VIDEO: Lewis-Palmer, with senior Josh Scott, is the favorite in the Class 4A state championship chase.
Ken Shaw has seen a little bit of everything during a coaching career that has spanned more than four decades.
Yet, even he has a hard time finding the words to describe the roller-coaster ride that the Regis Jesuit (Aurora)
boys basketball team has endured during the past 2½ months. A team that was 5-7 headed into Continental League play in early January – losing six of those games by a combined 21 points – found a way to start winning those close games.
A little more than a month after winning the league opener, the Raiders closed out the regular season with a victory over Ponderosa (Parker)
last Friday that secured the Continental League title and sends the team into the Class 5A state tournament this weekend with plenty of momentum.
"It was a very unusual season. I've never experienced anything quite like this in my 44 years as a head coach," Shaw said. "We played a good schedule and just weren't quite as consistent as we would've liked. We lost six games (early) but the guys were very resilient and kept working."
Regis Jesuit (15-8) is the No. 10 seed in the 48-team tournament that opens Wednesday. The Raiders have a first-round bye in the Chuck Williams Region and host the winner of No. 23 Highlands Ranch
and No. 42 Vista PEAK Prep (Aurora)
That said, Shaw is quick to point out that it wasn't a huge turnaround given that 13 of the team's 23 games this winter were decided by five points or less.
"We had a lot of close games that could've went either way," he said. "We could've been 3-20 or 20-3. But it ended strong for us, and we feel good about our chances going into the tournament."
The Chuck Williams Region includes No. 2 Mountain Vista and No. 7 Smoky Hill (Aurora)
. Shaw said the program doesn't analyze the matchups or the RPI system.
"Whether you agree or disagree with RPI, it is what it is," he said. "You've got to be ready to play the next team in front of you."
Regis Jesuit has gotten the job done to this point with a senior-heavy lineup. The Raiders have seven seniors, led by 6-foot-9 center Daniel Carr
, who averaged 20.3 points and 11.4 rebounds in the regular season. Shaw said that Carr's story is unique given that he started his prep career at Regis Jesuit playing on the lower-level freshman team.
"He took that coaching and worked hard," Shaw said. "He came from that humble beginning to come up and be one of the top players in the state."
That experience factor, not to mention the amount of close games Regis Jesuit has played, will be crucial headed into the postseason in a field where it's anyone's game.
"This year is a very well-balanced year with a lot of teams right there who are able to win on any given night," Shaw said. "It's going to be an interesting ride, I think."
Here is a quick look at each of the four regions in the 5A and 4A brackets headed into Wednesday's first round:Class 5A
Chauncey Billups RegionTop seed:
No. 1 ChaparralOverview:
Chaparral is out to prove that it can go the distance, even after dropping two of its final five league games – including the regular-season finale to Legend (Parker)
. But the Wolverines played a gauntlet of a schedule and won 19 games along the way. Three players average at least 10 points a game, led by senior Kobe Sanders
at 17.1. … A potential quarterfinal matchup between Front Range League champion Fairview (Boulder)
and Jeffco League champion Columbine (Littleton)
would be fun to watch. The Knights have put together back-to-back strong seasons after a rough three-year stretch, and have three players averaging at least 10 points a game. The Rebels ran the table in Jeffco play and have their most victories since 2012-13. Junior Luke O'Brien
averages 21.3 points a game.Lower seed to watch:
No. 17 Mullen (Denver)
finished fifth in the Centennial League, but has the ability to make a splash. Look no further than a 76-74 victory over Smoky Hill last Wednesday. Like other teams in the region, the Mustangs have offensive balance with three players averaging at least 11 points a game. Senior Christian Davis
leads the way at 14 points a game.
Chuck Williams Region
No. 2 Mountain VistaOverview:
The Golden Eagles dropped only two games all year and closed the season with narrow victories over Rock Canyon (Highlands Ranch)
and ThunderRidge. Senior Ben Grusing
leads three players scoring in double figures at 16 points a game. … Seventh-seeded Smoky Hill had its share of exhilarating victories and tough losses in the Centennial League, but the Buffaloes have the capability of beating anyone they play. Senior Kenny Foster
is one of the state's elite, and junior Quinten Rock
has had a number of big games as well. … Regis Jesuit is obviously dangerous for all of the reasons mentioned above, and is playing as well as any team at this point in the season. …Greeley West
would have a long haul out west to make if the Spartans win their opener, with No. 15 Fruita Monument
waiting. Greeley West won 17 games, and has a balanced lineup paced by senior Andre Sepeda
.Lower seed to watch:
No. 23 Highlands Ranch doesn't have the flashiest record, and the Falcons were only 4-6 in Continental League play. But the Falcons defeated Rock Canyon 49-48 behind 14 points from Tristan Hurdle
in the regular-season finale and lost to Regis Jesuit by only five points the game before. Highlands Ranch is a young squad, as well, with only one senior and a strong core of juniors. Larry Farmer Region
No. 3 Rangeview (Aurora)Overview:
If the region plays out according to plan and seed, all eyes would be on a potential quarterfinal matchup between No. 3 Rangeview and defending champion and sixth-seeded Grandview (Aurora)
. The two teams played Dec. 13 – a 67-65 Grandview victory. The Raiders went 21-2 this winter, and senior Quincey Jewett
enters the playoffs averaging 16.6 points and 11.7 rebounds a game. … Grandview won a highly competitive Centennial League despite some late bumps. Senior Dayne Prim
has the Wolves looking to defend their 5A crown. … Boulder
endured a nine-game losing streak early in the season, but finished second in the Front Range. The Panthers upended No. 8 Fairview by 10 points in the season finale behind 23 points from Tyler Turner
… Fountain-Fort Carson
won the Colorado Springs Metro League and could give Arvada West
a challenge, should the Trojans win their opener.Lower seed to watch:
Rock Canyon enters the postseason on a two-game losing streak, but the No. 11 Jaguars lost four of their five league games by a combined nine points. Rock Canyon also handed Grandview a loss early in the season. Senior Jaylen Eikenberg
averages 14.6 points and nearly five assists a game.Kent Smith Region
No. 4 Overland (Aurora)Overview:
Centennial League rivals Overland and Eaglecrest (Centennial)
can't seem to get away from each other. The two teams are in line for a potential Sweet 16 matchup, which would be the third this winter. The Trailblazers won the two in the regular season and enter the playoffs riding a seven-game winning streak. Juniors Graham Ike
(17.6 points, 11.7 rebounds) and Hezekiah Swanson
(13 points, 5.2 assists, 2.4 steals) have done some heavy lifting for Overland. … Eaglecrest dropped its final two games, but the Raptors have a balanced offense, paced by senior Aaron Bokol
(17.8 points, 6.2 rebounds). … Two of No. 5 ThunderRidge's three league losses came by a single point, and another non-league loss to Smoky Hill went three overtimes. Denver East
ran the table on the Denver Prep League, and averages nearly 79 points a game. Senior Kwane Marble
went for 19 of those points a game.Lower seed to watch:
Like Highlands Ranch, Legend endured some ups and downs in the Continental League. The Titans dropped three of their final five games, but those two victories came against Regis Jesuit and Chaparral. Senior Sufyan Elkannan
averages nearly 14 points a game.Class 4A
Ron Vlasin Region
No. 1 Lewis-Palmer (Monument)Overview:
Not only did Lewis-Palmer run the table on the regular season, but only one team – Liberty, back on Dec. 11 – finished within 10 points of the Rangers during a game. Seniors Joel Scott
(18.4 points), Matthew Ragsdale
(17.3 points) and Ethan Forrester
(10.9) have Lewis-Palmer looking poised to make a run at the 4A title. … Wheat Ridge
won only six games a year ago, but the Farmers bounced back and captured the Jeffco League title this winter. The Farmers are the No. 8 seed, with four players scoring in double figures. … Centaurus (Lafayette)
ran into undefeated Longmont
twice during the season, but the Warriors can use that – as well as playing Lewis-Palmer and No. 4 Holy Family – to their advantage. The No. 9 Warriors won't be an easy out, as junior Owen Koonce
leads the team with 18.1 points a game. … Jackson Hayslip
averages 20.7 points a game for Greeley Central
, which took Longmont to overtime in the season finale.Lower seed to watch: Thomas Jefferson (Denver)
played a 5A-heavy schedule, and stayed close in a number of its losses. The Spartans struggled at times in the Denver Prep League, but hung with No. 13 Lincoln (Denver)
, among others. Junior Darius Hornbuckle
averages 14.4 points for TJ.
Larry Brunson Region
No. 2 LongmontOverview:
Like Lewis-Palmer, the Trojans finished the regular season without a blemish. The defending state champions have a strong core of seniors, led by Beck Page
(14.5 points), Calvin Seamons
(12.8 points) and Brady Renck
(11.6 points, 7.5 assists). … No. 7 Glenwood Springs
, along with No. 3 Steamboat Springs
and No. 12 Palisade
, is giving the Western Slope League a lift. The Demons were 11-1 in league, and played tough in a five-point loss to Longmont. Senior Chano Gonzalez
averages 15.6 points a game. … No. 10 Harrison (Colorado Springs)
just missed out on a 20-win regular season. The Panthers were 15-1 in league play, with senior Donta Dawson
averaging more that 16 points a game. … No. 23 Alameda (Lakewood)
is enjoying its best season in more than a decade after going 17-6. Four players average at least 10 points a game.Lower seed to watch: Pueblo Central
finished second to Pueblo West in the South Central League and even gave the Cyclones a run during the second meeting Feb. 5. The 15th-seeded Wildcats also upended No. 10 Harrison earlier in the year. Senior Nico Martin
paces the offense at 16.1 points a game.Guy Gibbs Region
No. 3 Steamboat SpringsOverview:
Speaking of Steamboat Springs, the Sailors put up 20 victories during the regular season. Senior Mac Riniker
averages 18.6 points, nine rebounds, four assists and 3.5 steals. Steamboat Springs closed on a nine-game win streak. … Pueblo West
swept through the South Central League, winning 19 games overall. Three players (Julian Lucero
, Taylor Harris
and Logan Garcia
) are each averaging right around 12 points a game. … Cheyenne Mountain (Colorado Springs)
is also enjoying a resurgence. The Indians earned their most victories in five years, with junior Javonte Johnson
averaging nearly 23 points and 9.4 rebounds a game.Lower seed to watch:
No. 19 Evergreen
was one of only three teams to defeat Mead (Longmont)
during the season, and the Cougars split with league champion Wheat Ridge. That included a 13-point victory over the Farmers on Feb. 12. Sophomore Griffin Lauritano
leads Evergreen at nearly 14 points a game, and four players average more than five rebounds.Richard Tate Region
No. 4 Holy Family (Broomfield)Overview:
It's tight at the top between Tri-Valley League foes Holy Family and Mead, which captured the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds. Mead won the league title, defeating the Tigers twice along the way. In fact, after dropping three of their first four games, the Mavericks won 19 consecutive games to close the regular season. Four players average right around 12-13 points a game, with senior Jax Wilke
going for 13 points and 8.4 rebounds. … Holy Family enters the playoffs at 19-4. A senior-heavy lineup is paced by Tanner Baird
(16.2 points) and Kyle Helbig
(14.1 points, 8.2 rebounds). … Palisade dropped two leagues games each to Steamboat Springs and Glenwood Springs. … No. 20 Montrose
dropped three of its games to 5A's Fruita Monument, but the Indians also picked up big victories over Harrison and Glenwood Springs early in the year.Lower seed to watch:
Lincoln's schedule was 5A-heavy, but the Lancers still finished with 17 victories and took second in the Denver Prep League. An offense that averages nearly 69 points a game makes it tough on opposing defenses, and senior James Felton
(17.8 points, 7.1 rebounds) has been tough to slow down.