While the majority of leagues around the state have gotten the ball bouncing, so to speak, there are still a handful that have yet to get started - but that is about to change.
The Class 5A/4A Continental League is one of the leagues that has not started league play just yet. On Friday though, the Continental kicks off with four games, including a much-anticipated opener between ThunderRidge (Highlands Ranch
and Regis Jesuit (Aurora)
The Continental is always loaded with talented programs, and this season is no exception. Five teams have at least 10 victories in non-league play, and 10 of the 11 have at least six wins. In the most recent CHSAANow.com rankings, five teams in the 5A Top 10 reside in the Continental, including No. 1 and undefeated
Rock Canyon (Highlands Ranch)
. Another team, Ponderosa (Parker)
, is ranked eighth in 4A.
There is still plenty of basketball to be played, so the first few weeks may not be make-or-break for teams. But getting off to a strong start in league play is something every coach aims for, especially when there are no easy victories the rest of the way.
With that in mind, here are 10 games to keep an eye on in the coming weeks across the state's five classifications:Class 5A
• Regis Jesuit (10-1) at ThunderRidge (12-1), 7 p.m., Jan. 12
As mentioned, this game comes on the opening night of league play, and what a battle it should be. Regis Jesuit has won six in a row since being handed its only loss of the season Dec. 9 – a three-point setback in the De La Salle Tournament in California. What's more, the Raiders are averaging almost 82 points a game in that span, with a balanced lineup paced by Jamil Safieddine
(14.9 points per game), Sam Bannec
(13.8) and Elijah Martinez
ThunderRidge's only loss this season came to Chaparral (Parker)
in a tournament game Dec. 9. The Grizzlies are also riding a six-game winning streak since that night, and have some big in-state victories as well. Senior Kaison Hammonds
' 15.3 points leads a lineup that has three players averaging in double figures.• Rampart (Colorado Springs) (8-3) at Doherty (Colorado Springs) (9-2), 7 p.m., Jan. 16
Rampart is coming off its holiday tournament at the Broadmoor, where the Rams went 2-1 and very nearly knocked off Pueblo West before falling 61-60. The team's other two losses also came to ranked teams – George Washington (Denver) and Grandview (Aurora). The offense is paced by the three-headed monster of seniors Josh Kavalec
(18.5 points per game), Xavier Johnson
(17.5) and Dawson Carper
(17.2 points and 9.3 rebounds).
Play in the Colorado Springs Metro League tipped off this week for most of the league, with Doherty downing Liberty (Colorado Springs) and Coronado (Colorado Springs). The Spartans have five players averaging more than five points a game, led by senior Kyrele Benford
at 13.1. Joe Golden
is averaging a double-double at 10.9 points and 11.5 rebounds. Doherty has won six in a row.• Chaparral (10-2) at Highlands Ranch (8-2), 7 p.m., Jan. 23
Chaparral has been a force to be reckoned with in the state this winter. The Wolverines were unbeaten in Colorado headed into Monday night's non-league tilt with George Washington. The team's only two losses came by a combined three points in the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas, Nev., before the break. Chaparral has defeated both the defending 5A and 4A state champions and handed ThunderRidge its only loss. Junior Ronnie Degray III
is averaging 20 points and six rebounds a game.
So why the Highlands Ranch game? The Falcons have won six in a row behind senior Brendan Sullivan
's 23.1 points and 9.1 rebounds a game. Highlands Ranch picked up where it left off after playing its best basketball of the season late last winter, defeating Rock Canyon and Chaparral down the stretch.Class 4A
• Golden (9-2) at Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch) (5-6), 7 p.m., Jan. 10
The Jeffco League won't be decided in the first of two meetings between these rivals, but a victory would be a big step in the right direction.
Valor Christian took three games from Golden last season, the final one coming in the state semifinals. The Demons have won seven of eight this season since falling to Lewis-Palmer (Monument), and Adam Thistlewood
is among the state's leading scorers at 23.4 points a game. The senior is also bringing down 8.4 rebounds a game and is complemented by Joe Madsen
(10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds).
Valor Christian has won three in a row since a three-game skid in the Tarkanian Classic. Senior Jeremy Randle
paces another balanced offense at 17.0 points a game, and Hunter Shkapich
averages 13.1. The Eagles appear to be hitting their stride in 2018, though Golden present another big obstacle.• Longmont (5-1) at Silver Creek (Longmont) (8-0), 6:30 p.m., Jan. 16
After only playing five games in December, the Trojans embark on a busy January. Longmont plays 10 games this month, none bigger than the Northern League showdown with undefeated Silver Creek. Senior Luke Johnson
's 17.8-point average in December helped the team get off to a strong start, with the lone defeat coming in overtime to Golden.
Silver Creek counters with Trent Dykema
, who is averaging 26.1 points a game and eight rebounds. The senior enjoyed perhaps his best game of the season last week in a victory over Roosevelt (Johnstown) in the Roughrider Shootout, pouring in 32 points to go along with 12 rebounds, five assists and four steals. Erik Grossaint
adds 11.1 points for a Raptors team that averages 70 points a game.• Pueblo South (9-2) at Pueblo West (9-2), 7:30 p.m., Jan. 23 @ CSU-Pueblo
One of the state's top rivalries resumes late in the month, the first of two meetings between the teams. The squads split its regular-season meetings last winter, but South took the one that counted most, 64-62, in the Great 8.
Pueblo South's two losses came to the current Nos. 1 and 4 ranked teams. Senior Marcell Barbee
is averaging 17.9 points since joining the team after football season ended, and Tonay Aragon
is at 15.1 points.
West dropped two out of three games in early December but have now won six in a row. The team swept its three opponents in the Rampart Holiday Classic, edging the Rams with a late comeback in the final game. Three players are averaging in double figures, led by senior Nieyeme Smeyer-Williams
at 16.9 points.Class 3A
• Kent Denver (Englewood) (7-2) at Faith Christian (Arvada) (6-2), 5:30 p.m., Jan. 9
The Metro League opener is a game not to be missed, as two perennial 3A power go head-to-head in Arvada in a rematch of last year's semifinals, won by the Eagles.
Kent Denver has dropped two of its last four games, though both came to teams ranked in the top six in 3A. Juniors Coby Gold
and James Doyle
are neck-and-neck in scoring for the Sun Devils, with both players right around 15.5 points a game.
Faith Christian lost its first two contests by a combined eight points, but is currently on a seven-game roll. That includes a victory over current 3A No. 2 Alamosa that ignited the winning streak. Senior Benjamin Hawkins
is averaging 22.1 points a game, with Alec Muehlemeyer
(16.4 points) and Jonah Gardner
(13.3) providing plenty of scoring punch of their own.• Sterling (7-0) at Platte Valley (Kersey) (7-1), 7 p.m., Jan. 26
The defending state champion is one of only two teams still unbeaten going into the second week of January (Grand Valley is the other). The Tigers had yet to play a close game going into the Patriot League, though plenty of teams are eager to take its chance against Sterling. Bodie Hume
continues to show why he is one of the state's top players, with the senior averaging 19.3 points.
Platte Valley won only 11 games last winter and failed to advance out of district play. But the Broncos have won seven of their first eight games this season, including a stirring 76-70 victory over state runner-up Faith Christian in December. Junior Bryson Becker
's 16.5 points and 10.1 rebounds have sparked an offense that averages 61 points a game.Class 2A
• Sedgwick County (Julesburg) (7-0) at Yuma (5-2), 7 p.m., Jan. 26
A top-five showdown in the Lower Platte League late in the month is among the top games for the 2A classification in January.
Top-ranked Sedgwick County has put up consistent numbers thus far, and opened 2018 with victories over Wiggins and Fleming. The Cougars' closest game was a four-point victory over Holyoke before the winter break, and Sedgwick County faces the Dragons again Friday in a rematch of the 2A title game, won by Holyoke.
No. 4 Yuma dropped both of its game to out-of-state opponents. The Indians don't open 2018 until Friday when they take on Wiggins.Class 1A
• Holly (8-0) at South Baca (4-2), 4 p.m., Jan. 12
Four teams are still undefeated in the 1A ranks, and Dusty Heck's Wildcats are one of them. Holly rolled through the December portion of the schedule, averaging nearly 62 points a game. The team's three opponents in the Lamar Holiday tournament averaged just 27 points against the Wildcats' defense.
South Baca played only five games in December and opened this month with an 11-point loss to Felt, Okla. The team's only in-state loss came by one point to Cheyenne Wells in the opener, and the Patriots avenged that two games later.
This is the Arkansas Valley League opener for both teams.