Hard to imagine our Colorado big-school 5A/4A ball getting any better than what we were treated to in the Great 8, folks.
But, it is not a stretch AT ALL to say we have the match-ups laid out for our Final 4 to be even better!
Let's see how we got here and preview the bouts.
5A Final 4 Preview
Tremendous action from the Great 8 captured in our Great 8 recaps:
- Fugett's heroics keeps GW and "city ball" alive.
- Kaison Hammonds with the composure and last second "dime" to Clay Verk punches the Grizzlies ticket.
- Dayne Prim does the inside work and Grandview hit timely shots from behind the arc to upset Chap.
- "Slashing" Sam Masten, even in a replacement uni, couldn't be stopped attacking the rim vs. Overland, whose defense was on a tear.
- Updated 5A bracket.
(2) ThunderRidge vs. (6) Grandview
Our first 5A game, at 7 p.m. is No. 2 seed ThunderRidge vs. No. 6 seed Grandview. The Grizzlies, with only one loss on the season and 25 wins, look to keep their streak going after their last-second win over Doherty has them feeling like this is their time.
T-Ridge faced a lot of size from Doherty and the Spartans started out more physical in the Great 8 match. Coach Ortiz's timely adjustments from zone to man and the team picking up the overall intensity to match the Spartans eventually did the trick. The Grizzlies will again have their hands full on the inside in the likes of Dayne Prim. We'll see if they have the answer, again.
Grandview shot the ball best of all the 5A teams in the Great 8 and can thank five 3-pointers from Tyler Unger and Ben Boone as the reason they took control over Chaparral. The Wolves will need that inside/out punch again to match what Dayne Prim does on the inside (14 points, 7 rebounds per game).
Grandview averages about eight points less per game than T-Ridge, and statistically slow down more in the second half than the Grizzlies do so the pace of this game will be interesting.
T-Ridge has used its 2-1-2 zone vs. teams with size this season and we'll see if they use that to stifle Prim's inside play but that can leave Unger and Boone with open looks from three point land.
Fun chess match to come...
(1) Rock Canyon vs. (5) George Washington
The late game, at 8:30 p.m., some argue could be the state title game if these two powers weren't on the same side of the bracket — and, oh yes, No. 1 Rock Canyon vs. No. 5 GW is a rematch!
No shortage of senior leadership here with the likes of Jon'il Fugett, Xavier Cooper, Sam Masten, and Tyson Gilbert in the back court for their squads. Our Fever Crew is a big fan of senior guard play down the stretch and this will be a treat to close out the night.
Sam Masten, one of out state's top players headed to Northern Colorado who was just named the Gatorade player of the year, is the key to the Jaguars attack averaging 22 points per game and leading his team in four of five major statistical categories. But, as soon as you focus on Masten here comes smooth, slashing fellow senior Tyson Gilbert who can get to the rim with either hand as well.
The duo combined for 34 points in Great 8 win vs. Overland who had previously shut teams down.
The Patriots leader and floor general is undoubtedly Jon'il Fugett who we've seen has no fear in stepping up to the plate in pressure situations. His ability to use his quickness to beat Kenny Foster with the dribble and then shoot the timely floater over a big man in the Great 8 finish sums up his body control and ability all in one play.
Another key to the Patriots is that all ten players on the roster have the ability to contribute and they will need that depth to knock off No. 1!
Our Fever Crew was at "Round 1" of this rematch in early December and honestly the Patriots looked confused and out-of-sorts early in the season. It was not a good showing by GW in tournament play on Rock Canyon's home court as the Jaguars won the game easily 75-50. The 23-8 third-quarter advantage was key in stretching out that lead.
GW will be focused and eager to prove they are a different squad than on Dec. 1 and the Jaguars will simply look to continue their steady play and not stray away from what got them here.
We have mentioned the stellar guard play we will all be treated to but this could be decided inside as senior Blake Williams of Rock Canyon will have a task on his hands with Tray Pierce and Mo Diallo in the front court for GW.
4A Final 4 Preview
The heroics of Matthew Ragsdale, star power of two-sport stud Marcell Barbee, scoring prowess of Luke Johnson, Joel Scott on a mission, and the veteran Nieyem'e Smeyer-Williams court leadership ... this Final 4 has a bit of it all!
(2) Lewis-Palmer vs. (6) Pueblo West
On paper we have a pretty balanced battle here. Pueblo West struggled in some of the rivalry games we've seen them excel in, in the past while Lewis-Palmer has lost only two games the entire season.
Pueblo West will ride the back of their veteran PG star Smeyer-Williamsm while the difference maker could be in the Rangers' Joel Scott who, even as a junior, has been described as a man amongst boys in 4A this year.
Scott also has a running mate in Matthew Ragsdale who can heat up behind the arc and is obviously not afraid to step up for the big shot when needed.
(1) Pueblo South vs. (5) Longmont
Our top seed Pueblo South and No. 5 seed Longmont both enter this Final 4 as two-loss teams on hot streaks.
Both squads are unbeaten league champs averaging in the 60 point-per-game range. This will be good!
We love great matchups in sports and Pueblo South with their core of players returning to the Coliseum from last year and 4A Football Player of the Year Marcell Barbee would be the great of this matchup. Longmont is the "blue collar" team coming in looking to shock and upset.
Don't be fooled, though: Longmont has a stud lead man in Luke Johnson who averages 20 points per game who is more than capable of stealing the show!
Cancel all plans for Friday and Saturday, folks. There's only one place to be and that's the Denver Coliseum for the conclusion of our big school boys hoops.
It will be more than worth the price of admission!