Boys basketball playoff primer: Five area teams earn first round byes

  • Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    The Holy Family and Mead boys basketball teams, seen here against each other on Jan. 24 at HFHS, may get a chance to battle again as the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds in the CHSAA Class 4A state tournament, which begins Wednesday. Both the Tigers and Mavericks earned first-round byes.

  • Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    Tyler Turner, center, has been one of the leading catalysts of Boulder's turnaround in the second half of the season. The Panthers will look to remain hot as they host a Class 5A playoff game Wednesday against George Washington.

  • Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    Joe Cartelli (right) and the Frederick Warriors earned the No. 40 seed in 4A and will face Thomas Jefferson on Wednesday.



With district tournaments for the smaller classifications already under way, the state tournaments for Classes 5A and 4A boys basketball will begin with their opening rounds on Wednesday.

In six of last year’s 16 first-round 4A games, the lower-seeded team advanced via upset. In 5A, five of the 16 first-round games ended in upsets. Across the state on Wednesday, teams will be looking to pull off, or avoid, those same outcomes.

Some teams — the ones that earned first-round byes — have the luxury of sitting back and watching Wednesday’s madness unfold.

“The first-round bye is a huge advantage,” Holy Family head coach Pete Villecco said. “We get the extra rest, which is nice this time of year. We also get to scout our potential opponents for our second-round game. It’s definitely an advantage that being one of the higher seeds awards you. It’s been such a whirlwind (this season) that it’s nice to have some time to get back up to full strength and also just fine-tune things and have a good week of practice.”

Villecco’s Tigers (19-4) entered last winter’s bracket as the No. 18 and after escaping the first round, had to travel to play Palmer Ridge and ended up losing by four points.

This year’s group was ranked in the top 10 by the poll throughout the regular season, and as the No. 4 seed in this year’s tournament accomplished their goal of securing a bye into Saturday’s second round. They wanted to avoid an early exit like last year’s and will have now positioned themselves as well as they could have with the advantage of playing at home.

But even though the Tri-Valley League schedule is over and the whole state has been reshuffled, the Mead Mavericks, who seem to have the Tigers’ number, still stand between Holy Family and the Final Four. In two meetings during the regular season, the Mavericks (20-3) defeated the Tigers both times — 50-45 and 79-71 — and are the No. 5 seed in the state tournament.

As the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds, respectively, that places the Tigers and Mavericks as the two highest seeds in the bracket’s Richard Tate Region and sets up a potential third meeting between the teams in the Great 8 as long as everything goes to seed. The Tigers and the Mavericks have already squared off in two high stakes games as ranked teams and a potential fourth-round playoff matchup would raise the stakes even higher.

“The first two games were great,” Mead head coach Darin Reese said. “Great atmosphere, great teams, great games. The third time would be something we haven’t seen and should it happen, I’m sure it would be another great night of basketball. But there are a lot of teams between them and us so we’ll just have to keep focusing on the opponent in front of us or we won’t get a chance to see that happen.”

Also receiving first-round byes this week, the 4A defending state champion Longmont Trojans (23-0) earned the No. 2 overall seed behind No. 1 Lewis-Palmer (23-0). At No. 9, the Centaurus Warriors (16-7) also received a first-round bye and eagerly await Saturday, when they will host their first playoff game since 2010.

In the 5A tournament, No. 8 Fairview (18-5) claimed a first-round bye. If No. 40 Broomfield can upset No. 25 Palmer (14-9) in the first round on Wednesday, the Knights would host their Front Range League rivals in the second round on Saturday.

Here are some other storylines to watch starting Wednesday:

Can Boulder keep rolling?

Battling injuries and a brutally tough schedule, the Boulder Panthers (12-11) emerged from December with a far-from-desirable 1-9 record. Since the calendar turned to 2019, the Panthers have won 11 of 13 games including a potentially momentous victory over No. 8 seed and cross-town rival Fairview at the CU Events Center on Valentine’s Day. The Panthers’ second-half run earned them the No. 27 seed in the 5A bracket and the right to host in Wednesday’s first round, with No. 38 George Washington (11-12) coming up from Denver.

Back in it again … and again

The Silver Creek boys basketball team had their share of ups and downs this winter but still qualified for this year’s postseason as the 32nd seed and will host No. 33 Ponderosa (10-13) on Wednesday. The Raptors (12-11) have now qualified for the 4A state tournament in 14 of the past 15 seasons.

In 2015-16, the Erie boys won just two games. After clawing their way to a 10-13 record this winter, the Tigers have now qualified for the postseason in each of the three seasons since that two-win campaign. The No. 35 seed, the Tigers earned themselves a long bus ride down to face No. 30 Canon City (14-9) on Wednesday.

Appearing as the 18th overall seed when the 4A state tournament bracket was released on Sunday, Skyline (15-8) has now qualified for postseason play in each of the past three seasons since the field was expanded from 32 to 48 teams. When No. 47 Durango comes to Longmont on Wednesday, however, it will be the first time the Falcons hosted a playoff game since 2007.

Warrior proud

Last winter, the Frederick boys won one game and finished dead last out of 66 teams in the Class 4A RPI standings. This year, the Warriors (11-12) are going dancing. As the No. 40 seed, the Warriors have to travel to face a tough Thomas Jefferson (13-10) team in Denver. But, at least they’re back in the playoffs.

“We’re thrilled,” Frederick head coach Enoch Miller said. “We’re extremely happy and feel humbled and blessed to be back in the tournament. There’s a lot of good teams that didn’t make it and for us to be part of the field is something we knew we could only do if we made huge jumps from last year.”

District detours

In Classes 3A, 2A and 1A, the postseason format is a bit different. The teams play their way into district tournaments, from which the top teams advance to regional tournaments and then to the state tournament. So far after the play-in rounds, Jefferson Academy (13-7) remains alive as the sixth seed in the 3A Metro.

In 2A, No. 7 Dawson (8-11), No. 6 Twin Peaks (6-13) and No. 5 Lyons (6-13) will all need upsets to advance out of the first round at the District 7 tournament.

In 1A, Longmont Christian (11-8) is the fourth seed in the District 4 tournament.

Brad Cochi: or


Class 5A state tournament

Chauncey Billups Region

First round, Wednesday

(33) Pine Creek at (32) Fossil Ridge

(48) Chatfield at (17) Mullen

(40) Broomfield at (25) Palmer

(41) Doherty at (24) Cherry Creek

Second round, Saturday

Pine Creek/Fossil Ridge winner at (1) Chaparral

Chatfield/Mullen winner at (16) Castle View

Broomfield/Palmer winner at (8) Fairview

Doherty/Cherry Creek winner at (9) Columbine

Kent Smith Region

First round, Wednesday

(36) Bear Creek at (29) Horizon

(45) Aurora Central at (20) Legend

(37) Pomona at (28) Poudre

(44) Gateway at (21) Denver East

Second round, Tuesday

Bear Creek/Horizon winner at (4) Overland

Aurora Central/Mullen winner at (13) Eaglecrest

Pomona/Poudre winner at (5) ThunderRidge

Gateway/Denver East winner at (12) Ralston Valley

Chuck Williams Region

First round, Wednesday

(34) Rocky Mountain at (31) Liberty

(47) Cherokee Trail at (18) Greeley West

(39) Far Northeast at (26) Douglas County

(42) Vista PEAK at (23) Highlands Ranch

Second round, Saturday

Rocky Mountain/Liberty winner at (2) Mountain Vista

Cherokee Trail/Greeley West winner at (15) Fruita Monument

Far Northeast/Douglas County winner at (7) Smoky Hill

Vista PEAK/Highlands Ranch winner at (10) Regis Jesuit

Larry Farmer Region

First round, Wednesday

(35) Windsor at (30) Valor Christian

(46) Prairie View at (19) Fountain-Fort Carson

(38) George Wsshington at (27) Boulder

(43) Vista Ridge (22) Brighton

Second round, Saturday

Windsor/Valor Christian winner at (3) Rangeview

Prairie View/Fountain-Ft. Carson winner at (14) Arvada West

George Washington/Boulder winner at (6) Grandview

Vista Ridge/Brighton winner at (11) Grandview

Sweet 16, Feb. 27

Elite 8, March 2

Semifinals, March 8

Championship, March 9


Class 4A

Ron Vlasin Region

First round, Wednesday

(33) Ponderosa at (32) Silver Creek

(48) Pueblo South at (17) Greeley Central

(40) Frederick at (25) Thomas Jefferson

(41) Eagle Valley at (24) Conifer

Second round, Saturday

Ponderosa/Silver Creek winner at (1) Lewis-Palmer

Pueblo South/Greeley Central winner at (16) The Classical Academy

Frederick/Thomas Jefferson winner at (8) Wheat Ridge

Eagle Valley/Conifer winner at (9) Centaurus

Richard Tate Region

First round, Wednesday

(36) Palmer Ridge at (29) Northfield

(45) John F. Kennedy at (20) Montrose

(37) Skyview at (28) Air Academy

(44) Coronado at (21) Rifle

Second round, Saturday

Palmer Ridge/Northfield winner at (4) Holy Family

JFK/Montrose winner at (13) Abraham Lincoln

Skyview/Air Academy winner at (5) Mead

Coronado/Rifle winner at (12) Palisade

Larry Brunson Region

First round, Wednesday

(34) Discovery Canyon at (31) Mountain View

(47) Durango at (18) Skyline

(39) Pueblo Centennial at (26) Golden

(42) D’Evelyn at (23) Alameda

Second round, Saturday

Discovery Canyon/Mountain View winner at (2) Longmont

Durango/Skyline winner at (15) Pueblo Central

Pueblo Centennial/Golden winner at (7) Glenwood Springs

D’Evelyn/Alameda winner at (10) Harrison

Guy Gibbs Region

First round, Wednesday

(35) Erie at (30) Canon City

(46) Pueblo County at (19) Evergreen

(38) Sand Creek at (27) Sierra

(43) Battle Mountain at (22) Widefield

Second round, Saturday

Erie/Canon City winner at (3) Steamboat Springs

Pueblo County/Evergreen winner at (14) Pueblo East

Sand Creek/Sierra winner at (6) Pueblo West

Battle Mountain/Widefield winner at (11) Cheyenne Mountain

Sweet 16, Feb. 27

Elite 8, March 2

Semifinals, March 8

Championship, March 9


Class 3A Metro League District

Quarterfinals, Tuesday

(6) Jefferson Academy at (3) Lutheran

Semifinals, Thursday at Manual HS

Championship and third-place game, Saturday at Manual HS


Class 2A District 7

Quarterfinals, Wednesday

(5) Lyons at (4) Gilpin County

(6) Twin Peaks Charter at (3) Dayspring Christian

(7) Dawson School at (2) Heritage Christian

Semifinals, Friday at Frederick HS

Championship and third-place game, Saturday at Frederick HS


Class 1A District 4

at Northeastern JC, Sterling

Quarterfinals, Tuesday

(4) Longmont Christian vs. (5) Merino

Semifinals, Friday

Championship and third-place game, Saturday