The high school basketball season is half gone — or half full for all the beamish ballers out there. And that means it's that time to take a closer look at how things are unfolding in the 5A Front Range League.
Here are five things you can count on from the girls' and boys' teams for the second half of the season:
Those "I'll always be there for you" friendships
Over at Fairview, senior Mark Dolan and junior Jalen Page have been a dynamic one-two scoring punch in leading the Knights boys to atop the league standings. Dolan is averaging 17.6 points per game and Page is at 13.9. The two were in sync in the opening half of a blowout win over Monarch last week as the Knights scored 17 straight and the starters rested for most of the second half.
Afterward, it was all warm feelings and childhood memories.
"That goes back to club, we were like 11-years-old and playing together," the junior said of his chemistry with Dolan. "We've been around each other for so long. I've played with him and against him sometimes, so I kind of know what he does and the same with him. We know what each other are doing."
A similar tight-knit bond can be found at Legacy, where Jack Olson leads the Lightning with 20 points per contest while fellow-senior Jackson Stapleton averages 12.1.
In a gritty win over Fort Collins earlier in the month, the friends did what they do best — Olson took over in the paint and Stapleton nailed crucial 3s — as the Lightning held on.
Since this is not men's college basketball — where one-and-done reigns supreme — star seniors still do exist in the high school ranks.
In league, there haven't been too many seniors more important to their team's success around the area than Broomfield's Steph Peterson and Monarch's Emerson Herrmann. Both girls teams came into Thursday 13-3 on the season, which is more wins than either the Eagles (11) or Coyotes (4) had a season ago. Of course, it would be remiss not to mention each program welcomed back its original architects in Mike Croell and Gail Hook, and that probably is a strong reason for each team's resurgence, but it's just as hard to ignore how special Peterson and Herrmann have been on the court.
When asked about Peterson, Croell called his guard the "Queen Bee" of the operation. The senior has scored in double digits in all but one game this season and also averages six rebounds, 4.3 steals and 2.8 assists per game.
"She has her hand in a little bit of everything," Croell said. "As Steph goes, we usually go."
Herrmann is averaging a double-double with 17.1 points and 11.8 rebounds.
Both players are on pace to reach 1,000 points for their respective careers, as well.
2018 is in the rearview mirror — and for most teams in the league, that's not a bad thing.
Take the Legacy girls' team, winners of five of six in the new year, with its lone defeat coming by a mere four points to 5A RPI No. 2 Fossil Ridge on Tuesday.
Who saw this coming? First-year coach Dommonique Campbell has the Lightning playing like a league contender following a 3-7 start to the season.
"Being a new coach to the program they had to learn me as much as I had to learn my girls," Campbell said. "They had to learn a new everything. It took a while for them to trust in it and believe in it. And when we hit winter break it allowed us to stop and break down every piece they were trying to learn. And after we started the new year it was smooth sailing from there."
The Boulder boys' basketball team has also gone 5-1 in 2019 after starting just 1-9. First-year coach Riley Grabau has his team playing with a heightened level of confidence in the new year. His players were fitting passes through pinhole lanes en route to fastbreak hoops in a lopsided win over the Far Northeast Warriors earlier in the month. Perhaps the best dish of that night came from 6-foot-3 center Alex Rucker, though, who showed off his downfield passing with a perfect, full-court toss to seal the win.
Broomfield boys are also — yes, you guessed it, 5-1 since the winter break. The Eagles have won twice in regulation by a single point and have two other victories in extra time, including a 90-85 double overtime win over Horizon at the start of January.
Reason for optimism
Even for teams in the midst of tough times — like the Fairview girls and Monarch boys — there's reason to believe better days are ahead.
The Knights, who have lost eight straight, certainly seem to have a nice player in Izzy Munson. The junior averages a team-high 14.3 points — and maybe even better yet, appears to have the makings of a strong leader as the program transitions under coach Randy Earl.
Then there's Monarch, just 2-5 since the winter break, but it could be teetering on the brink of a breakthrough. A pessimist would point to a 28-point loss to rival Fairview on Jan. 18 as a barometer of how far the Coyotes appear to be from the top of the league. However, not 24 hours after the loss, Monarch steered through a gutty win on the road against Heritage. An optimist would say that's progress.
"I think we're starting to come together and play as a unit," Monarch coach Stewart Brewer said after that win. "We've been focusing so much on playing unselfish basketball and playing hard out there and together."
Another team that should be excited for the future is the girls' team at Boulder, which already is tied for the most wins in a season since 2015-16 with seven. The last time the Panthers had more than seven wins was in 2012-13.
So, despite being winless in league, Panthers coach Emily Glen appears to have the program headed in a positive direction.
So many questions
Whether you're flipping through your tweets, refreshing your MaxPreps page, or old-schooling it by attending a game, the rest of the season in the girls' and boys' Front Range League should be well worth your time.
At this point, the league champions are anyone's guess. Greeley West and Fairview came into Thursday undefeated in the boys' league, while Broomfield and Boulder are just behind with one loss. On the girls' side, Fossil Ridge is on top as Legacy, Mountain Range, Horizon and Broomfield are just a game back in the loss column as of Thursday morning.
What that all means for RPI?
So many more questions.
Brent W. New: firstname.lastname@example.org and @brentwnew