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Boys basketball: Upsets shake up NCAC race

Where area teams stand inside their leagues with two weeks to go

Mead High School junior Elijah Knudsen ...
Tim Hurst/Staff Photographer
The Mead and Longmont boys basketball teams are fighting for a NCAC title alongside Holy Family and Windsor after a wild week in the league. Erie is also right among those possible contenders with two weeks to go.
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Holy Family created chaos in the 5A/4A NCAC with two upset wins earlier in the week, thereby putting itself in the thick of one of the most exciting races in the state’s boys basketball scene.

When reached by phone Thursday, Tigers coach Pete Villecco said his young team hasn’t been focused so much on wins and losses this season, only improvement. But victories at CHSAANow.com’s third-ranked 4A team Longmont, followed by another at home against No. 8 Erie, have shaken up a restructured league chock-full of top teams in the state, and placed Holy Family squarely among them.

“Was going to Longmont and winning unexpected? Yes,” Villecco said with a chuckle. “Yeah, it was, man. We just wanted to go there and get better. We gained some confidence playing with those guys and that confidence carried over.”

The Tigers — Holy Family, that is — ended the week with a tight loss to second-ranked Windsor. It felt almost like an anomaly in a week where the higher seeds went down again and again.

Before beating Holy Family, the Wizards fell to Erie before snapping No. 1 Mead’s 37-game winning streak inside conference play. The Mavs also lost to Longmont on Friday.

It fleshes out to a two-way tie atop the standings between Longmont (8-1, 5-1) and Windsor (8-1, 5-1). Holy Family (5-4, 4-2), Erie (6-2, 4-2) and Mead (6-2, 4-2) are all just a game back of that with three league games remaining for each.

“We’ve been in some really talented leagues, like my first two years in the (3A) Metro League, it was loaded with Kent Denver, Faith Christian, Jefferson Academy,” Villecco said. “But this is the best we’ve ever been in. We knew it when this Northern league took form. You got Mead and Longmont and Windsor. These guys are the standard of 4A, year in and year out. And then Centaurus is really good. There are no bad programs.”

The restructured league is ranked the best in CHSAA’s latest coaches poll with the three top-ranked teams in the class and a total of five inside top 10.

Last year, five teams now in this conference reached the 4A Sweet 16 — including Silver Creek, which is one of the four teams in the NCAC going up to 5A for this postseason. Mead advanced to the Final Four before the pandemic shut down the state tournaments.

The question soon enough will be, ‘How can all these teams make a condensed state field?’ And if so, ‘Where?’ In a season squished by the pandemic, league winners in the 4A and 5A classifications will clinch a spot while the rest of the 32-team bracket will be made up of at-large bids decided upon by CHSAA’s seeding index.

“This is probably the deepest league that we’ve ever seen in my 27 years as the head coach,” Longmont’s Jeff Kloster said. “When they created this league, the idea was to create a powerhouse where it would help everyone’s RPI. I was concerned about everyone knocking each other off, and what does that do for RPI? You don’t know.”

Elsewhere, Fairview remained undefeated in the 5A Front Range League with a win over Broomfield (3-6, 0-5) Friday night. The Knights (7-2, 6-0) have been led by Greysen Carter, who has taken yet another step in his game this winter while averaging nearly 25 points per game.

Fairview will face Boulder (4-5, 3-3), Loveland (3-6, 1-5) and Monarch (5-4, 3-3) next week before going to Fossil Ridge (8-1, 4-1) March 3. The Knights beat Legacy (5-3, 3-3) a week ago in a game that highlighted Carter and the Lightning’s Macully Sehr.

Frederick, meanwhile, went into Saturday a game back of Severance in the 4A Longs Peak League. The Warriors (6-2, 4-1) led the league with 71.4 points per game as of Friday night.

Others: The 3A/2A/1A Mile High League is a bit distorted with the varying amount of league games played. Denver Christian and Highland had played a total of 11 games inside the conference coming into Saturday. Longmont Christian (2-4, 2-3) played five, while Twin Peaks four (0-7, 0-4), Lyons (4-2, 2-1) three and Dawson (1-3, 0-2) two.

In the 3A Metro League, Jefferson Academy, Peak to Peak and Prospect Ridge Academy are a few games back of the lead. Shining Mountain is 1-4 in the 1A 5280 League.