VIDEO: Manual senior Jaedon Bowles highlights against Faith Christian
There weren't necessarily any surprises in the release of the Class 3A state boys basketball bracket this week, but the top eight seeds were a bit notable for another reason.
The 3A Metro League landed two of the top three seeds after Lutheran (Parker)
locked up the top overall seed and Manual (Denver)
– the league champion – earned the No. 3 seed. Two more teams from the Western Slope League were seeded in the top six, with No. 5 Delta
and No. 6 Coal Ridge (New Castle)
each receiving the opportunity to host regional tournaments this weekend.
That's to say nothing of the potential league and district rematches that could take place in a handful of regionals as well. It's going to be a slugfest to secure the eight state tournament spots for next week's quarterfinals.
There is certainly no shortage of captivating storylines for this weekend. Lutheran, which made the championship game a year ago, is seeking its first title since going back-to-back in AA in 1985-86. Sterling
, which won two years ago but watched as an undefeated season ended in the semifinals a year ago, is looking to return to the title game without reigning Player of the Year Bodie Hume, who is now playing at the University of Northern Colorado.
Then there is Manual, which hasn't won a state championship since taking the 6A crown in 1991. It's the final opportunity for senior standout Jaedon Bowles
, whose 28.1 points per game led the state this winter.
The storyline theme goes for 2A and 1A, which tip off regional play this weekend as well. In 2A, Holly
is the top overall seed in its first year in the classification. The Wildcats, who won 1A crowns in 2015 and 2017, are undefeated and looking to dethrone defending champion Yuma
With Holly out of 1A, the field appears to be wide open in the state's smallest classification. Undefeated De Beque
hasn't won a state championship since 1998, but this could be the Dragons' year. A one-loss Sangre de Cristo (Mosca)
that last won 2A in 2001 could have something to say about that.
No matter which eight teams emerge in each of the three classifications, it is a sure thing that there will be a sprint to the finish next week. The 3A, 2A and 1A state tournaments open next Thursday with the Great 8, with the semifinals on Friday and the championship games Saturday.
Here is a quick look at each of the brackets headed into play Friday:Class 3A
Top four seeds:
No. 1 Lutheran, No. 2 Sterling, No. 3 Manual, No. 4 The Vanguard School (Colorado Springs)
Lutheran dropped two games in league play, but a dominating showing over the final four games locked up the top seed for the Lions. Lutheran handed Sterling its first loss of the season, and avenged those Metro losses to Faith Christian (Arvada)
and Manual by winning the district tournament. … Sterling swept through the Patriot League and the district tournament. The Tigers are so balanced that they don't have a single player who averages in double figures in points – four players score at least nine points a game, though. … The Vanguard School was undefeated against in-state competition and is looking for its first title. Seth Fuqua
isn't far behind Manual's Bowles, averaging 25.2 points a game. … Montezuma-Cortez
endured a stretch of five losses in nine games late in the season, but won the Intermountain League district crown and a chance to host. The Panthers have a 17-win league rival standing in their way in Centauri (La Jara)
, though. The Falcons are the No. 10 seed. … Faith Christian finished second in the Metro League, but back-to-back losses in the district tournament have the Eagles headed to the Western Slope in Delta. The Panthers have won 10 in a row and defeated No. 6 Coal Ridge twice this season. They open with defending state champion Bayfield
.Region to watch:
Speaking of Coal Ridge, the Titans received the No. 6 seed despite a three-game losing streak in league play midway through the season, along with a loss to Delta in the WSL district tournament. But Coal Ridge owns victories over Lutheran and Faith Christian, and senior Kevin DiMarco
averages 17.9 points and 9.7 rebounds.
Should Coal Ridge get past Jefferson Academy (Broomfield)
in the first round, it will face either No. 11 Resurrection Christian (Loveland)
or a league foe in No. 22 Grand Valley (Parachute)
. Resurrection Christian won 17 games this winter, and three of those losses came to No. 1 Lutheran and No. 2 Sterling (twice). The Cougars took Sterling to overtime in the first meeting, and the team is junior-heavy with only three seniors.Class 2A
Top four seeds:
No. 1 Holly, No. 2 Yuma, No. 3 Highland (Ault)
, No. 4 Limon
Holly was undefeated in the regular season a year ago, only to have a stunning loss to South Baca in
regionals end its season. Now up one classification and undefeated again, it's a safe bet that the Wildcats are guarded against history repeating itself. Holly has found that success against even better competition this winter, running through some of 2A's best. Sophomore Brigden Parker
leads three players scoring in double figures. … Yuma's only two losses came in a three-game stretch to Nebraska squads in late January. The Indians closed on an eight-game winning streak, winning overtime battles with Byers
. Senior Jakob Chrisman
averages 14.8 points and 11.4 rebounds. … Highland dropped its state tournament opener a year ago, but rebounded to place fifth. The Huskies (21-1) haven't lost since Dec. 4, and junior Tate Bessire
averages more than 21 points a game. Senior Koby Anderson
averages a double-double at 14.3 points and 10.1 rebounds. … Limon lost to Ignacio
for the chance to go to state a year ago. The Badgers have been solid this season and avenged a loss to Byers in the district tournament. … Sanford
is riding a 10-game winning streak into regional play this weekend.Region to watch:
In Region 7, Simla
earned the No. 7 seed and the right to host after winning its district tournament. The Cubs (16-6) overcame a few narrow losses early in the season and won six of their final eight games. Seniors Cole Mitchell
(10.9 ppg) and Joel George
(10.0 ppg) lead the offense. But for Simla to reach the Great 8, it will need to get past Telluride
first, and then either Byers or Paonia
. Byers (15-6) defeated Simla 53-51 earlier in the year, took Yuma to overtime and split two games with No. 4 Limon. The Bulldogs have three players who score at least 11 points a game, and will be a tough out should they get past Paonia.
Overview: Region to watch: Cheraw
De Beque's story is a great one. After winning a combined 20 games over a decade – including three winless campaigns – the Dragons won 14 games a year ago. They followed that up by going 21-0 headed into this weekend, with sophomore standouts Brennan Rigsby
(22.2 ppg) and Wes Ryan
(19.3 ppg) leading the way. … Sangre de Cristo has won 15 in a row since a loss to Rocky Ford. Three players average in double figures in points, led by junior Cole Christensen
. … Mile High Academy lost four games this month, but three of those came in an out-of-state tournament at Union College. The team swept through the District 8 tournament with ease, and sophomore Blake Essex
averages 14.6 points and 15.6 rebounds. … Haxtun took Yuma to overtime Feb. 15, and the Bulldogs swept through district play to earn a bye into the Region 2 championship. But Haxtun will have to get past either defending state champion Peetz
or Denver Waldorf
to reach the state tournament.
received the top spot and the first-round bye in the second bracket of Region 3. The Wolverines (18-3) have won seven in a row and have a balanced offense. But the team will have to get past either Walsh
or Sierra Grande (Blanca)
first. Walsh defeated Cheraw by 14 points on Jan. 12, and three of its losses came to teams from Kansas while a fourth was to 2A's top-seeded Holly.