver Academy of Torah. That makes the current winning streak three, after Genoa-Hugo finished the regular season with three straight losses. The trio of Trey Smith (21 points), Konner Rowden-Stum (19 points), and Dane Lockhart (16 points) came up huge in their D7 championship game against Pikes Peak Christian last Saturday. They combined to hit a dozen three-pointers in the game. The Pirates await the winner of the semifinal between #10 Flatirons Academy (14-8) and #23 De Beque (12-10).
Flatirons Academy had the misfortune of playing in the same league as the top two seeds in the bracket, with half of its losses coming to Belleview Christian and Denver Jewish Day. The Bison were also picked off by a pair of top 10 seeds in the 2A bracket. Early in the season, the Bison ran out to a 5-0 record, with each win coming against teams either in 2A or 3A. Josiah Durrill, who leads the team at 12.5 points a night, was a bit off in the D8 third place game against Front Range Baptist, scoring only nine points. However, Nolan Sheppard stepped up with one of his best games of the season, pouring in 18 points in the 74-45 victory.
De Beque is a prime example of a team getting hot at the right time. The Dragons had a losing record going into the D1 tournament, but they had just beaten Vail Mountain in the regular season finale. Wins over Caprock Academy and Nucla put them in the district title game against Dove Creek. After having seven straight games decided by single digits, the Dragons jumped out to a 24-3 first quarter and ran past the Bulldogs, 67-44. Scottie Vines tallied 24 points to lead the way, while Jace Graham (20 points, 12 rebounds) and Burke Largent (18 points) combined to drop 38 more. No team in the state was in more close games, with De Beque playing 16 single digit affairs. The Dragons went 8-8 in those games.
These teams are meeting for the first time since 2018. Flatirons claimed a 74-60 win in a regional final. The Bison would go on to claim the consolation championship that season.
REGION 7 (GRANADA HIGH SCHOOL)
Talk about getting healthy when it matters most, as the pieces started returning from injury, #6 Granada (13-8) started stringing together wins. After beating McClave 51-44 in the D2 semifinals, the Bobcats took a seven-game winning streak into the district championship game against Cheyenne Wells. Big John Hainer powered the Bobcats to a 51-42 victory, racking up 29 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks. It was the return from a serious illness by Brandon Gonzales that sparked the big winning streak, and he played a key role in keeping it alive during the district quarterfinals. It was his clutch three that put the Bobcats on top to stay in a 50-47 victory over Cheraw.
For #27 Sangre de Cristo (11-10), the run to the D6 title game may have been what got the Thunderbirds into the regional bracket. After taking care of Creede and Centennial, the T-birds ran into Sierra Grande in the championship game and they had no answers for the Panthers after a close first quarter. Sangre was outscored 46-20 over the final three periods to drop a 66-34 decision. Kaiden Smit posted a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double in the loss.
Over the last 18 years, Sangre de Cristo has faced a number of teams from Southeastern Colorado, but Granada is not one of them.
The bottom half of the bracket features a rematch from December, when #11 Briggsdale (14-6) faces #22 Idalia (11-10). The two teams met in the finals of Idalia’s pre-Holiday tournament, with Briggsdale claiming a 66-60 victory. The Falcons got 24 points from Tanner Fiscus and 22 more from John Krise in that victory. They had a nine-game winning streak snapped by Peetz in the D4 semifinals. Briggsdale had won the regular season meeting with the Bulldogs 61-60 just three weeks earlier, but in the rematch, Peetz got its revenge, 62-56.
Idalia had its share of tight games, playing eight decided by single digits. The Wolves only came up with one win in those contests. They limped to the regional round, dropping five of their last six, including the D5 final to Stratton. Kale Morris, who averages right around 22 points a night, was held to nine by the Eagles in the 74-45 Stratton victory. Logan Breyer led the Wolves with 14 in the contest. Tarek Glanz made his season debut after a knee injury in the season opening football game kept him out of action for six months. He had eight. Breyer had 16 points in the first meeting with Briggsdale and Morris added 15, but it was Fernando Herrera who led the team with 20.
REGION 8 (MCCLAVE HIGH SCHOOL)
As the defending state champs, #3 McClave (16-5) got everyone’s best shot this season. Of the five losses suffered by the Cardinals, two came early to very tough Kansas teams, including the defending champ in their classification. Two more came late in the season. McClave fell 37-35 to Cheraw in the regular season finale, and were then upset by the red-hot Granada Bobcats in the D2 semifinals. They got back in the win column by routing Cheraw for third place. While placing three in double figures in scoring in the third place contest, the Cards also had three in double figures on the glass. For Ray Mungaray, his 11 boards were part of a double-double, as he also scored 14 points. Aiden Martinez (11) and Ayden Gomez (10) combined for 21 rebounds.
Denver Waldorf (9-11) nearly saw its season end with a 66-26 loss to Flatirons Academy in the quarters of the D8 tournament, but the #30 Spartans drew one of the final three wildcards and will live to play at least one more game. They had troubles stringing victories together, with only three streaks of at least two wins. Their longest was an early three-game run. They also had losing streaks of three and four in the middle of the season. Freshman Cayden Quinn already has his high school career off to a great start. He averages 16.1 points and 6.2 boards a game, while also being right around three assists and three steals.
Completing the bracket is a semifinal between #14 Dove Creek (15-6) and #19 Front Range Baptist (12-10). Dove Creek stumbled a bit down the stretch, picking up four losses in its last eight games. Three of those were to schools in bigger classifications,with the last coming to De Beque in the D1 final. Kade Hankins has been a load for opponents to handle, as the senior averages 21 points and seven rebounds a game. Tanner Williams is a nice #2 option for the Bulldogs, coming in at 12 points and more than three assists a game.
Front Range Baptist suffered five of its losses to Belleview Christian, Denver Jewish Day, and Flatirons, with two more coming in a tough West Coast Baptist College Invitational. The Falcons played top competition well, with seven of the 10 losses coming by ten or fewer points. The last two, coming in the D8 tournament, were not as close. The Falcons dropped a 60-46 contest to Belleview Christian in the semifinals and Flatirons handed them a 74-45 defeat in the third place game. Matthew VanDenBerghe was the lone player in double figures in that last loss, scoring 11 points.
With both teams having a recent history of making deep runs, there was a chance that they had met prior to this contest, but a scouring of the MaxPreps database did not turn up any earlier meetings.