AURORA | A look at the Class 5A boys state basketball semifinals involving an Aurora team — Eaglecrest, Overland Rangeview — set to be played on March 11, 2016, at the Coors Events Center in Boulder.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
NO. 1 EAGLECREST (24-2) VS. NO. 1 RANGEVIEW (26-0), 7 p.m.
Breakdown: Coach John Olander and the Eaglecrest program is very familiar with the semifinal round of the Class 5A state playoffs, as the Raptors earned their way into the Final Four for the third time in the past four seasons and for the fourth time in the past nine seasons. The Raptors advanced to the 5A final (and won it) in 2013, while they fell to ThunderRidge in last season’s semifinals. Rangeview, meanwhile, is part of the 5A Final Four for the first time since 2012 when coach Shawn Palmer’s Raiders lost to an Arapahoe team that dropped the state title game to Chaparral on a last-second tip-in. Eaglecrest and Rangeview meet in the playoffs for the third time in the past nine seasons, with the Raptors winning meetings in the Great 8 in 2008 and 2013.
EAGLECREST: The Raptors opened the season 17-0 before Overland derailed their perfect season and Cherokee Trail handed them a second loss during Centennial League play. Eaglecrest comes into the semifinals on a five-game winning streak, which includes playoff victories over Highlands Ranch (66-50 in the 2nd round), Denver East (56-46 in the Sweet 16) and Regis Jesuit (69-57 in the Great 8). Junior Colbey Ross is the fulcrum of what the Raptors do, as the electric guard averages just under 19 points per game on the season and he scored 26 points against ThunderRidge in Eaglecrest’s Final Four loss a year ago. Ross also leads his team is assists (3.8 apg) and steals (1.8 spg) and he trusts and relies on the players around him, who kept the Raptors in the Great 8 game as Ross sat significantly due to early foul trouble. Junior forward Ikenna Ozor averages around nine points per game, but he’s been good for 14 points per game in the postseason, including a 22-point effort against Denver East. Sophomore reserve Victor Garnes also averages near double-digits and Eaglecrest features at least 10 players who score regularly. Junior Austin Forsberg has heated up from the perimeter of late and he has made seven 3-pointers in the postseason thus far. Senior Elijah Wilson, Jalaughn Jackson and Abanezer Alemneh, juniors Nate Bokol and Josh Walton and sophomore Xaiv’ion Jackson are all capable of rising to the occasion in key situations, making the Raptors dangerous all around…RANGEVIEW: The Raiders — who are in search of the program’s first state championship since 1985 — remain the only undefeated team in Class 5A boys basketball and were the top-ranked team in the classification for most of the second half of the season. Rangeview has had a roller-coaster ride through the postseason, with a blowout win over Chaparral (63-26) in the second round, followed by a nail-biter over Arvada West (57-56) in the Sweet 16 and a fairly comfortable 75-64 Great 8 win over Cherokee Trail. Palmer’s team features a trio of double-digit scorers in seniors Tyrei Randall (16.6 ppg), EJ Reed (16.1 ppg) and junior Elijah Blake (10.0 ppg), who have all had strong postseasons, while the Raiders’ depth and defensive tenacity has shown itself in every game. Senior Kris Hollins does a lot of the tough work defensively and he’s also come through in the clutch, as his free throw with 2.9 seconds left stood up in Rangeview’s Sweet 16 win over Arvada West, while senior Jalen Guidry averages 6.0 assists per game and is an outstanding distributor. Seniors Marquis Kraemer, Calvin Collins and Stacie Reed and junior Matthew Johnson all provide valuable minutes from the bench…WINNER: The Eaglecrest/Rangeview winner moves into the 5A state championship game, scheduled for 8 p.m. March 12 on the same floor at the Coors Events Center, against the winner of the other semifinal between Overland and Chatfield.
NO. 2 CHATFIELD (24-2) VS. NO. 1 OVERLAND (23-3), 8:30 p.m.
Breakdown: Coach Danny Fisher has guided Overland to the Class 5A semifinals for the third straight season and the Trailblazers are aiming to become the first team to repeat in the top classification since Regis Jesuit won three straight titles between 2009-2011. Overland lost to Denver East in the 2013-14 Final Four, then beat the Angels last season to reach the state championship game where it topped ThunderRidge for the first boys state hoops title in the school’s 37-year history. On the other hand, Chatfield is making its first trip to the Final Four since the 1995-96 season.
OVERLAND: The Trailblazers enter the semifinal game on an 11-game winning streak that stretches back to a 53-50 loss to Grandview in Centennial League play on Jan. 27, a defeat that served as a wake-up call for the season. Overland has had the most decisive run through the postseason of any of the four remaining teams, as its posted wins of 32 points (over Liberty in the 2nd round), 28 points (over Boulder in the Sweet 16) and 19 points (over Doherty in the Great 8). Indiana-bound senior center De’Ron Davis dazzled in the Great 8 by making three 3-pointers and throwing down a variety of dunks on his way to 22 points, while senior Jervae Robinson — who returned to the program this season after missing last year’s championship run — added 16 and senior Padiet Wang had 10. Davis, Wang (who played seven games at a prep school in Alaska before coming back to Overland midseason) and seniors Alijah Halliburton and Reggie Gibson also played key roles on Overland’s title push last season and are at the crux of a repeat run, while the multi-dimension Robinson and defensive specialist Tyler Stevenson (who also returned the program after a year absence) bolster the Trailblazers’ supremely talented, senior-heavy lineup…CHATFIELD: Coach Stephen Schimpeler’s Chargers enter the semifinal contest on a 15-game winning streak that began two months ago following a four-point loss to Denver East on Jan. 11. Chatfield has survived three close contests in the postseason, as it posted a seven-point victory over Aurora Central in the second round, topped George Washington by four points in the Sweet 16 and got past another Centennial League team, Cherry Creek, by eight points in a Great 8 contest that went to overtime. The Chargers featured a balanced lineup that has five players who average eight or more points per game with senior Cameron Pearson (13.6 ppg) and junior Joe Miks (13.0 ppg) in double figures regularly and senior Riley Welch (9.7 ppg), senior Joshua Frenette (8.8 ppg) and junior Mike Vrabel (8.0 ppg)…Winner: The Chatfield/Overland winner moves into the 5A state championship game, scheduled for 8 p.m. March 12 on the same floor at the Coors Events Center, against the winner of the other semifinal between Eaglecrest and Rangeview. Chatfield didn’t play either team during the regular season, while Overland split two games with Eaglecrest in Centennial League play.