SAN LUIS VALLEY—After a successful showing at Adams State University and Bayfield High School this past weekend, San Luis Valley basketball teams will turn their focus to a trip to the state basketball tournaments, which will take place next Thursday, Friday and Saturday in northern Colorado.
All eyes in Class 1A will be on the undefeated Antonito Lady Trojans. In Class 1A, teams must win just one game to advance to the state tournament and the Trojans will take on Ouray for the opportunity to battle for the state title game.
The Trojans enter the weekend with a perfect 22-0 season and will look to keep pace with their 64.7 points per game. They have two players averaging more than 10 points per game in junior Erykah Tallman (15.6) and junior Joselyn Garcia (14.8). They are one of the better shooting 3-point teams in the state by shooting 52 percent from beyond the arch. The 93 made treys combine with their 179-of-310 (58 percent) free throw shooting mark to make them a deadly team.
The Sangre de Cristo boys will take on Ouray for a title spot. The 15-7 Thunderbirds, under the direction of Ryan Mortensen, average 55 points per game and look to seniors Tanner Freel and Grant Beiriger to lead them. The Panthers advanced to state after sophomore Jared Sinclair pulled the trigger on a deep 3-pointer to defeat the Sierra Grande Panthers in the final five seconds.
The Sierra Grande Lady Panthers, who are 12-10 on the season under first-year head coach Leslie Corona, will carry the school’s state hopes with them. The Panthers will have to take on Nucla in a battle for the state position. They average 43.1 points per game and are led by three players, who average more than 10 points per game. Senior Netty Archuleta (13.6), junior Nina Vigil (10.6) and sophomore Abby Corona (10.5) are players that hope to catch fire and put the ball in the hole. Vigil (6.7) is also the team’s top rebounder.
The Creede/Lake City Miners will have a tough road as they were blown out by the Thunderbird boys in the district title game after pulling out a magnificent upset over the Primero Bulldogs in the semifinal game, last Thursday.
The Robert Koets-coached Miners are 15-6 on the season and average 54.7 points per game with 35 rebounds per game. Junior Isaac Borchers is the leading scorer for the Miners with 16.2 points per game while sophomore Casper Freedle is averaging 12 points per game.
On the boys' side, the Center Vikings will need to defeat Telluride and Paonia to advance to the state tournament.
The Friday game between Center and Telluride could be interesting as both teams employ similar 1-3-1 defenses. Telluride (12-8) nearly won the district tournament but fell to Ignacio 45-44 in the finals. They had lost to the Bobcats by 16 and 14 points respectively in two conference meetings. Andrew Denny (17.7) is their top scorer with Rye Livermore (11.2) also averaging double figures. Denny paces the club with 34 threes with Livermore and Reed Schacht providing 20 apiece.
Center is below five hundred for the season (9-13) but has played 13 games decided by 10 points or less. The Vikings are 6-7 in those games but picked up a hard-fought 65-60 overtime win over Sargent last week to earn a regional berth. Senior dominated, the Vikings have nine of their top 10 scorers playing their final season of high school basketball. The group is led by Jorge Venzor, with 17.6 points and 6.5 rebounds a game. Seth Cook chips in eight points per night and junior Robbie Cortez adds seven.
The Del Norte Tigers are in the same boat of having to win two games as they must best Hotchkiss before meeting Ignacio on Saturday.
Del Norte’s loss to Sanford in the regional finals last week cost them a first round bye as they would have likely grabbed no worse than the second seed in the Western bracket. Now they must get by Hotchkiss on Friday and Ignacio on Saturday to advance and neither game will be easy. The Tigers had beaten Sanford three times during the regular season. Carlos Parra the key offensively as the junior leads the team with 20.2 points per game and 71 treys. Four others average between six and 10 points a night; a group led by Jeff Stevenson with 10.4.
Hotchkiss (16-6) finished fourth in the Western Slope conference but climbed to third in the district tournament by beating Plateau Valley 59-48 last Saturday. Sam Ridriguez (15.7) and Zach Allen (11.8) are the first two options on offense.
As mentioned, Sanford avenged three regulars season losses to Del Norte and their win last Saturday handed the third seed and first round bye to the three-time defending state champions. The Indians now need just one more win to have a chance at landing a fourth consecutive crown. Fundamentally sound as always, the tandem of Casey McDaniel (14.0) and Guy Larsen (11.2) heads up the Sanford offense. Together they add nearly nine rebounds per game. Zach Sittler (9.2) and Derick Faucette (7.1) provide offensive depth.
On the girls’ side, the Vikings, who enter as the No. 9 seed, will need two wins, over Norwood and then No. 1 seeded Paonia to get to the state tournament. The Vikings, who are 10-12 on the season need one more win to record the most victories in a single season since the 2012-13 campaign, average 40.8 points per game. Aailiyah Porres (9.8) leads a balanced offense that also includes Camille Ruggles (7.0), Makyka Medina (6.5), Jordan Lobato (6.4) and Deidrah Garcia (5.4).
The Sanford Indians, who lost a tough battle to the Del Norte Tigers for the district crown, must face Rangely and then battle No. 3 Ignacio to advance to state. The Indians, under first year Head Coach Keith Caldon, are led by Taylor Larsen and Raelyn Canty
Like the Sanford boys' team, by earning a district title, the Del Norte Tigers earned a first round bye and will only need one win to advance to the Great Eight. The Tigers, who earned a No. 2 seed, will play the winner of No. 5 Meeker and No. 8 Ridgeway.
The Tigers average 58.9 points per game and 30.1 rebounds per game as they look to freshman Kendra Parra (14.8) for their leadership, points-wise. Senior Bailey Jones is also a leader for the Tigers as she posts 12.7 points per game while sophomore Laci Jones is the team’s rebounding leader with 6.9 per game.
The Tigers have won 18 in a row and have not lost a game to a 2A opponent yet. Both losses came against 3A teams Centauri and Lamar during tournament play in early December. They roll into regionals on the strength of a 45-30 win over Sanford in the district finals. It was their third win of the season against the Indians.
Alamosa will make a third trip of the season to Bayfield to take on the Rye Thunderbolts in the opening round of the tournament and the winner will take on the winner of the Bayfield Wolverines and Delta (12-10).
The Mean Moose, who have lost the last two games against the Wolverines, have defeated the Thunderbolts, 64-45, earlier this season. They will look to keep that true as they play at 5 p.m. on Friday night.
Alamosa is led by senior Ryan Brubacher (20.2 ppg) while Angelo Ramirez (11 rpg) and Noah Romero (10.4 ppg) are also talents to watch.
Should Alamosa and Bayfield meet up in the title match, it will be the fourth time this season they will play each other.
"It's challenging, the other team adjusts. It's very disappointing that there was no human intervention, it was stickily RPI," said Bayfield Head Coach Jeff Lehnus, about playing a team three times and the fact that only one Intermountain League team has the opportunity to move on to the state tournament, in an interview with Colorado Preps.
"Coach Brubacher and I both talked, we are both disappointed that that happened, but we don't have control over that. If we play Alamosa again, it's an honor, we are both very good teams and I think win or lose, we had a great season."
On the girls' side, the No. 2 seeded Centauri Falcons will be the only team at home as they will host a regional of their own. They will host No. 31 Buena Vista on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and should they win they will take on the winner between No. 15 Lutheran and No. 18 Grand Valley.
The Falcons, who are 20-1 on the season with their only loss coming on Dec. 9 against Lamar (30-20), have defeated Buena Vista (69-23) already this season.
The Falcons, who average 50.8 points per game, are led by junior Ember Canty. The dominant inside player leads the Falcons by averaging 11.4 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game.
The Monte Vista Pirates, who are 13-9 on the season, were selected as the No. 17 seed and will have a tough road to the state tournament. They will open the weekend with a battle with the No. 16 seeded Olathe girls. Should they win, the Pirates would take on the winner of the other semifinal that pits No. 1 Sterling vs. No. 32 Venture Prep.
As a team, the Pirates average 44.6 points per game and pull down 27.4 rebounds per game. Senior Danielle Chacon is the player to watch as she averages 17.7 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game.
Top: All eyes will be on the Antonito Lady Trojans this weekend as they will be battling to make it to the state tournament. The Trojans bring a 22-0 record into the regional tournament which will take place at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison today.
Bottom: Sanford's Casey McDaniel weaves through traffic this past weekend at the Class 2A District 1 Tournament. He hopes he can weave the Indians through to the state championship and keep the Indians' postseason win streak alive.
Photos by Samantha Hall.