AURORA | Seven city teams started the Class 5A girls state basketball tournament a week ago, but only two remain.
Both of Aurora’s No. 1 seeds — Grandview and Regis Jesuit — won handily in the second round on Feb. 28, securing themselves spots in Wednesday’s Sweet 16 round.
The Wolves and Raiders, who squared off in last season’s 5A semifinals, both can return to play at the Denver Coliseum with victories on their home floors against Castle View and Ralston Valley, respectively.
The following is a brief preview of both games on March 4:
5A: (5) CASTLE VIEW (18-7) AT (1) GRANDVIEW (22-2), 7 p.m.
Outside of a couple of veterans, the Feb. 28 second round playoff contest against ninth-seeded Loveland marked the first postseason experience for much of coach Josh Ulitzky’s Grandview roster. The Wolves were hampered by early foul trouble for senior Katie Cunningham — a regular on last season’s semifinal team — but managed to shake off a slow start behind another senior, Natalie Halbleib, and freshman Michaela Onyenwere. Halbleib finished with six 3-pointers in the game on her way to 23 points — 11 more than her season average, while Onyenwere (averaging 18.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game) poured in 19 in her first playoff contest as the Wolves prevailed 73-38 over the Indians. Grandview will need all hands on deck to beat Castle View, which comes from another power conference in the Continental League. The SaberCats pulled a mild upset in the second round when they edged fourth-seeded Horizon 56-52 to pick up their third win in a row since a three-game losing streak in league play. Castle View — coached by Matt Hema, a former Regis Jesuit assistant — wins with balance, but senior Jess McGovern is a constant threat with team-leading averages of 10.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. The SaberCats have plenty of size in the lineup with a number of 6-footers.
5A: (5) RALSTON VALLEY (20-5) AT (1) REGIS JESUIT (22-2), 7 p.m.
Defending 5A state champion Regis Jesuit had a pretty poor first quarter of postseason basketball this season — scoring just three points — but coach Carl Mattei’s group exploded for 30 points in the second quarter and routed No. 8 Rocky Mountain 67-32 on Feb. 28. Even when the Raiders don’t score at their usual clip, they play good defense, as they held the Lobos to zero points in the opening period to still lead 3-0 before they got on track. Regis Jesuit exhibited its typical balance offensively, with senior Diani Akigbogun scoring effectively inside with a team-high 15 points, senior Justine Hall shining in the midrange and transition game with 14 points and a combined eight made 3-pointers in the game, four from junior Jess Lewis (14 points) and three from senior Anna Ptasinski (9). For the season, Hall paces the team with an average of 15.5 points per game, followed by Akigobogun (13.7 ppg, team-high 6.7 rebounds per game) and Ptasinski (10.3 ppg). Ralston Valley comes into the game following a pair of lopsided victory, as the Mustangs downed 12th-seeded Eaglecrest 78-32 in the first round and ousted fourth-seeded Brighton 73-37 in the second round. Ralston Valley has seven players averaging 5 points per game or more, led by freshman Ashley VanSickle (12.3 ppg) and senior Amanda Lefholz (11.0 ppg). The Mustangs rely heavily on the 3-point shot, as they have connected on 175 triples on the season.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel