Centaurus’ Steven Lopez expects to be an elite scorer for the Warriors.
Centaurus' Steven Lopez expects to be an elite scorer for the Warriors. ( Matthew Jonas )

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Chris Arehart, Sr., Fairview: Knights' lone returning starter averaged just shy of 10 points a game and will be responsible for carrying a young team.

Jackson Engles, Sr., Silver Creek: Engles can hit jumpers from everywhere, and he'll be a leader on defense for the Raptors, too.

Blake Goodwin, Sr., Mead: Mavericks boast one of the state's top shot-blockers in Goodwin, and the senior should be able to get in the post more on offense this year, too.

Chris Helbig, Jr., Holy Family: There is D-I potential in the electric Helbig, and if completely healthy there's no reason to think he can't be among the state's scoring leaders.

Justinian Jessup, Jr., Longmont: Jessup has proven to have elite skills, and his length on the outside is tough to deal with. He's not going to settle on jump shots, either.

Kyle Leahy, Sr., Erie: An exceptional athlete overall, Leahy is an all-category contributor who will keep the Tigers competitive in the Tri-Valley League.

Steven Lopez, Sr., Centaurus: Lopez takes chances with his penetration and often finds ways to sneak inside the paint, but the Warriors thrive on his 3-point shooting.

Avery Sears, Sr., Shining Mountain: A 6-foot-3 center, Sears has good feet and rebounding skills, and the Lions' success may ride on him becoming an elite scorer.

Garrett Turner, Sr., Boulder: Came in as a confident sophomore and has continued to prove tough for anyone to guard on the outside. He makes 3-point shooting look effortless.

Ryan Yancey, Sr., Frederick: Ball-handling and defense were Yancey's major contributions as a junior, but he'll be looked to become a consistent shooter for the Warriors.

 

POSTSEASON INFORMATION

The regular season for all classifications ends Feb. 21, and the Class 4A and Class 5A brackets will be established Feb. 22. Class 3A-1A will play in regional tournaments to establish 8-team state tournament participants. Championship weekend is March 12-14 at four different locations (5A and 4A at Coors Events Center; 3A at Colorado School of Mines; 2A at CSU-Pueblo; 1A at Budweiser Events Center).

 

TEAM-BY-TEAM CAPSULES

BOULDER PANTHERS

Coach: Eric Eisenhard (4th year).

Last year: 14-11 overall, 8-8 Front Range League.

Returning starters: Tommy Baumgartner (Sr., 5-10, guard); Leif Blessing (Sr., 6-6, forward); Jack Boyle (Jr., 6-5, guard/forward); Bill DiScipio (Jr., 6-1, guard); Morgan Hohlfelder (Sr., 6-5, forward); Garrett Turner (Sr., 6-0, guard).

Others to watch: Savoy Carl (Sr., 6-5, guard); Garrett Johnston (Sr., 6-4, guard); Brendan Kelly (Sr., 6-3, guard); Liam Kelly (Sr., 6-3, guard); Grant Lurie (Sr., 6-0, guard); Ben Posthumus (Jr., 6-6, center); Landon Taliaferro (Jr., 6-3, guard).

Outlook: Turner returns as one of the area's best and consistent workers, and the Panthers this year have some good depth around him with an improved Blessing and Boyle. Baumgartner is a savvy player, as well, and DiScipio has been known to hit some big shots. Overall, there's more height on this team than a year ago.

 

BROOMFIELD EAGLES

Coach: Terrence Dunn (7th year).

Last year: 7-17 overall, 4-10 Class 4A Northern League.

Returning starters: Payton Holloway (Sr., 5-11, guard); Nate Lehnerz (Jr., 6-4, guard); Logan McCormick (Sr., 6-0, guard).

Others to watch: Jack Burgesser (Jr., 6-5, forward); Noah Dohm (Jr., 6-2, forward); Sam Foster (So., 6-0, guard).

Outlook: Broomfield had a tough go of it last year but typically enjoys success, and many of the Eagles are coming off a great football season. The Front Range League will not offer the Eagles any reprieve from competition, but Dunn is looking forward to having McCormick back on the court after missing last year. No one player is going to carry them this year.

 

CENTAURUS WARRIORS

Coach: Brandon Gullicksrud (3rd year).

Last year: 6-17 overall, 2-12 Northern League.

Returning starters: Mike DeVries (Sr., 6-2, forward); Steven Lopez (Sr., 5-10, guard.

Others to watch: Shayne Albertson (Sr., 6-0, guard); Kyle Bedford (Sr., 6-4, center); Eric Gambon (So., 5-11, guard); Nick Inslee (Sr., 5-11, guard/forward); Mike Loftus (Sr., 6-2, forward); Isaiah Moreno (Sr., guard/forward); Anthony Ogrodnick (Sr., 6-3, forward); Logan Platt (Jr., 6-0, guard).

Outlook: The Warriors got off to a good start but could not buy a win in league play last year. Centaurus is hoping Inslee fully recovers from an ACL injury, and DeVries is a nice piece inside who hustles on the offensive rebounds. Gullicksrud, more than anything, wants his guys to value every possession.

 

DAWSON SCHOOL MUSTANGS

Coach: Jeff Youngstrom (4th year).

Last year: 11-10 overall, 3-7 Mile High League.

Returning starters: Chris Slade (Jr., 5-10, guard).

Others to watch: Jordan Bacher (Sr., 6-4, center); Connor O'Grady (Sr., 6-1, forward).

Outlook: The Mustangs are going to need to build quickly with minimal varsity experience returning. Despite coming off the bench, Bacher was the team's third-leading rebounder, and Slade averaged 3.3 points and 2.1 assists as a sophomore. O'Grady may be expected to put the ball on the floor a little more, too.

 

ERIE TIGERS

Coach: Tim Leahy (5th year).

Last year: 15-9 overall, 8-6 Tri-Valley League.

Returning starters: Kyle Leahy (Sr., 6-4, guard).

Others to watch: Triston Berringer (Sr., 6-1, guard); Bobby Bledsoe (Sr., 6-2, guard); Andrew Campbell (Sr., 6-6, guard/forward); William Campbell (So., 6-5, Forward); Alex Goodell (Sr., 6-3, guard/forward); Josh Meyers (Sr., 6-1, guard/forward); Cameron McCurry (So., 6-8, post).

Outlook: The Tigers might look a little different this year with more size, giving them an opportunity to push the ball inside a little more. Leahy's range is excellent, and there is a lot of chemistry already built with a large senior contingent. Coach Leahy feels the team can score but that his team must put defense high on the priority list to contend in the TVL .

 

FAIRVIEW KNIGHTS

Coach: Frank Lee (18th year).

Last year: 16-9 overall, 9-7 Front Range League.

Returning starters: Chris Arehart (Sr., 6-1, guard).

Others to watch: Johnny Feauto (Sr., 6-0, guard); Sam Grad (So., 6-2, forward); Kailash Graham-Bell (Jr., 6-4, forward); Evan Grainger (Sr., 6-0, guard); Cole Heisner (So., 6-3, forward); Will Kaufman (Jr., 6-0, guard); Kamran Shahbaz (Sr., 6-1, guard); Trevor Simmon (Sr., 6-2, forward); Chris Weatherly (Jr., 5-11, guard).

Outlook: Seniors dominated the roster last year, with Arehart, Feauto and Grainger the only varsity players to return. Arehart is capable of carrying the scoring load, however, and there is knowledge and athleticism in every position for the young Knights. Lee is preaching consistency, particularly in rebounding.

 

FAITH BAPTIST PIONEERS

Coach: Jared Gunderson (9th year).

Last year: 5-12 overall

Returning starters: Clayton Eldred (So., 5-8, guard); Brandon Langridge (So., 6-3, post); Caleb Pene (Jr., 6-2, post); Branden Smith (Jr., 5-3 wing); Nicholas Wyrwas (So, 5-10, wing).

Others to watch: Collin Dillon (So., 6-3, post); Ivan Hoogland (So., 6-2, post); Sam Kaessner (So., 5-7, wing).

Outlook: Faith Baptist will soon make its move to CHSAA sanctioning, so the 2014-15 season will be the last for the Pioneers in the Front Range Christian Athletic Association. Being young right now should make for a more smooth transition, and Gunderson believes his team will have balance. Pene was named to last year's BoCoPreps.com All-Region team.

 

FREDERICK WARRIORS

Coach: Larry Frank (7th year).

Last year: 18-7 overall, 11-3 Tri-Valley League.

Returning starters: Jake Doud (Sr., 6-3, wing); Dylan Dufour (Sr., 6-3, post); Ryan Yancey (Sr., 6-1, guard).

Others to watch: Alec Bessler (Jr., 6-4, wing); Chris Gutierrez (Sr., 6-1, guard); Lane Hiser (Sr., 6-1, guard); Chelton LeBon (Jr., 6-0, guard); Jake Oster (Sr., 6-3, wing); Andy Parker (Sr., 6-3, guard).

Outlook: The Warriors weren't exactly senior-heavy last year, but those seniors were a talented bunch and Frank is looking at another group of experienced players to take on that same level of play. Tough defense will be imperative with an FHS team that won't score as many points, but the Warriors should find themselves in every game at the end.

 

HOLY FAMILY TIGERS

Coach: Pete Villecco (5th year).

Last year: 25-2 overall, 7-1 Class 3A Metro League.

Returning starters: Austin Brown (Sr., 6-5, forward); Luke Golter (Sr., 6-3, wing); Chris Helbig (Jr., 6-3, guard).

Others to watch: Alex Comeaux (Sr., 5-11, guard); Joe Golter (So., 6-1, guard); Nick Kruetzer (Sr., 6-4, forward).

Outlook: Few coaches, if any, think that the Tigers will suffer in their move to 4A, and with five players who played significant roles in a 3A title run last year, it makes perfect sense as to why. Helbig is the star, of course, but Brown's scoring and rebounding is quality and Luke Golter can do everything. It will be fun to watch the Tigers battle for the Tri-Valley League title.

 

JEFFERSON ACADEMY JAGUARS

Coach: Mark Sharpley (15th year).

Last year: 20-4 overall, 5-3 Metro League.

Returning starters: Jake Barlow (Sr., 6-3, forward); Joe Raff (Sr., 6-3, forward); Andrew Ullman (Sr., 6-3, guard).

Others to watch: Shane Davis (Jr., 6-9, center); Joe Rodriguez (So., 5-9, guard); Taylor Teets (Sr., 5-9, guard).

Outlook: Sharpley always has his team ready to play, and the Jaguars will remain strong contenders for the league title with Colorado Academy. In Barlow, Raff and Ullman, JA has plenty of across-the-board talent back, and Davis will add to that mix once he's eligible as a transfer player. The Jaguars pride themselves on defense and will look to keep opponents under 40 points a game.

 

JUSTICE PHOENIX

Coach: TJ Cole (1st year).

Last year: 6-10 overall.

Returning starters: Tazah Cotton (5-10, center), Quinton Del Ross (5-8, guard); Nick Montgomery (5-11, forward); Will Thornton (5-11, forward); Eric Warren (5-8, guard).

Others to watch: Cody Harris (5-10, center).

Outlook: Cole, the principal at Justice, takes over as boys basketball coach with experience coaching the sport, and the Phoenix will be competing in the Charter School Basketball League (non-CHSAA). Cole's primary focus is building tradition and competitiveness within the team while striving for a record better than .500.

 

LEGACY LIGHTNING

Coach: Gunnar Johnson (5th year).

Last year: 6-17 overall, 3-13 Front Range League.

Returning starters: Dalton Royer (Jr., 6-3, forward).

Others to watch: Tyler Converse (Jr., 6-1, guard/forward); Jeffrey Salazar (Jr., 5-10, guard).

Outlook: After winning three of four games to start last season, the Lightning dropped 10 straight games, and Johnson hopes to avoid that kind of a mid-season lull again. Converse led the team with 8.9 points per game last year, while Royer chipped in close to eight per contest. Building a stronger presence on the boards is a must for this squad, which will likely run with a tight rotation.

 

LONGMONT TROJANS

Coach: Jeff Kloster (21st year).

Last year: 19-6 overall, 11-3 Northern League.

Returning starters: Justinian Jessup (Jr., 6-4, guard); Kevin Mitchell (Jr., 6-4- post); Blake O'Grady (Sr., 6-4, post); Clint Sigg (Sr., 6-5, post); David Speidel (Jr., 6-1, wing); Eli Sullivan (Jr., 6-1, wing).

Others to watch: Kolton Bachman (Jr., 6-1, wing); Jorge Cordova (Jr., 6-2, wing); Cooper Rothe (Jr., 5-11, guard); Ryan Rulon (Jr., 6-2, wing).

Outlook: Athleticism on the Trojans' roster is overflowing, but Longmont will enter the season with a lot of catching up to do because of a deep playoff run in football. Still, with Jessup a legitimate D-I player, and Mitchell, a strong body down low, working together, LHS has big things in mind for this season. Sullivan's return from injury is also big for the team.

 

LONGMONT CHRISTIAN WARRIORS

Coach: Myron Huey (1st year).

Last year: 11-10 overall, 5-5 Mile High League.

Returning starters: None.

Others to watch: Kenneth Hannan (So., 5-7, guard); Cameron Jauregui (So., 5-11, guard); Anthony Puchino (Sr., 6-0, forward); Luke Puchino (So., 5-8, guard); Jackson Solem (So., 6-1, forward).

Outlook: Huey is excited to be able to work at a small school but brings a big-school coaching mentality to Longmont Christian. It might be a rebuilding year for the Warriors, though, as Solem's 2.4 point scoring average is tops among returners. Other question marks linger, such as finding a big-time rebounder, but the team will work on defense first.

 

LYONS LIONS

Coach: Andrew Smith (2nd year).

Last year: 4-17 overall, 1-9 Patriot League.

Returning starters: Zach Christiansen (Sr., 6-2, forward); Shea Gilman (Sr., 6-1, forward).

Others to watch: Lars Basey (Jr., 6-3, forward/center); Owen Gorge (Jr., 5-9, guard); Justin Gorman (Sr., 5-11, guard); Bridger Keane (So., 5-7, guard); Mitchell Simms (Jr., 5-9, guard).

Outlook: The Lions will get a jolt simply in fact they are a part of the Mile High League now, and Christiansen is a player that should have continued success around the basket after scoring nearly 19 points a game in 2013-14. A bit deeper on the bench, Smith is looking to avoid late-game collapses after losing too many close games last year.

 

MEAD MAVERICKS

Coach: Darin Reese (5th year).

Last year: 16-9 overall, 12-2 Tri-Valley League.

Returning starters: Blake Goodwin (Sr., 6-8, post); Walker Korell (Jr., 6-4, wing); James Maher (Jr., 5-10, guard); Michael Ward (So., 6-0, guard).

Others to watch: Ryan Cheung (Sr., 6-0 wing); Jake Cloke (Sr., 6-3, wing); Daniel Gernant (Sr., 6-1, post); Michael Rice (So., 6-1, guard); Alex Sandstrom (So., 6-4, wing).

Outlook: The Mavericks were pretty deadly from 3-point range last year on their way to the Tri-Valley League title, and one might see more inside-out play this year with what Goodwin and some others bring to the table. Korell returns as the team's leading scorer, and he has good awareness on the court, while Maher's role will certainly continue to increase, too. Mead opens the season against Longmont, giving it a great early litmus test.

 

MONARCH COYOTES

Coach: Ken Niven (17th year).

Last year: 19-6 overall, 12-4 Front Range League.

Returning starters: Sam Fredricksmeyer (Sr., 6-4, guard); Shawn Kirkman (Sr., 6-3, forward); Eric Lawson (Sr., 6-3, forward).

Others to watch: Austin Cracraft (Sr., 6-0, guard); Mitchell Hill (Sr., 5-11, guard); Steve Hoban (Jr., 6-3, forward); Kyler Johnson (Sr., 6-1, guard); Minda Katilus (Sr., 6-4, post); Mac Rowan (Jr., 5-11, guard); Ryan Webb (Jr., 6-5, post).

Outlook: Monarch had a special season last year behind the solid play of a couple of seniors, but Niven is banking on a much better team game for the Coyotes this year. The trio of returning starters each poured in 6-8 points a game, and Webb is going to give MHS a post presence Niven said has been needed for a long time. Look for them to extend their defense a bit more, too.

 

NEDERLAND PANTHERS

Coach: Chris Dettmann (2nd year).

Last year: 2-17 overall, 0-11 Mile High League.

Returning starters: Jack Abendroth (Sr., 6-2, guard); Mike Airola (Sr., 5-9, guard); Ike Thibedeau (Jr., 6-0, post).

Others to watch: Kieran Hafey (Jr., 6-0, guard); Kellen Sequeria (Jr., 5-9, guard).

Outlook: Nederland's six-man roster in 2013-14 was tough to deal with in Dettmann's first year, but 11 players came out for this year's team which will help fight the weekly battles. Thibedeau and Abendroth form a solid inside-out combo, but Sequeria could be a surprise player. The Panthers will not be eligible for playoffs as they will play about half the season against junior varsity opponents.

 

NIWOT COUGARS

Coach: Enoch Miller (2nd year).

Last year: 7-16 overall, 4-10 Northern League.

Returning starters: Jonny Drake (Sr., 5-9, guard); Brendan Gray (Sr., 6-5, post); Justin Lee (Sr., 6-5, post); Jason Seper (Sr., 6-3, guard).

Others to watch: Michael Agado (So., 5-9, guard); Walker Bounds (Jr., 6-2, post); Trey Hill (Sr., 5-11, guard); Ryan Kannegeiter (Jr., 6-4, post) Charlie Mitelhaus (Sr., 6-1, guard/forward).

Outlook: Miller's first season for the Cougars saw some good wins but much inconsistency, and the hope is things will change with a little more experience in his systems. Lee is very athletic in the middle, and Mitelhaus finished last year on a high note as a starter. Reducing turnovers is a must for this team, and Niwot will also look to shoot better overall when they do have the ball.

 

PEAK TO PEAK PUMAS

Coach: Tony Peters (10th year).

Last year: 3-17 overall, 0-8 Metro League.

Returning starters: Jonathan Dee (Jr., 5-10, guard); Daniel Griffith (Jr., 5-10, guard).

Others to watch: Nathan Dee (Jr., 6-0, guard); Tommy Shriver (So., 6-3, guard/forward); Mitchell Ward (Sr., 6-3, post); Brayden Weyer (So., 6-9, center).

Outlook: Asking for a complete turnaround from Peak to Peak, considering the tough league its plays in, is a little much, but Peters said the Pumas could be an improved team if they simplify the game. There are good shooters but even more athletic bodies spread through the roster, and Weyer, a transfer, will add size in the middle when he's eligible.

 

SHINING MOUNTAIN LIONS

Coach: Sean Lynch (2nd year).

Last year: 17-6 overall, 7-1 5280 League.

Returning starters: Jordan Cherin (Jr., 5-9, guard); Luke Feigal (Jr., 5-9, guard); Avery Sears (Sr., 6-3, center).

Others to watch: Gray Hill (Jr., 6-1, forward).

Outlook: Alex Beal's graduation leaves a lot of scoring to make up for, but Shining Mountain still boasts plenty of talent in its returners and Lynch feels they are deeper at more positions across the board. Sears should be able to use his size to his advantage, and Feigal is a solid shooter that averaged nine points a contest last year. Cherin and Hill also offer solid rebounding, which was one of the team's strengths most of the time last year.

 

SILVER CREEK RAPTORS

Coach: Bob Banning (15th year).

Last year: 13-12 overall, 7-7 Northern League.

Returning starters: Jackson Engles (Sr., 6-4, guard/forward); Austin Hartman (Sr., 6-4, forward).

Others to watch: Reece Barracks (Jr., 6-4, forward); Anthony Kasper (Jr., 5-10, guard); Andrew Rapp (Jr., 6-7, center); Chris Rapp (Sr., 6-4, forward); Ryan Strong (Sr., 5-8, guard).

Outlook: Banning is stoked to get going with this deep group, which includes a few more guys than listed who will see quality minutes. The Raptors scored some big wins last year, and Engles and Hartman return as the guys that will carry that experience to the rest of the team. Someone will have to emerge in the post.

 

SKYLINE FALCONS

Coach: Jason Johnson (2nd year).

Last year: 8-15 overall, 6-8 Tri-Valley League.

Returning starters: Matt Dietz (Jr., 6-4, post); Deshon Elcock (Sr., 6-3, guard); Justin Forsyth (Sr., 6-2, guard); Dominic Mansanares (Sr., 6-2, post).

Others to watch: Josh Angstead (Jr., 5-10, guard); Tyler Brenneman, Sr., 6-2, guard); Logan Ekern (Jr., 5-7, guard); Seth Green (Sr., 6-1, guard); Tom Moran (Sr., 5-11, guard).

Outlook: Johnson used 16 different players throughout the course of last year, and toward the end the Falcons played a lot better once the rotation got tighter. There is a better feeling to the start of this season around SHS, which will look to do better things in the half-court set, too.

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