By STEPHEN JIRON
Courier Sports Editor
ALAMOSA — With road conditions treacherous, what was supposed to wrap up over the weekend was postponed and re-organized and wound up finishing this Monday.
By virtue of even qualifying for the championship game both Alamosa squads punched their tickets to the State tournament as one of the two top teams that the Intermountain League will send this year. Both Centauri boys and girls would fall short in the IML tournament but all their hard work all season paid dividends as both Falcons squads earned their place in the state tournament off their RPI.
All four Valley squads will need to accomplish the next feat of making it to the ‘Great Eight’ in Denver by battling on the road this weekend.
The Alamosa boys have some work to do. Despite having split the regular season series with Montezuma-Cortez (17-5) the Moose could not clear the Panthers in hostile territory on Monday falling in the Championship game by two points 50-48.
The Mean Moose pulled a tough draw for the weekend. They will travel to Sterling for the first two rounds of State tournament play. Should the Moose clear No. 15 Platte Valley (16-6) on Friday they will no doubt face Sterling on Saturday.
While Alamosa has some young men that can put up rather respectable points per game in Brandon Crowther (14.5 PPG) and Chad Jackson (12.5 PPG), against Platte Valley they will need to bottle up a state ranked scorer.
Bronco Bryson Becker is No. 13 in the state in points per game averaging a gaudy 22 PPG. At 6’9 210 pounds Becker figures to be a terror down low. In addition to his persistent scoring Becker posts plenty of rebounds which gives him all 16 of the Bronco’s double-doubles. The team lead in rebounds goes to Logan Blevins with 16.6 per game good enough for number two in the state.
The presence in the paint may lend itself to an inside-out approach leaning on Platte Valley’s second leading scorer Cameron Gentry. Gentry is a negligible 30 percent from inside the arc but when he gets beyond 20 feet his accuracy climbs to 38 percent with less attempts.
Sterling (21-1) fell one game short of perfection, that game going to the No. 1 team in the state Lutheran. Sterling is no doubt a favorite to make it out of the first weekend of the State tournament. The Tigers don’t earn wins via any flashy methods as the roster lacks a player with a double-digit scoring average.
Alamosa’s first game in the bracket is set for March 1 at 7 p.m.
A loss in the IML quarterfinals did little to set back the Falcons. Centauri’s boys picked up titular third place with a dominant performance over the defending State Champions, Bayfield, 56-36.
The Falcon’s RPI has afforded them a slightly more forgiving path to Denver University. Tenth seeded Centauri will go back to Montezuma-Cortez H.S. to face the 23rd seed University (14-8) on Friday.
University’s Bulldogs don’t have a particularly impressive record or seeding but the Bulldogs hail from the competitive, Patriot League home of one loss Sterling. The Patriot League has also qualified 7 of their 10 league members to the State Tournament. So while the RPI rating hasn’t been kind to University, they will likely have plenty of fight come Friday.
Beyond University Centauri will either face Montezuma-Cortez or 26th seeded La Junta. With regard to a possible Saturday matchup the Falcons may not mind another meeting with Cortez’s Panthers with the thought ‘better the devil you know’. The Falcons have swept the series meetings with the Intermountain Champion by a combined 36 points and would likely welcome a high stakes rematch on Saturday.
The Falcons begin the path to the title Friday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. against University.
Despite only having gained one more win than last year Alamosa’s girls seem to be in a much better position. Last year the Moose went on the road and met tenth seeded Lamar who went all the way to the semi finals in Denver. This year the Moose enter the first round of the playoffs as the high seed.
The first step on the path begins in Kersey, CO. The Moose will meet Colorado Academy (14-8) Friday night. While they will aren’t in particularly hostile territory, Alamosa seems to be well suited to the road, picking up 8 of their 15 wins in road/neutral site games.
Alamosa’s scoring leader is junior Lily Lavier with 12.4 points per game. Lavier is still state ranked holding the No. 20 spot for steals, the Alamosa junior registers 4.8 picked-pockets per game.
Looking at strength of schedule Alamosa looks to have an advantage over their day one opponent with regular league games against the likes of Pagosa Springs (19-2) and Centauri (16-6). While Colorado Academy shares a league with heavy hitters such as Lutheran (18-4) and Skyview Academy (19-3) oddly enough Colorado Academy’s opponents share a combined winning percentage of .484. By contrast the Moose have taken on a combined record of opponents with a .604 percentage.
Should the Mean Moose make it to Saturday they will take on either high seed host Platte Valley (19-3) or Kent Denver (11-12). In the event that Platte Valley advances, the Broncos pose something of a threat. In Alamosa’s games against Centauri, a similarly ranked team, all three contests were decided by an average of 2.3 points. Platte Valley is another similarly ranked team opening the bracket seeded eighth to Alamosa’s ninth and Centauri’s tenth. Should a Platte Valley-Alamosa meeting unfold for Saturday the Moose will need all hands on deck as it may come down to the final seconds.
Friday’s meeting with Colorado Academy is slated for a 7 p.m. start.
Centauri’s girls enter the playoffs on a high note taking third place with a 50-40 win over host Montezuma-Cortez on Monday. The Falcons, however missed one of the two post-season passes available to the IML. Thanks to consistency from senior Melissa Wilson and sophomore Courtney Hamilton, Centauri’s RPI was boosted enough to extend their season. Wilson leads the team in scoring with 14.7 points per game while Hamilton has been registering 6.7 rebounds per game. Both Wilson and Hamilton are tied for the team lead with 2 double-doubles each.
Centauri’s foray into the 2019 State Tournament begins Friday in Westminster, first up Roaring Fork (11-9). Roaring Fork enters the post season as the 23rd seed. The Rams are led in scoring by senior Logan Erickson, a 5’1” perimeter shooting specialist who averages 9.1 points per game. Bigger body Gabriela Santana is second on the team in scoring and boasts a team leading 7.2 boards per game.
A victory on Friday night would set up a meeting on Saturday with either host The Academy (21-1) or underdog 26 seeded Brush (11-11). The Academy’s Wildcats were dominant through their regular season schedule suffering their lone loss to 5th seeded Eaton (21-1). The Wildcats have one state ranked player in Mikylah Espinoza who averages 6 steals per game to rank 6th in the state.
The Falcons get down to the business of bringing home a title Friday afternoon against Roaring Fork, tip off is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.