AURORA | Keenon Clement and the Vista PEAK boys basketball team are ready to ride again.
The Bison’s season came to a crushing end — or so they thought — just eight days ago when a positive COVID-19 test for a player came in at game time, forcing them to leave the floor less than a minute before tip-off of a game with Lakewood and proceed directly into the 14-day quarantine period mandatory at the time.
Later in the week, however, the quarantine period got reduced to seven days and players could return with negative tests, so the season was saved and the Bison were included in the 32-team state bracket released by the Colorado High School Activities Association Monday, the same day they returned to practice.
Tuesday, Clement and his team visit Chaparral — one of seven games involving Aurora boys basketball state tournament qualifiers — with a new lease on basketball life.
“This whole thing has been a rodeo,” Clement told the Sentinel. “It’s been heavy and difficult and all kinds of stuff, but we’re in now and that’s what we were hoping for.”
Vista PEAK faces a daunting task in taking on a Chaparral team that broke up Regis Jesuit’s undefeated season with an overtime victory Saturday to claim the Continental League championship.
However, the Bison — who feature of the state’s most potent backcourts in seniors Jaylen Carrizales and Curtis Stovall III — are playing with house money so to speak.
“What are we scared about? We already lost our season once, let’s go in and pick a fight and see what we can do,” Clement said. “We have a bunch of really tough kids that are stoked they get a chance to go out there one more time. It’s a state tournament, maybe shots are falling, who knows, but we get to strap it up at least one more time.”
Vista PEAK is one of two Aurora teams to come off quarantine and go right into the postseason, the other being Overland, the No. 22 seed.
The Trailblazers were 6-3 at the time and only knew that they would eligible for the postseason considering the quarantine would end the day before the first playoff game. The shortened period allowed coach Danny Fisher’s team to get in practices last Friday and Monday for postseason preparation.
In its first game since Feb. 22, Overland visits 11th-seeded Rock Canyon, which went 8-4. All four of the Jaguars’ losses came to top-seven seeds in the tournament, however, in No. 3 Rangeview (46-44), No. 4 ThunderRidge (73-54), No. 5 Chaparral (51-40) and No. 7 George Washington (70-63).
Two of the Trailblazers’ three losses came to top-10 seeds in No. 1 Cherry Creek (78-55) and Eaglecrest (70-57). Senior Jameel Wright has been the catalyst for Overland as he averages a team-best 17.9 points, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Rock Canyon is paced for former Smoky Hill standout DeAngelo Horn, a transfer who leads his new team in points (13.6) and rebounds (6.8) per game.
Vista PEAK and Overland are the lone Aurora boys teams playing road games, as in 5A second-seeded Regis Jesuit, No. 3 Rangeview, No. 9 Eaglecrest and No. 16 Smoky Hill take to their home floor and 16th-seeded Aurora Central is home in its 4A first round contest.
Regis Jesuit — coming off a two-point overtime loss to Chaparral in its regular season finale — is scheduled to be the first team to tip off postseason action with a 4 p.m. contest against 31st-seeded Loveland (7-7).
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
2021 CLASS 5A BOYS STATE BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS
First round, Tuesday
Game 1: No. 32 Lakewood (8-6) at No. 1 Cherry Creek (14-0), 6 p.m.
Game 2: No. 17 Horizon (10-4) at No. 16 SMOKY HILL (9-5), 6:30 p.m.
Game 3: No. 25 Heritage (6-6) at No. 8 Mountain Vista (10-4)
Game 4: No. 24 Ralston Valley (9-5) at No. 9 EAGLECREST (9-4), 7 p.m.
Game 5: No. 28 VISTA PEAK (8-3) at No. 5 Chaparral (10-3), 5:30 p.m.
Game 6: No. 21 Chatfield (10-4) at No. 12 Fairview (11-3), 6:30 p.m.
Game 7: No. 29 Rocky Mountain (8-6) at No. 4 ThunderRidge (8-2)
Game 8: No. 20 Rampart (9-4) at No. 13 Douglas County (9-4)
Game 9: No. 31 Loveland (7-7) at No. 2 REGIS JESUIT (12-1), 4 p.m.
Game 10: No. 18 Doherty (10-3) at No. 15 Valor Christian (9-3), 5:30 p.m.
Game 11: No. 26 Monarch (9-6) at No. 7 George Washington (9-3)
Game 12: No. 23 Mullen (8-6) at No. 10 Denver East (10-3)
Game 13: No. 27 Legend (8-6) at No. 6 Fossil Ridge (13-1), 7 p.m.
Game 14: No. 22 OVERLAND (6-3) at No. 11 Rock Canyon (8-4), 7 p.m.
Game 15: No. 30 Columbine (8-6) at No. 3 RANGEVIEW (13-0), 7:30 p.m.
Game 16: No. 19 Silver Creek (10-3) at No. 14 Fountain-Fort Carson (9-2), 7 p.m.