• Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    Centaurus' Nick Vaver, left, has helped provide a steady scoring presence for the Warriors as they look to track down Longmont in the Northern League before the end of the season. Longmont (4A No. 2), Centaurus (No. 8) and Greeley Central (No. 9) represent the league in the CHSAANow.com rankings.

  • Brad Cochi/ BoCoPreps.com

    Longmont's Tara Hitchcock (left) and Shaelee Gray have celebrated a turnaround for the Trojans in Northern League play, where they sit at 5-1 and in the upper half of the standings.

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A winter of this caliber has been a long time coming for the Centaurus boys basketball team.

That is to say, the Warriors have been building for years in the hope of experiencing the type of success they currently are. Now that their time has finally arrived, the Centaurus boys are enjoying every moment as one of the top teams in Colorado’s Class 4A.

“It’s been really cool for our program to be ranked in the top 10, and to be up there in the RPI,” fourth year head coach Travis Maron said. “We’ve played a top five 4A schedule this year and we’ve held our own. It takes time to build and this feels like what we’ve been building towards. The kids have really bought in and it’s been fun to this point.”

It certainly did take time.

Prior to this winter, the Warriors’ last winning season was in 2009-10 — winning 19 games and reaching the Sweet 16. They won 10 games the following season, but after that the Warriors hit a six-year stretch of winning fewer than nine games a season.

The Warriors won eight games in Maron’s first season as head coach in 2015-16 but two years ago, the Warriors won just four out of 23 games. Last year, they went 9-16 and were the 48th and final team to qualify for the postseason. They ended up beating 17th-seeded Elizabeth in the first round and rode that momentum into this season.

Already at 10-5 in 2018-19, the Warriors are all but assured a winning season. But they’ve progressed well beyond limiting their goals to just that.

“It’s been a really fun year so far,” Maron said. “We’ve had a couple games where we didn’t really play to our standards and we’re still working hard to get better every day. We’re trying to really hit our stride here for these last 10 games. Then we’re going to see what we can do in the playoffs.”

The Northern League currently supplies three of the top 10 team in 4A — No. 2 Longmont (15-0, 6-0), No. 8 Centaurus (10-5, 5-1) and No. 9 Greeley Central (11-4, 4-2) — according to the latest CHSAANow.com poll.

Longmont girls having their say

So far in 2018-19 the Longmont boys basketball team is right where it should be, sitting at No. 2 in the CHSAANow.com 4A rankings and undefeated through 15 games.

The defending champion Trojans (15-0, 6-0) are outscoring opponents by an average margin of 26 points and have a trio of players — Beck Page, Brady Renck and Calvin Seamons — scoring in double figures. All is well in the Longmont boys’ locker room.

However, the Longmont girls basketball team is sneakily having quite a solid season of its own.

After starting off the winter with a 2-8 record, the LHS girls have since won five straight games and are creeping ever closer to the .500 mark. Even in a conference that will likely be won by No. 6 Greeley Central (14-1, 6-0), at the rate they are going the Trojans (7-8, 5-1) can’t be counted out just yet.

“Early in the season, we talked a lot about how we have a lot of seniors but only one returner and we have been adjusting to the different levels of experience,” first year Trojans head coach Wade Kingsbury said. “Now we’re finishing games instead of letting them fall away from us. A big part of it is kids just stepping up into their roles and us figuring out lineups a little bit more. I still don’t know if we’ve had a fully healthy lineup yet this season, either. But on the other hand, not having a consistent rotation has kept girls on their toes and we’ve gotten a lot of contributions from up and down our lineup.”

Led by Annika Wetterstrom, their lone returning varsity player who averages 9.2 points a game, the Trojans don’t have a player scoring in double figures. They do, however, have six different girls — Shaelee Gray, Jordynn Lee, Sarah Wormke, Tanna Carson, Tara Hitchcock and Wetterstrom — pitching in five or more points a night.

During their current win streak, the Trojans have won three of the five games by two points or fewer. That includes a 47-46 overtime win over Niwot on Jan. 11, as well as back-to-back two-point victories over Mountain View and Northridge last week.

With the Northern’s parity making girls basketball games exciting on a nightly basis, the Trojans will find out exactly how they stack up when they travel to face Greeley Central on Friday.

“Greeley Central is definitely top dog,” Kingsbury said. “But the next four or five teams, there isn’t much separating us right now.”

Ward’s winning ways

The Niwot girls have won two straight games and that’s good news for future CHSAA Hall of Fame coach Terri Ward.

On Tuesday night, the Cougars defeated Centaurus to earn Ward her 299th career victory as head coach of the Niwot girls basketball team. With a string of upcoming games against Mountain View (4-11, 1-5), Northridge (5-10, 3-3) and Thompson Valley (11-3, 5-1), Ward could reach the milestone in the next week.

Only 12 prep basketball coaches in the Colorado’s history have won 300 games with a single program.

Silver Creek, Niwot boys looking to turn a corner

With the second half of the league schedule coming up, both the Silver Creek and Niwot boys basketball teams will be aiming to prove they are better than their records would suggest.

Silver Creek and Niwot are currently tied at the bottom of the Northern League standings with matching 7-8 overall records and 1-5 marks in conference play. Both teams, however, have played difficult schedules and have been on the losing end of several close games.

One bright spot for Niwot has been the play of Thomas Bounds, who is fifth in the Northern in scoring with 15.0 points per game. The Raptors are still hoping to get starting point guard Andrew Duquette, who is fourth in the Northern with 16.0 points a night, back from an ankle injury.

A 1-2 punch for Centaurus girls

The Centaurus girls basketball team is off to a rough 3-12 start but there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel, as well as potential for a future rebound.

Sophomores Julia Mischke (12.3 ppg) and Natalie Kramer (10.3 ppg) are currently sixth and seventh, respectively, in the conference scoring standings. Leesha Taylor-Preston, a junior, is the Warriors’ third leading scorer at 6.9 points per game. All three players should be back next season.

Silver Creek trying to climb

In 2017-18, the Silver Creek girls won just four games. So far this season, the Raptors (3-12, 1-5) are still figuring things out under first-year head coach Ashlee Viveros, but with three wins already under their belts, SCHS’ girls at least have a good shot to surpass last winter’s win total.

Freshman Mackenzie Larson leads the Raptors with 8.9 points per game.

Brad Cochi: cochib@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BradCochi