AURORA | With a big game in Colorado awaiting, the Regis Jesuit girls basketball team heads out of a state for the biggest one of the year.
Coach Carl Mattei’s team is in St. Louis for a game Thursday afternoon against Incarnate Word Academy, the team ranked No. 1 in the country by a variety of national publications.
Regis Jesuit — which is 6-1 after a 2-1 performance at the Nike Tournament of Champions prior to winter break and the nearly unanimous No. 1 team in the Associated Press’s Class 5A girls prep basketball poll — takes on the Red Knights at the Scottrade Center at 4 p.m. MT as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer High School Shootout — then wings back into town for a showdown at No. 3 Grandview Saturday.
“Incarnate Word is No. 1 in every poll and they just won Naples Holiday Shootout,” Mattei said. “I think I heard they’ve won 91 games in a row and haven’t lost in two years, so they are very good. But we’ve also got a another team waiting in the wings at home, Grandview, which also concerns me. We’ll find out a lot about who we are in the next 48 hours.”
Incarnate Word enters the game at 11-0 and is coming off that win in the Naples Holiday Shootout, capped by a 53-44 win over Blackman (Tenn.) — ranked No. 3 on MaxPreps’ Xcellent 25 list — on Jan. 1.
The Red Knights, who went 31-0 last season, feature three players already signed to college scholarships in point guard Nakiah Bell (Iowa State), forward McKenna Treece (Kansas State) and post Gwen Adams (Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville). On top of that, junior wing Napheesa Collier averaged 24.1 points per game last season and may be the top player nationally in the Class of 2015 according to Mattei, who closely follows such things.
Regis Jesuit, however, counters with six Division I players and seven total college signees of its own in seniors Diani Akigbogun (Texas), Justine Hall (Purdue), Kelsi Lidge (Drexel), Jordan Molyneaux (Seton Hall), Anna Ptasinski (Lafayette) and Neffie Lockley (Howard), along with Cheyenne Cleveland (Bethany (Kan.) College).
Junior point guard Jess Lewis is another potential future college signee and averages 7.3 points per game, fourth on the team behind Hall (16.3 ppg), Akigbogun (12.4 ppg) and Lidge (8.7 ppg).
The defending 5A state champion Raiders — who have yet to play a home game this season — sit No. 6 in MaxPreps’ Xcellent 25 after dispatching four Colorado opponents (Greeley West, Mullen, Monarch and Horizon) by an average of 40 points and winning two of three games in Phoenix. Their only loss came by two points in overtime to Long Beach Poly (Calif.) in a game where Akigbogun missed the final minutes of regulation and overtime after getting hit the face with an elbow that required seven stitches and saw Molyneaux sit in the final moments after fouling out.
“To lose to Long Beach in overtime by two with what we had going against us, it shows we are a very, very talented bunch,” Mattei said. “The thing I like most about this team is that it just will not quit, that’s what makes them so tough.
“They never think they are going to lose.”
Mattei is concerned a bit about how his team will come out against Grandview — win or lose against Incarnate Word — due to the travel, especially considering the Wolves have incentive after losing to Regis Jesuit in last season’s 5A state semifinals.
The Raiders follow the Grandview game with a Continental League home contest against seventh-ranked and up-and-coming Castle View (coached by former Regis Jesuit assistant Matt Hema) on Jan. 15, followed by a three-game swing to the Classic in the Country in Cleveland against another tough group of out-of-state teams.
Note: The Regis Jesuit-Incarnate Word contest was scheduled to be streamed live, but tech personnel were unable to travel to St. Louis due to the cold and storms in the northeast. Follow CoachesvsCancerSTL (@CVCSTL).
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel