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Clock strikes 12: Dozen local hoops teams remain in mix at state tourneys

LAFAYETTE — Centaurus' John McGill goes for a layup Wednesday, March 2, 2022.
LAFAYETTE — Centaurus’ John McGill goes for a layup Wednesday, March 2, 2022.

Local schools are making the most out of the stretch run to the high school winter sports season, with 12 teams still alive in the basketball playoffs.

The 5A/4A Great Eight begins Friday with the girls’ slate, followed by the boys on Saturday.

The girls from Holy Family and Mead will host at 6 p.m., looking to punch their ticket to the Denver Coliseum as part of the 4A’s Final Four.

The local boys’ scene, after going a perfect 5 for 5 in the Sweet 16 Wednesday night, will see Mead host crosstown rival Frederick in 4A, while Longmont and Centaurus will travel down south. In 5A, Legacy will look to continue its Cinderella run as the No. 26 seed against No. 2 Fossil Ridge.

Five local teams remain in 3A-1A. In 3A, both teams from Prospect Ridge Academy and the girls team from Jefferson Academy will travel for the opening round of 32 Friday. Meanwhile in 2A, Lyons and Dawson will play in their regional semifinals.

Here’s a look at each local game:


No. 26 Legacy at No. 2 Fossil Ridge

Details: At Fossil Ridge Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

How we got here: The bracket-busters from Legacy continued its slipper run Wednesday night, rallying to stun No. 10 Regis Jesuit. The Lightning trailed by as many as 15 in the second half but went ahead on Isaac Ward’s bucket with 20 seconds remaining. They get Fossil Ridge next, the Front Range League foe that beat them by 32 last month.

Takeaway: If this postseason has proven anything for the Lightning, it’s been the power of second chances. In the Round of 32, Legacy got another shot at FRL Horizon, which beat the Lightning by 14 in January, and won. Tuesday, they looked down and out before storming back to beat Regis, which had made the Great Eight the previous two seasons.


No. 6 Frederick at No. 3 Mead

Details: At Mead Saturday, 6 p.m.

How we got here: The local teams will get another look at each other after the Mavericks beat Frederick in the crossover tournament finals between the 5A/4A Northern and the 4A Longs Peak leagues on Feb. 19. In Tuesday’s Sweet 16, Jacoby Conway hit the game-winner in the final seconds in Frederick’s win over D’Evelyn. Mead pushed its win streak to 10 in a win over Riverdale Ridge.

Takeaway: Mead has been known to have fast starts this season. Against Frederick, it outscored the Warriors 32-11 in the first quarter and held on for a 62-53 victory. If Frederick hopes to end the Mavericks’ title defense, it will need a stronger start Saturday.

No. 7 Centaurus at No. 2 Pueblo South

Details: At Pueblo South Saturday, 1 p.m.

How we got here: After first-round byes, Centaurus and Pueblo South have made quick work of their first two postseason opponents. The Warriors ran away with wins against Palisade and Steamboat Springs, while the Colts stayed perfect on the season with wins against Roosevelt and Mesa Ridge.

Takeaway: Centaurus has tightened the screws defensively over the past month, holding eight of its last 11 opponents under 40 points. The Colts, meanwhile, lead 4A in scoring at 79 PPG. Said Centaurus coach Travis Maron of Pueblo South: “They have a lot of good guards and score the ball like crazy. We’re going to have our hands full, but we’re going to prepare as best we can and go down there and give them a fight.”

No. 9 Longmont at No. 1 Lewis-Palmer

Details: At Lewis-Palmer Saturday, 7 p.m.

How we got here: Longmont rolled over Thompson Valley in the Round of 32 for coach Jeff Kloster’s 500th career win, then went on to beat Palmer Ridge in the Sweet 16. The Rangers extended their winning streak to 14 games in a 31-point win over Falcon Wednesday and are a perfect 13-0 at home this season.

Takeaway: Longmont and Lewis-Palmer, touting two of the state’s most successful coaches in Jeff Kloster and Bill Benton, faced one another in successive state championship games in 2018 and 2019. The Trojans won the first before falling to the Rangers in their quest to repeat.


No. 29 Severance at No. 5 Mead

Details: At Mead Friday, 6 p.m.

How we got here: Mead didn’t need the 3-ball in its Round of 32 win over Northfield but used it effectively (8 for 20) in a win over Thompson Valley Tuesday. Severance, the surprise of the tournament, upset No. 4 George Washington and No. 13 Classical Academy to reach the Great Eight. The Knights are still just 12-14 on the season.

Takeaway: March has long been promoted for upsets, the out-of-nowhere seeming story that suddenly plants itself on the map. Severance is among those in the high school landscape. The Mavericks beat the Knights by 44 in early January, but as with March, all signs point to things being closer this time around.

No. 6 Green Mountain at No. 3 Holy Family

Details: At Holy Family Friday, 6 p.m.

How we got here: Essynce Contreraz, the rising sophomore, scored a career-high 17 points in a win over Skyview in Tuesday’s Sweet 16. Makenna Bertsch scored a career-high 21 in a win over Mountain View the round before. The Tigers have proven they can hit you from all angles, led by a balanced scoring attack and a defense that has allowed just 33.4 PPG over their last 10.

Takeaway: The last meeting between the two came just hours before the 2020 state basketball tournament was cancelled due to COVID-19. Holy Family beat the Rams 38-31 and was named co-champions with Mullen.


No. 31 Prospect Ridge Academy at No. 2 Sterling

Details: At Sterling Friday, 5:30 p.m.

How we got here: Prospect Ridge Academy, led by junior Max Vacco’s 17.7 PPG, finished fourth in the 3A Metro League and won a game in the consolations of their district tournament in reaching the postseason. Sterling, a regional host for the first two rounds of the tournament, has won seven straight.

Takeaway: Vacco has scored 20-plus points in six of his last eight games. The Miners are 6-2 in games he scores at least 20 this season.


No. 26 Jefferson Academy at No. 7 The Academy

Details: At The Academy Friday, 5 p.m.

How we got here: Jefferson Academy finished just sixth in its league but got a nice at-large boost for the postseason when it upset SkyView Academy in its district semifinals. Despite being the underdog, the Jags are 14-0 against The Academy since 2009.

Takeaway: Junior Helen Stegner has posted a double-double in two of her last three games, helping the Jags reach the postseason.

No. 19 Prospect Ridge Academy vs. No. 14 Centauri

Details: At The Vanguard School Friday, 7 p.m.

How we got here: The Miners won six of the final eight games, finishing fourth in the 3A Metro League and third in their district tournament. Centauri won the 3A Intermountain League before falling in overtime in its district final.

Takeaway: Senior Elizabeth Rooks averages a double-double this year for Prospect Ridge Academy with 17.5 points and 11.6 boards (in 19 games).


No. 32 Dawson at No. 1 Yuma

Details: At Yuma Friday, 5:30 p.m.

How we got here: Dawson went from 1-8 to start the season to last spot in the playoffs. Ethan Duster is a strong double-double candidate every night out, while Jackson Parker is a talented scorer in his own right. Their next task is Yuma, which is on a 15-game winning streak.

Takeaway: Yuma leads 2A in scoring, averaging 72 PPG. Dawson will likely need to trim that as it has scored more than 72 points just once this season.

No. 29 Lyons at No. 4 Vail Mountain

Details: At Vail Mountain Friday, 7 p.m.

How we got here: Lyons won five straight before falling in its district final to Heritage Christian. Gage Basey leads the way as one of the top producers in the classification, touting 20-plus points a game and a double-double average. Vail Mountain has won seven straight and is 8-0 at home this season.

Takeaway: Lyons is sixth in scoring in 2A (59.4), while Vail Mountain is 19th (51.8). Instead, the Gore Rangers play a defensive-minded brand of basketball, allowing just 41.1 PPG. If the Lions can hit their 3-ball, which ranked sixth in makes in 2A, an upset could be in the making.

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