Girls Basketball: Aurora’s surviving trio of teams seeks 5A Sweet 16 spot

338
Junior Jaleesa Avery will need to have a strong game if the eighth-seeded Cherokee Trail girls basketball team has any chance to upset top-seeded Broomfield in a Class 5A girls state basketball second round game at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at Broomfield High School. Avery scored 13 points in the Cougars' playoff-opening win over Heritage and averages a team-best 15.7 points per game on the season. (Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)
Junior Jaleesa Avery will need to have a strong game if the eighth-seeded Cherokee Trail girls basketball team has any chance to upset top-seeded Broomfield in a Class 5A girls state basketball second round game at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at Broomfield High School. Avery scored 13 points in the Cougars’ playoff-opening win over Heritage and averages a team-best 15.7 points per game on the season. (Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

AURORA | A look at the three second round games of the 2015 Class 5A girls state basketball tournament involving Aurora teams scheduled for Feb. 27:

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

5:30 p.m. — NO. 6 REGIS JESUIT AT NO. 3 GRAND JUNCTION

Breakdown: Coach Carl Mattei’s Regis Jesuit team hasn’t had to travel for a second round game in the 5A state playoffs for quite awhile, but that’s the fate of the two-time defending champions this season. And the road game is all the way on the Western Slope, requiring the team to leave a day early to try to beat the weather. The current crop of Raiders is short on postseason experience, however they have tasted a playoff victory with a 46-40 win over 11th-seeded Pomona in the first round Feb. 24. Sophomore Ezekia Johnson led the way for Regis Jesuit with 16 points and nine rebounds, while junior TaeKenya Cleveland contributed 13 points and eight boards. Senior guard Jess Lewis started on the past two championship teams and was able to play more of a supporting role, but the West Point recruit (the team’s leading scorer at 13.8 points per game) is the tone-setter for a young team with just two seniors on the roster. Lewis will be especially important defensively in the second round against third-seeded Grand Junction, which has a jet of a point guard in senior Sydni Brandon. Brandon has gaudy averages (11.6 points, 6.0 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 4.5 steals), while 6-foot junior Tori Catlett (13.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg) is another major force for the Tigers. Grand Junction won its last three games of the regular season, but last played 10 days before the playoff matchup with Regis Jesuit. The winner moves into the Sweet 16 to play the winner between No. 2 Cherry Creek and No. 7 Chaparral in Alice Barron Region play.

7 p.m. — NO. 6 PALMER AT NO. 3 GRANDVIEW

Breakdown: Coach Josh Ulitzky’s Grandview team has set a bar the past two seasons by making it all the way to the Class 5A Final Four, but this season must try to do it with a largely new cast. The Wolves (19-4) lost three of four games midway through the regular season — defeats to No. 1 seed ThunderRidge and two No. 2s in Arapahoe and Cherry Creek — then won their last six games and received a No. 3 seed, which included a first-round bye. Grandview’s role players have developed tremendously throughout the season, but the play of sophomore Michaela Onyenwere makes the Wolves elite. Onyenwere has been even better than her phenomenal freshman season, as she’s averaged 22.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, plus 4.0 steals per contest, all tops on the team. Sophomore guard Kennede Brown has taken a huge leap forward this season and is second on the team with a 8.1 ppg average, while her tenacity on the defensive end has led to 3.0 steals per contest as well. Senior Sierra Penn, sophomore Lenzi Hudson and freshman Jaiden Galloway each average more than six points per game and do a lot of little things, as do a number of other players in Ulitzky’s rotation. Grandview plays host to sixth-seeded Palmer, which knocked another Aurora team, Rangeview, out of the tournament with a 70-45 win on Feb. 24. The Wolves have beaten both teams they played from the Colorado Springs Metro League, in which the Terrors finished third among the seven 5A teams in the conference. Senior Jenn Urbaniak, an Air Force commit, scored 26 points in just three quarters of play for Palmer in the playoff opener and has similar averages to Onyenwere at 20.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Junior Abi Torres-Drozd (8.3 ppg) and sophomore Tashika Burrell (7.7 ppg) each can go for double figures on any night. The winner progresses in the Rhonda Blanford-Green Region to a Sweet 16 matchup against either second-seeded Lakewood or No. 7 Legend.

7 p.m. — NO. 8 CHEROKEE TRAIL at NO. 1 BROOMFIELD

Breakdown: Coach Todd Dixon’s Cherokee Trail team appears to have a bright future, aided by making it to the second round of the 5A state tournament for the second straight season. The Cougars downed ninth-seeded Heritage 44-37 in the opening round to get to 12-12 on the season, with juniors Jaleesa Avery, Anastacia Johnson and Kenzie McLelland leading the way. Avery scored 13 points against the Eagles — a shade below her season average of 15.7 ppg — while Johnson scored all 11 of her points in the second half to spark the Cougars and averages 9.8 for the season (plus 2.6 steals), just ahead of McLelland’s 9.2 average and a team-high 4.7 rebounds. Sophomore Taryn Foxen (7.7 ppg) has been quite effective on multiple occasions. Cherokee Trail split its two previous games against opponents from the Front Range League, which counted Broomfield as its champion. The Eagles have extra urgency this season it will be the last for veteran coach Mike Croell and want to make a statement in the 5A state tournament in their debut after moving up from 4A. Broomfield features a dynamic duo in Callie Kaiser (16.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 3.9 apg, 3.4 spg) — a Colorado State recruit — and Brenna Chase (15.7 ppg), while they have a third double-digit scorer in Brenna Fankell (10.6 ppg) and nearly another in Nichole Lehrer (9.8 ppg). The winner moves on to a Sweet 16 contest against either No. 4 Pine Creek or No. 5 Loveland in the Rhonda Blanford-Green Region.