Boys Basketball: Vista Ridge vs. Eaglecrest 5A Sweet 16 preview capsule

Senior Joshua Walton (10) and the Eaglecrest boys basketball team is poised to make the Great 8 round of the Class 5A boys state basketball playoffs for the fifth straight season with a win over No. 17 Vista Ridge in a 7 p.m. game on March 1, 2017, at Eaglecrest High School. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

AURORA | Preview capsule for the 2017 Class 5A boys state basketball Sweet 16 matchup of Vista Ridge at Eaglecrest on March 1, 2017:

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel



NO. 17 VISTA RIDGE (19-6) AT NO. 1 EAGLECREST (20-4), 7 P.M.

BREAKDOWN: This Jim Farmer Regional contest pits a Vista Ridge team that has won two straight games against an Eaglecrest squad that on a winning streak of the same length.

VISTA RIDGE: The Wolves went to the semifinals of last season’s Class 4A state playoffs and now have made it to the Sweet 16 round in its first season in the playoffs. Coach Joe Hites’ Vista Ridge team downed Greeley West 54-42 in the first round and followed it up with a 52-44 victory over Lakewood on Feb. 25. Senior F Hunter Maldonado — a 6-foot-6, high-flying University of Wyoming commitment — poured in a team-high 20 points in the upset of the Tigers (after he scored 19 in the first round), while sophomore G Julius Dowell added 14 and sophomore C Tristan Pratt scored 10 points. Pratt and sophomore P Micah Hilts were in double figures with 11 points in the opening playoff win over Greeley West…For the season, Maldonado has averaged 23.7 points per game and also paces the Wolves in rebounds (6.5 rpg), assists (2.2 apg), steals (2.9 spg) and blocked shots (1.5 bpg). Senior G Noah Beatty is next at 11.7 points per game, though he hasn’t played in the last month. Pratt averages 8.5 points per contest, while Hilts has been good for around five points and five rebounds per contest.


EAGLECREST: The Raptors have been one of the state’s best teams in the postseason in recent years and aim to make at least the 5A Great 8 for the fifth straight season, while they’ve played for the state title twice in that span (going 1-1, including a loss to Overland in an all-Aurora final last season). Coach John Olander’s Eaglecrest team knocked another Aurora program out of the playoffs in the second round with a 67-50 defeat of 32nd-seeded Rangeview on Feb. 25. A balanced Eaglecrest attack had six players contribute seven or more points to the cause, headed by double-digit efforts of senior G Colbey Ross, junior G Victor Garnes (12) and senior G Austin Forsberg (10)…For the season, Ross (a Pepperdine signee) leads his team in four statistical categories: scoring average (18.4 points per game), assists (5.1 apg), rebounds (4.9 rpg) and steals (2.5 spg), while Garnes, Forsberg and senior F Ikenna Ozor all average around eight points apiece. Ozor and 6-5 senior F Joshua Walton play big underneath for the Raptors and pose matchup problems inside or outside for opponents. Olander is stepping down after 15 seasons on the bench and will be coaching his final game at Eaglecrest regardless of the outcome as the remainder of the 5A state tournament moves to the Denver Coliseum.

WINNER GETS: The Vista Ridge-Eaglecrest winner advances to the Great 8 round on March 4 at the Denver Coliseum where it will play the winner of the Sweet 16 contest between No. 8 Smoky Hill and No. 9 Denver East. Eaglecrest split two Centennial League contests with Smoky Hill and beat Denver East in non-league play. Vista Ridge lost to Denver East in December. The winner takes the Larry Farmer Regional championship and a spot in the 5A Final Four.