AURORA | Preview capsules for the matchups involving Aurora teams in the first round of the Class 5A & 4A girls state basketball playoffs on Feb. 21, 2017. Full state pairings and schedules – 5A (here) & 4A (here):
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
AURORA 2017 CLASS 5A/4A 1ST ROUND MATCHUPS (FEB. 21)
5A: NO. 40 VISTA RIDGE (6-17) AT NO. 25 CHEROKEE TRAIL (12-10), 6 P.M.
Breakdown: This Carol Callan Region matchup features a Vista Ridge team that won its final two games of the regular season against a Cherokee Trail squad that finished the regular season with four straight wins …Vista Ridge finished as the eighth-place team in the 5A/4A Pikes Peak League with a 6-17 overall record. Coach Steve Cook’s Wolves feature a pair of double-digit scorers in junior Kate Rohr, a 5-foo-t 6 point guard who leads the way with an average of 12.3 points per game, along with 6-foot junior post Darian Taylor, who averages 10.5 points to go with team-highs of 9.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots…Coach Jerry Austin’s Cherokee Trail team posted a first-round playoff win at home last season against Gateway, then lost to Pine Creek in the second round. The Cougars have advanced to the second round of the 5A state tournament for three straight seasons. Cherokee Trail has found a bit of a groove in the month of February with five wins in its last six games, including a two-point win over Eaglecrest in their season finale Feb. 17. Part of the recent winning run were victories over two Centennial League teams — Mullen and Arapahoe — which beat them in the first round of league play. Senior G Taryn Foxen missed a bit of time during the season due to injury, but she’s been a force for the Cougars when she’s been on the floor, as she leads the team with an average of 16.6 points per game. The Chadron State signee heads a young group that includes freshman G Makayla Hemingway, who has been on a scoring tear of late and averages 12.7 points per game in addition to a team-high 6.3 assists and 2.3 steals. Sophomore F Abigale Sparks paces the team in rebounding with 7.1 per contest. Senior Alyana Williamson, sophomore G Dominique Rodriguez and freshman G Destinee Paulk all contribute an average of five-plus points per game for Cherokee Trail…Winner: The Vista Ridge-Cherokee Trail winner moves on to play at eighth-seeded Denver East Feb. 24 in the second round. Vista Ridge lost to Denver East 55-24 on Dec. 9, 2016.
5A: NO. 33 OVERLAND (8-15) AT NO. 32 THUNDERRIDGE (9-14), 6:30 P.M.
Breakdown: This Carol Callan Region matchup features an Overland team that dropped four straight to end the regular season against a team from ThunderRidge that has won its last two following a three-game losing streak…Coach Wayne McDonald’s Overland team is looking to pick up the program’s first postseason victory in nearly a decade, as the Trailblazers last advanced past the first round in the 2007-08 season when they made it to the 5A Great Eight. Since then, Overland missed the playoffs three times and lost in the first round five times, including last season’s 65-39 defeat at the hands of Chaparral. The Aurorans enter the postseason with four straight losses in Centennial League play since a 78-36 win over Smoky Hill on Feb. 4. Junior G Lyric Thompson has emerged as the team’s leading scorer at 13 points per game and her six-point total in the season finale against Arapahoe snapped a 13-game streak in which she scored in double figures. Sophomore PG Kailey Brown is just outside double figures in scoring average at 9.4 points per game and leads the team in assists (2.8) and steals (3.0) per game as well. Overland doesn’t have an abundance of size, but 5-9 sophomore F Kiki Felix pulls down 6.5 rebound to lead the team. Junior G Maia Jackson averages 7.2 points per game and is capable of big games offensively as well…ThunderRidge graduated a large cast from a team that won last season’s 5A state championship — and played in the title game the year before — and coach Matthew Asik’s largely new group finished in the middle of the Continental League standings. Junior G Mia Needles, a returning player from last season’s team, leads the way with an average of 10.4 points per game, including back-to-back 16-point efforts in the Grizzlies’ two wins to end the regular season. Junior G Christina Martinez averages 9 points per game for some added scoring punch and 6-0 senior C/F Mallory Elson leads the way with 6.7 rebounds per game…Winner: The Overland-ThunderRidge winner moves on to play at top-seeded Highlands Ranch (21-2) Feb. 24 in the second round. ThunderRidge lost by 12 points to the rival Falcons on Feb. 3 in Continental League play.
5A: NO. 35 EAGLECREST (9-14) AT NO. 30 LIBERTY (13-10), 7 P.M.
Breakdown: This Alice Barron Regional matchup pits an Eaglecrest team that has split its last two contests of the regular season against a Liberty squad that won its season finale to snap a three-game losing streak…The Eaglecrest program hasn’t experienced a postseason victory in almost a decade dating back to a 5A first round win over Douglas County in the 2007-08 season and coach Robby Gabrielli will take a crack at ending the drought in his first season as head coach. The Raptors dropped a two-point decision against a hot Cherokee Trail team — which won by 29 points in the first meeting — to end the regular season and dropped five of its last si games in Centennial League play. Senior G Jessica Stoner has 10 double-digit scoring efforts to her credit on the season — including a 30-point explosion against Smoky Hill Jan. 20 — and averages 9.3 points per contest, followed by senior F Sha’la Wiggins at 6.6 points per game to go with a team-leading 6.3 rebounds per game. Sophomore G Raquel Turner, freshman G Jadyn Ross and senior G Selah Ruckard all have scored in double figures in at least one game this season…Liberty won its first round playoff contest last season and coach Kyle Spencer’s Lancers aim for another after a 32-23 win over Coronado in the regular season finale. Junior G Jada Lyon paces a balanced scoring attack for Liberty at 10.6 points per game, while juniors Gs Jordan Valentine, Emily Vaszary and Phylicia Bacon all shoot well from the outside and averaged better than seven points per contest during the regular season, while junior F Morgan Sibley leads the way in rebounding at six per game…Winner: The Eaglecrest-Liberty winner moves on to play to play third-seeded Horizon (20-3) Feb. 24 in the second round. Neither team played the Hawks this season.
5A: NO. 36 PALMER (9-14) AT NO. 29 RANGEVIEW (14-9), 7 P.M.
Breakdown: This Sharon Wilch Region matchup pits a visiting Palmer team that lost its last three games of the regular season against a Rangeview squad that won four straight to conclude the regular season and wrap up the EMAC championship. The teams meet in the opening round of the 5A playoffs for the third time in the past four seasons…Palmer topped Rangeview 70-45 in the 5A first round last season and will try to get back on track after suffering three straight defeats since a win over Fountain-Fort Carson Feb. 13. Coach Dave Shackleford’s Terrors — who finished fifth among seven 5A teams in the Colorado Springs Metro League — feature a double-barreled scoring tandem of senior G Tashika Burrell and sophomore G Sanee’ Cates, who average 15.3 and 12.6 points per game, respectively. Though just 5-foot-5, senior F Jonnae Byas is Palmer’s leading rebounder at nearly five per contest and is third in scoring at 6.7 points per game…Rangeview downed Palmer 50-33 in the first round of the 2013-14 5A playoffs, which was the program’s last postseason victory after first-round defeats in the past two seasons. Coach Lamonte Weddle’s Raiders went 9-0 in EMAC play (capped by a 73-37 win over Gateway on Feb. 17) and suffered just two losses — non-league defeats to Cherokee Trail and Denver East — in their last 11 contests. Leading the way for Rangeview this season is the trio of senior F Jaelin Jones, senior PG LeShawn Love and sophomore F Angel Broadus. Jones is the team’s leading scorer at 15.1 points per game (plus 7.5 rebounds), Broadus averages a double-double (12.5 points & 12.4 rebounds) and Love paces the team in assists (4.1) and steals (2.7) plus 8.2 points per game. The Raiders also feature a variety of strong role players who have helped their winning ways…Winner: The Palmer-Rangeview winner moves on to play at fourth-seeded Ralston Valley Feb. 24 in the second round. Neither team played the Mustangs this season.
4A: NO. 40 VISTA PEAK (14-9) AT NO. 25 MULLEN (11-12), 7 P.M.
Breakdown: This Tanya Haave Region contest matches a Vista PEAK team that split its last two games of the regular season against a Mullen squad that also split its last two. Both are 4A programs that play in predominantly 5A leagues (Vista PEAK in the EMAC, Mullen in the Centennial League)…Vista PEAK remains seeking the first postseason victory in program history following three first round losses, including a 56-43 defeat at the hands of Pueblo South last season. Coach Jim Bartok’s young Bison enter the postseason with seven wins in its last eight games, which helped them finish as the EMAC runner-up in their debut in the league. F Denali (DJ) Hughes has had a breakout sophomore season for Vista PEAK, as she leads the team in scoring (11.7 ppg), rebounding (7.4 rpg), steals (3.6 spg) and assists (2.6 apg) and has complimented the contributions of senior F DeMe Moore, who averages 10.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per contest. Freshman G Kaya Evans has shown scoring punch, as has junior G Kierra Cox, senior C/F Breauna Reeves and junior G/F Jordan Quinn, who all average five or more points per contest. A number of other young players have had their moments for the Bison…Mullen’s been very successful in the postseason in the recent past, as the program has won at least one playoff game in each of the past seven seasons, including trips to the 4A Great Eight in each of the past two seasons. Coach Frank Cawley’s Mustangs dropped three of their last five games in Centennial League play, capped by a 24-point loss to 5A power Grandview in the regular season finale. Senior Whitney Jacob, a 5-foot-10 multi-sport athlete, averages a double-double — 16.3 points & 10.1 rebounds — to lead Mullen in addition to a team-best average of 2.3 steals per game. Junior Noelle VanHorn adds 15 points and 5.5 rebounds per game for the Mustangs, who have three others players who average five or more points per game…Winner: The Vista PEAK-Mullen winner moves on to play at eighth-seeded Holy Family Feb. 24 in the second round. Mullen beat Holy Family 52-42 in the season opener on Dec. 1, 2016.