AURORA | A look at the four first round games of the 2015 Class 5A boys state basketball tournament involving Aurora teams scheduled for Feb. 25. Aurora’s five top-four seeds — Nos. 1 Eaglecrest, Overland and Regis Jesuit, No. 2 Rangeview and No. 4 Cherokee Trail — have first-round byes and swing into action for the second round on Feb. 28:
AURORA 5A BOYS STATE BASKETBALL 1ST ROUND GAMES
7 p.m. — NO. 9 HORIZON AT NO. 8 SMOKY HILL
Breakdown: Coach Keenon Clement’s Smoky Hill team took some lumps in non-league play as well as in Centennial League play against a slew of top 10-ranked teams, but the fruits of that experience could manifest itself in the postseason. The Buffaloes posted one of the biggest upsets of last season’s state tournament when they went into Regis Jesuit and knocked off the Raiders with an overtime buzzer-beater. Smoky Hill (7-16) lost three of its last four games, but all of the losses came by eight points or less. The outside shooting prowess of sophomore Shae Wyatt — who has knocked down 58 3-pointers and averages a team-high 13.6 points per game — gives the Buffaloes a chance to go on significant runs when they get going. Seniors Dalontae Kelly (11.2 points, 3.5 assists per game) and Octavian Walker (team-high 4.7 rebounds per contest) have playoff experience from last season and are steading forces, while seniors Jordan Correy (7.6 ppg) and D’Mitri Newson (6.9 ppg) are also regular contributors for Smoky Hill. The Buffaloes have played two teams from the Front Range League and split those two contests and now face Horizon, which came in sixth in the conference standings and finished the regular season 14-9 after losing its last three games. The Hawks feature senior swingman Michael Skinner, a stat-stuffer who is coming off a 42-point effort in a loss to Loveland and averages team-highs in points (19.7 ppg), rebounds (6.7 rpg), assists (4.6 apg) and steals (5.3 spg). Senior Mateo Ramos is also a double-digit scorer as 12.2 points per game, while senior Josh Ralphs — the team’s top perimeter threat — is nearly there at 9.9 points per contest. The winner moves on in Chauncey Billups Region play and would travel to top-seeded ThunderRidge for a Feb. 28 second round contest.
7 p.m. — NO. 9 PALMER AT NO. 8 GRANDVIEW
Breakdown: Coach Michael Rogers leads Grandview into the postseason for the first time since taking over as head coach in place of Gary Childress, who departed after 16 seasons of guiding the Wolves. The rugged Centennial League slate proved difficult for Grandview, which finished 4-10 in the conference and 9-14 overall, but the experience of playing two top seeds — Eaglecrest and Overland — in the final two games of the year should have it prepared for the postseason. The roster features very little playoff experience, though senior forward Andrew Joiner and senior guard Jarred Burr both played last season when the Wolves downed Arvada West in the first round before falling to Highlands Ranch in the next round. Joiner is averaging a robust 16.3 points per game and also leads the team in rebounding, while Burr dishes out a team-best 6.3 assists to go with a 10.0 ppg scoring average. Seniors Logan Longo and Cooper Murphy each average 9.5 points per game and both can get hot from 3-point range at any given time, while Longo has also made his share of clutch shots for Grandview this season. The Wolves haven’t faced a team from the Colorado Springs Metro League this season until now, when they’ll face 12-10 Palmer, which finished fourth in the seven-team conference. Statistically, the Terrors look a lot like Grandview, with a pair of double-digit scorers in 6-foot-4 junior Will Ross (13.6 ppg plus 8.1 rpg) and senior Nathan Raak (11.3 ppg), with juniors Isaiah Clausell-Reese and Antonio Handford each chipping in 9.5 points per ballgame. The winner earns a chance to play in a second round game at top-seeded Regis Jesuit at 6 p.m. Feb. 28 in Jim Baggot Region action. The Wolves lost to the Raiders 88-41 earlier this season.
7 p.m. — NO. 9 AURORA CENTRAL at NO. 8 HERITAGE
Breakdown: Coach Ian Calvert’s Aurora Central team wouldn’t have been able to play a home playoff game even if it got one due to a ruined gym floor at the school, so the Trojans have become road warriors of late. That hasn’t been such a bad thing, as Aurora Central won four of the six games it played away from home — including a solid 69-55 win at rival Hinkley on Feb. 20 in its season finale — and had its chances in the two it lost. Many teams in the 5A playoffs this year could be classified as wild cards and Aurora Central is among them given the presence of three explosive players in juniors Elijah Coleman, Daytone Jennings and Ladarius Thomas — who combined for 54 points against Hinkley — along with a variety of role players. Jennings, a 6-foot-7 move-in from Detroit, has been a double-double machine in his 11 games with the team, as he’s averaged 16 points and 10.9 rebounds per contest, adding another weapon to an attack that already included Thomas (15.9 ppg, team-best 4.7 apg) and Coleman (13.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg), who have each had their share of big games. Aurora Central has lost both of the games its played against Continental League opponents so far, with the next one coming in eighth-seeded Heritage, the ninth-place finisher in potentially the deepest league in the state from top to bottom. The Eagles downed Douglas County 84-59 on Feb. 17 in their regular season finale to stop a four-game losing skid. Heritage features a pair of regular double-digit scorers in junior Jack Peck (14.3 ppg) and senior Tom Skufca (13.7 ppg, team-high 6.3 rpg). The winner moves on to a second round game against No. 1 Eaglecrest scheduled for 3 p.m. Feb. 28 in Ray C. Ball Region play.
7 p.m. — NO. 10 HINKLEY AT NO. 7 COLUMBINE
Breakdown: Coach Calvin Kelley’s Hinkley team got to 10 wins this season — double last year’s total — and ended the program’s two-season absence from the 5A postseason in the process. The Thunderbirds dropped their regular season finale to rival Aurora Central, but had won their previous three games and were competitive in the previous two games with the EMAC’s top two teams, Rangeview and Northglenn. Senior swingman Kelsey Williams — a move-in from Texas — has been a huge addition for Hinkley this season, as he leads the team in both scoring at 16.2 points per game and rebounding at 6.2 per contest and has a penchant for coming up with tough buckets for his team. Junior Solomon Proctor has made just as many 3-pointers as Williams (26) and averages 13.1 points per game along with a team-best average of 3.3 assists. Seniors Jorden Garcia and Ahonsi Ohimai make an impact each night in a positive way for the Thunderbirds. Hinkley lost three close games to Jeffco League teams this season — including two to Lakewood — and face the fourth-place team in the conference in Columbine, which beat Lakewood in its finale to get to 14-9. Senior Keaton Matthies has only failed to score in double figures once this season and averages a team-best 15.6 points per contest, while senior Tucker Holden contributes 10.1 points per contest. The winner will travel to play second-seeded Legend in the second round on Feb. 28 in Ray Ball Region play.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel