Ball Fever is a regular installment written by Thomas Trotman which rounds up boys basketball action in Class 5A and 4A.
Colorado prep hoop fans! What an exciting time in Colorado as our big school divisions have produced one memorable regular season with some excellent team play and amazing individual performances, as well.
The buzz about Colorado hoops is legit and we can thank a growing basketball community for that from our peewee rec leagues to competitive club ball, increasing individual personal training opportunities and truly dedicated high school staffs. The basketball product hitting the Colorado hardwood is improving and colleges of all levels are taking notice! Great time to be a part of Colorado hoops and now lets get to the madness!
Now, on to the tournament previews:
Ray Ball Region
The top seed coming out of this region is an extremely hot Mountain Vista (22-1) squad which is riding a 14-game winning streak. That includes their Continental League-clinching overtime thriller vs. Highlands Ranch to cap the regular season. The confident, Denver-bound Jake Pemberton leads Vista's fast-paced attack which keeps opponents gasping for air.
Our Fever Crew discussed Chatfield playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder in this region after going 14-2 in league and winning the Jeffco but earning a No. 3 seed.
The defending champs? Oh yes, the Eaglecrest Raptors again have a balanced attack with numerous athletes who are likely very hungry to taste the title again. Junior Blend Advili continues to be a jack of all trades for the Raptors, while LaDerian King and Jaisean Jackson's senior leadership will make the defending champ a scary matchup.
Favorites: Mountain Vista and Eaglecrest. In our opinion, both are Boulder-capable teams but only one will get there.
Watch out for: Fort Collins can be a sneaky No. 4 seed here in our opinion. Colorado State commit Toby Van Ry and his running mate Will Duggan (Black Hills State commit) will not go down without a fight. Possible Sweet 16 match-up with Mountain Vista for Fort Collins.
Chatfield was discussed above and they may have to face a tough, well-coached ThunderRidge squad right away. Coach Joe Ortiz and crew will use the lessons learned in the tough Continental League and be prepared should that game become reality.
Chauncey Billups Region:
One year ago, we sat in the Fossil Ridge gym and watched that 2013 team battle Arapahoe to exciting last-second finish. While looking at their roster all one could think was, "This squad is going to be tough next year!"
That turned out to be a huge understatement as the SaberCats have posted a perfect 23-0 season with their first league title and many voting them as our state's No. 1 team. The SaberCats' lead man is Alex Semadeni, who leads their balanced attack with 14 points per game. Our Fever Crew got to see many of these young men playing club ball together as well in tough venues such as Indianapolis and Las Vegas.
Regardless of how things end up for the SaberCats, congrats are in order for coach Matt Johannsen and the entire Fossil Ridge hoops family.
With all the attention Mountain Vista and Highlands Ranch got towards the end of the season, it may have been easy to overlook Regis Jesuit but don't make that mistake as coach Ken Shaw will have his crew prepped for postseason action. The Raiders have a No. 2 seed but some tough potential opponents in Smoky Hill, Standley Lake and possibly an Arapahoe if both can advance to Sweet 16.
Favorites: Fossil Ridge and Regis. After a tough two-point loss to Mountain Vista, Regis has quietly ran off seven in a row. Many feel Fossil Ridge/Regis have similar rosters and would love to see the two great coaches match wits as well.
Watch out for:
- A fun first-round match up in Rock Canyon and Lincoln. If you like guard play check out Lincoln's leader Michael Sparks vs. the Jaguars tandem of Tyler Garcia and Mitch Lombard.
- Arapahoe and Smoky Hill have impressive "Centennial-tough" league wins and wouldn't mind playing for a rubber match after splitting their season matchups.
Jim Baggot Region:
The season had to have a bit of a "rock star" feel for this region's top seed Denver East Angels while they had the opportunity to play top national competition in Utah, Florida and Nebraska.
The Angels finished the season with a 19-4 mark with each loss coming out of state. CU-bound Dominique Collier and Creighton commit Ronnie Harrell lead a very celebrated starting five who all have NCAA Division I college interest and potential.
East tasted great success last year but as we all know they came up short in the title game. They haven't lost in Colorado this year and we're sure coach Rudy Carey's Angels don't plan on it.
Highlands Ranch suffered a 20-point post-winter break loss to Denver East in January and they would love a rematch now that the Falcons are healthy and at full strength. The No. 2 seed is led by big Zach Braxton (Weber State commit) and he has serious perimeter help with a healthy Evan Motlong along with Riley Stewart playing well.
Favorites: Clearly Denver East and Highlands Ranch in this region. Lots of work to be done but the city vs. suburbs fanatics would love to see this possible Sweet 16 matchup happen.
Watch out for:
- Horizon will have its hands full with No. 10 seed George Washington.
- Thomas (20 points per game) and Luke Neff over at Arvada West can heat up and cause lots of trouble in the bottom half of this region.
- Twitter-verse seemed to show a lot of surprise at Grandview earning a No. 3 seed and they will be tested right away if the Arvada West match up plays out.
- Heard a lot of good things about Broderick Robinson, senior averaging 20 points per for Grand Junction, and a possible match-up vs. Cherokee Trail young guns could be intriguing.
Bill Weimar Region:
The Danny Fisher-coached Overland Trailblazers (17-6) suffered a tough one-point home loss to Eaglecrest in January, but have since run off seven straight, including avenging that loss to the Raptors to lock up the Centennial League title in OT last Friday.
The young Blazers talent is well documented with two-sport stud Austin Conway running the show, big De'Ron Davis on the inside, and guards Reggie Gibson, Jervae Robinson making more consistent impact. Don't be surprised if you hear that senior T'Aren Williams steps up for Overland somewhere during this playoff journey.
The EMAC conference hasn't gotten a lot of respect lately but one player who could make us all take notice on any given night is future CSU Ram Jeremiah Paige. The Rangeview Raiders look good as a No. 2 seed on a 10-game win streak which includes a road victory over 4A's No. 1 ranked squad Valor Christian to finish the season.
The Raiders could be in for a real battle if Montbello can get the win over visiting Liberty. Montbello is playing much improved ball lately and have a starting five that can compete with any in the state. The question with the Warriors will be their depth.
Favorites: Going with the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds as the favorites here as well. Giving a slight edge to Rangeview over No. 3 seed Chaparral here as they beat them head-to-head, but that was a very different Chap team early in the season. Overland carrying some serious momentum into tourney.
Watch out for:
- Speaking of young talent, Overland may just see some if Aurora Central and their young guard Ladarius Thomas can lead the Trojans to a win over Boulder.
- More strong guard play with Dakota Ridge potentially facing Monarch.
- As mentioned above, Chaparral could easily be a favorite in this region. Jake Holtzman, who reportedly just picked up an offer from Denver University, leads a Chap squad who won seven of their last eight. Only recent loss coming to Continental champ Vista.
- Senior DJ Miles is a player to watch as Bear Creek visits Cherry Creek to see who gets Chap. The Creek Bruins had a fast start and proved they can play with the best (senior Griffin Parr at 12 points per game, Ceasar Jones and Will Bower lead the strong junior class). Lets see if they can regain the steam at the right time.
Richard Tate Region:
The consistent No. 1-ranked team most of the season in 4A has been Valor Christian and that's hard to argue with. The Eagles have a senior-heavy roster that has gotten close to that "gold ball" and seem primed to make another Boulder run this year.
Senior Chase Foster (San Francisco commit; 20 points per game) is Mr. Versatility for the Eagles and he has a strong cast of sweet-shooting Garrett Baggett along with the toughness football studs Christian McCaffrey and Marcus Wilson bring.
Valor hoops is 19-4 and their only Colorado loss comes to 5A Rangeview.
Pueblo East got the No. 2 seed in this region. Dylan Gavin is averaging 20 points per game for East and had the team on a five-game winning streak before a season-ending loss to league champ Pueblo South.
A player who can spark his team to a run in this region is Vista PEAK's Romello Washington. Washington can light it up, has recent games of 25, 31, 27, with a season average of 18 per game for Vista, who are undefeated league champs.
Favorites: Valor Christian and Pueblo East.
Watch out for: Ponderosa played in the brutal 5A Continental League but now look to make some noise in the 4A tourney. Will be interesting to see how Valor handles one of our states best "bigs" in 6-foot-10 Wyoming commit Jonathon Barnes should Pondo get by Mountain View.
Guy Gibbs Region:
The D'Evelyn Jaguars have a strong duo who have both averaged close to 20 points per game the entire season in Ty McGee and Grant Witherspoon. The 18-5 Jags had two late season losses to Thomas Jefferson and Wheat Ridge but their 13-1 Jeffco 4A league record won the league title and got them the No. 1 seed.
The No. 2 seed Sand Creek in this region has a real play maker of their own in Air Force commit Dylan Clark (averaging 20 points per game, as well).
Favorites: Have to add Denver West as a serious problem for folks in this region along with the two top seeds. Coach Ray Valdez has the Cowboys playing fundamentally sound and with a lot of fight. Sophomore Alpha Diallo is an up and coming play maker with nice court vision, scoring ability for West.
Watch out for: Would love to have a front row seat for a potential Sweet 16 match up of Denver West vs. Sand Creek.
Mark Randall Region:
Two more deserving, tough Nos. 1 and 2 seeds here as well.
Thompson Valley, 22-1 with only loss coming to 5A's Fossil Ridge, haven't tasted defeat since mid-December. 6-foot-5 senior Collin Smith paces the Eagles with 19 points and six rebounds per game.
Got to take a look at Thompson Valley's balanced play when they visited a squad with a strong senior leader of their own in Cheyenne Mountain's Ghassan Nehme (Montana State commit). Nehme, who averages almost 27 points per game, has the Indians on a five-game streak headed into tourney play.
Favorites: Top two seeds look good here but Longmont and Mesa Ridge very capable of mixing things up. Senior Austin Kemp will attempt to get Longmont back on track after two late-season losses.
Watch out for: Ghassan Nehme is an electric scorer who can put his squad on his shoulders if needed.
Maceo Broadnax Jr. Region:
Pueblo South lost their first two games of the season and have impressively ran off 21 wins in a row. Now that's momentum headed into the tourney.
Another impressive stat is that the Colts have four players averaging double figure scoring, led by Brian Pratt and Jared Baros right at 13 each per game.
Denver South holds this region's No. 2 seed and their big man in the middle, Ibrahim Sylla (Northern Colorado commit), is a double-double highlight machine above the rim. Sylla averages 14 points and 14 rebounds per game.
Favorites: Hard to call in this extremely tough region. Stacked with competitive teams like Golden (won 10 of their last 11 games with sophomore Ryan Blodgett at 12-point and eight-rebound average) at the No. 3 seed and a No. 4 seed in Thomas Jefferson who could beat any of the top 3 if they bring their "A" game as they did in a late season win over No. 1 seed D'Evelyn.
Watch out for: "Watch your head" as the players would say when South's Sylla or Thomas Jefferson's Trey Andres take flight. Two of our state's "freakish" athletes. Denver South played a strong season finale vs. 5A No. 1 Denver East. They could carry that momentum into a tourney run. Guards Lorenzo Snoddy and Tyson Purifoy capable of big games as well. This region is tough!
Whew! Get ready for some fun tourney action folks.
Denver East/Fossil Ridge in 5A? Valor/Thompson Valley in 4A? Many have said it could play out just that way. Those have been your top big school squads all season, but we happen to remember a young man by the name of TreShawn Wilford who led the Eaglecrest Raptors on a special tournament run in 2013.
Who could be the Wilford of this years playoffs? We'll be watching to find out! Enjoy ...