AURORA | A look at the five first round games of the 2015 Class 5A girls state basketball tournament involving Aurora teams scheduled for Feb. 24. The city’s only top-four seed, Grandview, has a first-round bye and swings into action for the second round on Feb. 27:
AURORA 5A GIRLS STATE BASKETBALL 1ST ROUND GAMES
6 p.m. — No. 11 POMONA at No. 6 REGIS JESUIT
Breakdown: Coach Carl Mattei’s Regis Jesuit team has been a very regular No. 1 seed in the state playoffs for quite awhile and has won the past two 5A state titles, but this year’s very young team enters the postseason as a No. 6 seed with a record just over .500 at 12-11. The Raiders split their last four games of the regular season, but ended on a win with a 59-48 victory at Ponderosa on Feb. 19. Senior guard Jess Lewis played a key role on each of the past two championship-winning Regis Jesuit teams and her play and leadership will be especially vital in this year’s postseason run. Lewis leads the team with an average of 14.1 points per game and also leads the Raiders in assists (4.0) and steals (1.9) per contest. Juniors TaeKenya Cleveland and Ezekia Johnson average 11.7 and 9.0 points, respectively, and both are capable of big scoring nights that can come in especially handy in the playoffs. Junior Julia Drexelius and freshman Emily Wrede offer danger on the perimeter for Regis Jesuit. The Raiders welcome in 11th-seeded Pomona, which brings an eight-game losing streak into the postseason and finished tied for last in the Jeffco League without a single senior on the roster. Sophomore Ashley Madden has been the Panthers’ most dangerous offensive player with an average of 18.7 points per game (including nine efforts of more than 20 points), while sophomore Julia Trujillo (11.2 ppg) and sophomore Abriana Ramirez (8.7 ppg) also contribute heavily in the scoring column. The winner treks off to No. 4 Grand Junction on Feb. 27 for the second round in the Alice Barron Region.
6 p.m. — No. 9 HERITAGE at No. 8 CHEROKEE TRAIL
Breakdown: Coach Todd Dixon’s Cherokee Trail team won two of its last three games in Centennial League play to finished with an 11-12 overall record. The Cougars received a chance to play a first round home game by virtue of receiving a No. 8 seed and that could help them win their postseason for a second straight season after they defeated Montbello last season before losing to top-seeded Highlands Ranch in the second round. Coming into the season, Dixon hoped to get a lot of production out of the junior trio of Jaleesa Avery, Anastacia Johnson and Kenzie McLelland and that has been the case, as Avery — who returned to the school after a year at Rangeview — averaged 15.7 points, Johnson 9.8 (plus team-high averages in steals per game at 2.6 and assists at 2.3) and McLelland 9.2 in the regular season, along with a team-best 4.7 boards per contest. Sophomore Taryn Foxen has also been a regular contributor for Cherokee Trail. The Cougars beat Rock Canyon, the only Continental League team they faced this season, and now face ninth-seeded Heritage, the league’s ninth-place team that rolls into the playoffs with just one win in its last eight contests. Sophomore Hailey Cechini (11.8 points per game) is the Eagles’ only regular averaging double figures, while senior Katherine Petersen leads the way with 6.0 rebounds per game. The winner advances to play at top-seeded Broomfield on Feb. 27 in the second round of Rhonda Blanford-Green Region play.
6:30 p.m. — NO. 11 EAGLECREST at No. 6 POUDRE
Breakdown: Under new head coach Tim Brennan, Eaglecrest nearly doubled its win total from last year with eight victories (against five last year) and finished sixth in the Centennial League standings, while it brings a five-game losing streak into the postseason. Sophomore Jessica Stoner is the Raptors’ perimeter threat and has used her three-point shooting to lead the team with an average of 6.2 points per game, which puts her just in front of sophomore guard Samoane Emecheta and junior post player Aubre Johnson, who each chip in 5.9 points per contest. Freshman Kailey Wilson, who had a phenomenal softball season in the fall, has been a solid addition with 5.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest, giving Eaglecrest additional size in the paint to go with Johnson (6.0 rebounds per game). Sixth-seeded Poudre finished squarely in the middle of the pack in the Front Range League and finished 11-2 overall after winning its last three contests. The Impalas, who made it all the way to the 5A Final Four last season before losing to eventual state champion Regis Jesuit, have a dual threat in junior Anna Haugan, who has scored 12.3 point and pulled down 7.5 rebounds per game this season. Junior Cecilia Berkner has been just outside double figures regularly at 9.7 points per game. The winner moves on to play at No. 3 Ralston Valley on Feb. 27 in the second round of Kaye Garms Region play.
7 p.m. — N0. 10 GATEWAY at No. 7 LEGEND
Breakdown: Coach Tammi Traylor-Statewright’s Gateway team missed last season’s state playoffs, but return this season thanks to an 11-12 regular season record and runner-up finish in the East Metro Athletic Conference. The 10th-seeded Olys enter the tournament as Aurora’s hottest team with eight wins in their last nine games, all in league play, and suffered only a 58-51 loss on Feb. 17 to Westminster in a game that essentially decided the league championship in favor of the Wolves. Gateway downed fierce Aurora Public Schools rival Rangeview in its season finale on Feb. 20 and swept through district foes with wins over Aurora Central and Hinkley as well. Junior Carmen Ramey poured in 20 points in the win over Rangeview and leads Gateway in scoring on the season at 13.7 points per game and also tops the team in rebounds (6.3) and steals (4.5 per contest). Ramey’s twin sister Ashley is second on the team with 9.4 ppg scoring average plus a team-best 2.2 assists per game, while sophomore Makayla Jones is also near double figures with an average of 9.1 points per game. Gateway has played five Continental League teams so far — going 1-4 with a win over Heritage — thus far, with sixth-seeded Legend marking the sixth. The Titans are 14-9 and have split their final six games, capped by a 46-41 loss to rival Chaparral in their season finale on Feb. 20. Senior Joey Sale leads Legend in scoring (13.0 ppg) and is second in rebounding (6.4 rpg), while senior Kylie Hager is just outside of double digits in regular scoring at 9.3 per contest. The winner moves on to play at No. 2 Lakewood on Feb. 27 in the second round of the Rhonda Blanford-Green Region.
7 p.m. — NO. 11 RANGEVIEW at NO. 6 PALMER
Breakdown: First-year Rangeview coach Lamonte Weddle has seen his team alternate wins and losses in each of their past 10 games, capped by a 65-56 loss to district rival Gateway on Feb. 20. The 11th-seeded Raiders finished third in the East Metro Athletic Conference standings behind the Olys and league champion Westminster. Sophomore Jaelin Jones has been dynamic in a lot of areas for Rangeview this season, as she leads the team with an average of 11.7 points per game and also tops the team in rebounds (8.3 rpg) and steals (2.6 spg), while senior Desmond Allen (9.0 ppg), sophomore Makaylee Jones (8.5 ppg), sophomore LeShawn Love (7.6 ppg) and junior Tomarow Whitefield (7.3 ppg) all have taken turns with key contributions for the Raiders. Sixth-seeded Palmer won its last two games of the regular season to surge over .500 at 12-11 and ended up in the third place position out of the Colorado Springs Metro League. The Terrors revolve largely around 5-foot-11 senior Jenn Urbaniak, an Air Force recruit who is among the state’s leading scorers at 20.3 points per game and also averages 9.7 rebounds and 3.3 steals per contest. Junior Abi Torres-Drozd chips in 8.2 points per game and sophomore Tashika Burrell has been good for 7.4 points per outing this season. The winner advances to play at No. 3 Grandview on Feb. 27 in the second round of Rhonda Blanford-Green Region play.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or email@example.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel