CLASS 1A BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW – SWEET 16
BY: KERRY SHERMAN
Just about anything can happen this time of year and the regional semifinal round showed that in Class 1A boys. One Great 8 ticket was punched yesterday, and the remaining seven will be awarded today. Just a reminder… the bracket will not be reseeded after this round.
REGION 1 (BELLEVIEW CHRISTIAN HIGH SCHOOL)
After dropping the District 8 title game to Denver Jewish Day, the top-seeded Bruins had a bad taste in their mouths. They got rid of some of that by dominating Ouray 69-25 in the semifinals. Belleview Christian led 46-13 at the half and is now a win away from a second Great 8 appearance in the last three seasons. Nate Owen recorded 24 points and five blocks for the Bruins, and Jagga Sandhu added 14 points and seven steals. Brandon Ewing was a point away from a double-double, as he led the team with 11 boards.
Wiley had an offensive eruption, scoring 80 points in a 15-point win over #17 Pikes Peak Christian. It was the first time the Panthers had scored more than 70 in a contest this season. They are 9-0 when scoring at least 60 in a game. A win today puts the Panthers in the Great 8 for the first time in the MaxPreps era.
REGION 2 (SIERRA GRANDE HIGH SCHOOL)
Sierra Grande took on the upset-minded #25 Peetz Bulldogs in the opening round and the Panthers needed a big second half to quell the uprising. After taking out the top two seeds in District 5 play last weekend to earn the title, the Bulldogs led Sierra Grande 30-21 at the half. The Panthers gained control with a 25-10 third quarter, and they held off Peetz, 55-50. They can make a second straight trip to the Great 8 with a win over the #9 seed, Cheyenne Wells, who escaped the upset bid of Centennial.
Trailing 13-11 after a very low scoring first half, the Tigers came alive in the third, outscoring Centennial 17-8 to take a 28-21 lead into the fourth. The Rams charged strong in the final period, but Cheyenne Wells held on for the 36-33 victory. A win today puts the Tigers in their first Great 8 since 2016-17, when they finished second. Current head coach Kendall Pelton was senior on that squad.
REGION 3 (OTIS HIGH SCHOOL)
Feeling the frustration of having their long winning streak snapped by Stratton in the District 5 finals last weekend, the #5 Otis Bulldogs found themselves in a tougher than expected first quarter with #28 Nucla. The Bulldogs only led 21-16 at the end of the fast-moving first period, but they took control with an 18-8 second, and they would go on to outscore the Mustangs 42-15 in the second half to claim an 81-39 win. Jack Willeke topped 1000 career points for the Bulldogs in the game. They’re looking to make the Great 8 for the first time since 2009-10, when they finished second. Like Cheyenne Wells, their current head coach, Karson Kuntz, was a senior on their squad.
Cheraw bounced back from consecutive losses in the District 2 tournament last weekend to handle #21 Arickaree 51-30 in the other semifinal. It put the Wolverines in the Sweet 16 for the first time since the 2020-21 COVID season. They were knocked out of the Great 8 by Granada that season.
REGION 4 (STRATTON HIGH SCHOOL)
There could potentially be a D5 championship rematch in the Great 8, but both Otis and Stratton would have to win today. Stratton took an 8-7 lead over #29 Prairie early in the first quarter of the semifinals and the Eagles would not trail again. Austin Webb had 16 points to lead the Eagles to the 63-34 victory, putting them one win away from their first Great 8 appearance since coach Curt Isenbart led them to three in a row from the 2009-10 season through the 2011-12 year. Those were the final three years of his first stint leading the program.
Looking to prevent any thoughts of that aforementioned rematch is #20 Springfield. The Longhorns already have one upset under their belts, as they bounced #13 Fleming 64-60. The Longhorns led 52-35 heading into the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats got Braylen Feather warmed up on the perimeter and he started drilling threes from both corners, banking them in for 30-feet out on the wings, and even nailing one just a couple of steps inside the midcourt stripe. Springfield wrestled momentum back with a couple steals leading to easy buckets, and they held on for the win. This is their second straight year in the Sweet 16 and they are looking for their first Great 8 run since 2011-12.
REGION 5 (DENVER JEWISH DAY SCHOOL)
Denver Jewish Day became the first team to reach the Great 8 this year, as the Tigers beat Eads 57-25 yesterday. The #2 Tigers earned their trip to the Sweet 16 with an 84-49 win over Hi-Plains on Thursday. Eads had dispatched #18 La Veta 56-37 on Thursday. Conner Wollert (16) and Porter Spady (10) combined for 26 rebounds in that semifinal victory.
This is the first trip to the Great 8 for the Tigers. With them not being able to play between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday for religious reasons, some adjustments will have to be made to the weekend schedule, should they win in the quarterfinals.
REGION 6 (GENOA-HUGO HIGH SCHOOL)
The top seed in the region, #7 Genoa-Hugo did not have to play a semifinal contest due to Denver Academy of Torah’s forfeit. That slid the Pirates into the Sweet 16, where they are one win away from their first Great 8 appearance since 2017-18.
They will be facing #10 Flatirons Academy, after the Bison nearly doubled up De Beque, 58-30. The Bison are also trying to reach the Great 8 for the first time since 2017-18. They defeated Genoa-Hugo 43-35 to claim the consolation championship that season.
REGION 7 (GRANADA HIGH SCHOOL)
Part of the bracket played out as one might expect, given the seeding. The other half saw a sizable upset. First, #6 Granada rolled to a 61-27 victory over Sangre de Cristo, giving the Bobcats a nine-game winning streak, and a third straight Sweet 16 appearance. The Bobcats took third last season, and they reached the Final 4 the year before.
In the other semifinal, #22 Idalia avenged an earlier 66-60 loss to #11 Briggsdale, with the Wolves holding on for a 49-46 win. The Wolves are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008-09. A win gives the program its first Great 8 appearance since finishing fourth in 2005-06, the first year of the MaxPreps era.
REGION 8 (MCCLAVE HIGH SCHOOL)
The defending state champs earned a a second straight journey to the Sweet 16, as #3 McClave bounced Denver Waldorf 75-38 in the semifinals. The last time the Cards had advanced this far in consecutive seasons was 2012-13 and 2013-14. They won the title that first year, and finished fourth the second. Aiden Martinez exploded for 30 points and 14 rebounds to pace McClave on Friday, and he also blocked five shots. Conner Forgue added 14 points, six steals, and three blocks. Wins by Granada and McClave today sets up a D2 semifinal rematch.
To secure its place in that potential rematch, McClave will have to get through #14 Dove Creek, who used a 34-19 second half to pull away from Front Range Baptist, 58-37, in their semifinal on Friday. It was a good bounce back for the Bulldogs, who had lost three of their last six prior to the contest. That included a 23-point loss to De Beque in the District 1 title game last Saturday. The Bulldogs got to the Great 8 last year, but exited after going 0-2.