🔥 Five things to watch from the boys and girls 🏀 state tournaments!

The Class 3A boys and girls basketball state tournaments are upon us, and we have five things to watc
The Playbook
🔥 Five things to watch from the boys and girls 🏀 state tournaments!
By The Playbook • Issue #65 • View online
The Class 3A boys and girls basketball state tournaments are upon us, and we have five things to watch for each tournament, plus a whole lot more, in today’s Playbook!

Sterling's Axel Henry tries to dribble by Resurrection Christian's Zach Cook on Jan. 15 at Resurrection Christian High School in Loveland. (Photo by Joshua Polson)
Sterling's Axel Henry tries to dribble by Resurrection Christian's Zach Cook on Jan. 15 at Resurrection Christian High School in Loveland. (Photo by Joshua Polson)
The Lead
Poring through pages and pages of brackets, rosters and statistical information to make sense of this weekend’s start to the state basketball playoffs?
The Playbook has you covered, as Bobby Fernandez will give you five Patriot League-related things to watch from the boys tournament, while Quinn Ritzdorf does the same for the girls tournament.
Boys
1. Can Sterling maintain its same torrid pace against two seemingly overmatched opponents?
In its first 22 games of the season, Sterling (21-1) outscored its opponents by nearly 30 points per game.
The Tigers could very well extend that level of dominance against their first two state tournament opponents — No. 31 The Academy (14-8) today and likely No. 15 Platte Valley (16-6)/No. 18 Alamosa (12-10) on Saturday.
In fact, one could argue the toughest potential opponent to converge on Sterling’s home gym this weekend is Patriot League foe Platte Valley — and the Tigers beat the Broncos 64-30, in Kersey, less than a month ago.
The true tests for powerhouse Sterling may not come until deeper into the state tournament, perhaps even in the semifinals, next week.
Resurrection Christian's Reece Johnson, left, tries to get a rebound before Sterling's Carter Keil, right, Jan. 15 at Resurrection Christian High School in Loveland. (Photo by Joshua Polson)
Resurrection Christian's Reece Johnson, left, tries to get a rebound before Sterling's Carter Keil, right, Jan. 15 at Resurrection Christian High School in Loveland. (Photo by Joshua Polson)
2. Even as a lower seed, is Resurrection Christian actually the favorite over Coal Ridge to advance?
On paper, Resurrection Christian isn’t exactly a favorite to advance to next week’s Round of 8.
The Cougars (17-5) are the 11th seed, and they have to travel 220 miles to take on No. 22 Grand Valley (12-8) in the first round today and, perhaps, No. 6 Coal Ridge (18-4) or No. 27 Jefferson Academy (14-9) in the second round Saturday.
It would seem Coal Ridge is a strong favorite to advance out of this weekend and into next week.
However, seeding differentials — and the Titans’ home-court advantage — aside, Resurrection Christian may actually be the team to beat among this quartet.
In MaxPreps.com’s computer-based rankings — which take into account a variety of factors — the Cougars are ranked fifth in 3A, while Coal Ridge is ninth.
Resurrection Christian has had a slightly tougher strength of schedule than Coal Ridge has had, according to CHSAA’s RPI system.
The Cougars’ five losses are to 3A state qualifiers — second-seeded Sterling (twice), top-seeded Lutheran and No. 14 Colorado Academy — and 4A’s sixth seed Pueblo West. Four of those five losses were tight affairs. A 65-49 loss to Colorado Academy on Dec. 15 was the anomaly.
With reason to believe Resurrection Christian could be the favorite this weekend in Coal Ridge, this should be one of the most intriguing “regional” quartets of the opening weekend of the state tournament.
Platte Valley's Bryson Becker tries to keep the ball away from The Academy's Jordan Burnett and James Pappas on Nov. 30 at Platte Valley High School in Kersey. (Photo by Joshua Polson)
Platte Valley's Bryson Becker tries to keep the ball away from The Academy's Jordan Burnett and James Pappas on Nov. 30 at Platte Valley High School in Kersey. (Photo by Joshua Polson)
3. Can star Bryson Becker carry Platte Valley to an improbable run?
Platte Valley is seeded 15th out of 32 postseason teams. More importantly, the Broncos (16-6) face the misfortunate of belonging to the same regional quartet as Sterling, the second seed and easily one of the favorite to win the 3A title.
No one — besides, perhaps, Platte Valley’s most faithful supporters — is expecting the Broncos to advance past this weekend and into next week’s Round of 8.
But, the Broncos have a great equalizer, and he stands 6-foot-9, weighs 210 pounds, blocks shots, sinks post shots and snags rebounds like it’s second nature.
He averages 22 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. He’s easily one of the most physically imposing, and talented, players in all of 3A.
A superstar can carry a basketball team a long way, and Bryson Becker is no doubt a bonafide superstar.
Eaton's Nic Inda tries to find a way through Basalt defenders Tristan Johnston, left, and Alonso Silva, right, on Nov. 30 at Platte Valley High School in Kersey. (Photo by Joshua Polson)
Eaton's Nic Inda tries to find a way through Basalt defenders Tristan Johnston, left, and Alonso Silva, right, on Nov. 30 at Platte Valley High School in Kersey. (Photo by Joshua Polson)
4. Can facing a familiar postseason foe breed confidence for Eaton?
Eaton has seen its first-round opponent, Faith Christian, with regularity in postseasons throughout the decades.
The Reds have even had a measure of success against veteran coach Andrew Hasz and his perennially contending Eagles program.
The most high-profile of Eaton’s playoff wins against Faith Christian came in 2007 when the Reds upset a high-powered Eagles team in the semifinals, en route to the state title.
Even if history repeats itself and Eaton beats Faith Christian tonight, advancing to next week would still be quite the chore — the Reds would likely face fifth-seeded host Delta in Round 2.
Still, any kind of success in the postseason would be huge for a young, up-and-coming Eaton team that at one point looked to be middle of the road in the Patriot League before finding its stride late.
University's Tayt Chacon shoots a free throw against Platte Valley on Feb. 1 in Greeley. (Michael Brian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
University's Tayt Chacon shoots a free throw against Platte Valley on Feb. 1 in Greeley. (Michael Brian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)
5. March is made for basketball Cinderella stories. Does Strasburg, University or Frontier Academy have one in them?
Let’s be honest. Any type of win by No. 29 Strasburg (12-11), No. 23 University (14-8) or No. 30 Frontier Academy (11-12) would be a major upset.
All three teams are bottom 10 seeds in the state tournament and all are facing top 10 seeds, on the road, in the first round.
Of these three teams, University likely has the best chance. The Bulldogs have hung tough through a tough schedule. And, unlike Strasburg’s and Frontier Academy’s first-round opponents — No. 4 Vanguard (20-2) and No. 3 Manual (19-3), respectively — University’s opponent, No. 10 Centauri (17-4), isn’t necessarily considered to be among that first tier of state title contenders.
Of course, even if the Bulldogs win tonight, an equally tough challenge Saturday — likely against No. 7 Montezuma-Cortez (17-5) — would await.
But, for a University team that went 8-12 a year ago and didn’t even stiff the state tournament, any kind of significant postseason success would represent a storybook ending to this season, with likely even brighter days ahead for this young team.
Eaton's Bailie Duncan shoots a layup against Platte Valley on Jan. 11 at Eaton High School. (Photo by Joshua Polson)
Eaton's Bailie Duncan shoots a layup against Platte Valley on Jan. 11 at Eaton High School. (Photo by Joshua Polson)
Girls
1. Will Eaton make it to the Round of 8 for the first time since 2015-16?
The last time Eaton survived through the first weekend of the state tournament was the 2015 season when it defeated Olathe 45-42. However, the Reds lost to Manitou Springs 55-27 in the next round.
It would be very surprising if the Reds don’t make it to the Round of 8 this time around. They just finished their best season (21-1) in eight years.
Not to mention they are seeded No. 5 and get home-court advantage for the weekend. Their first game against No. 28 Coal Ridge (11-9) should be a breeze, and then they could play either No. 12 Moffat County (17-5) or fellow Patriot League team, No. 21 University (13-9).
Platte Valley's Cora Schissler tries to drive past Eaton's Mady Bruch on Jan. 11 at Eaton High School. (Photo by Joshua Polson)
Platte Valley's Cora Schissler tries to drive past Eaton's Mady Bruch on Jan. 11 at Eaton High School. (Photo by Joshua Polson)
2. How will the Platte Valley freshmen fair in their first postseason experience?
The fantastic freshmen Cora Schissler and Brooke Bunting are arguably the best backcourt duo in the Patriot League. They lead No. 8 Platte Valley (19-3) in scoring with 12.8 and 10.2 points per game, respectively.
However, they have never experienced the overwhelming environment that is playoff basketball. If they are able to withstand the pressure, they should be able to make a deep run into the tournament.
Their first opponent, No. 25 Kent Denver (11-12), they beat earlier in the season 59-40. If they move on to Saturday, they will play the winner of No. 9 Alamosa (15-6) and No. 24 Colorado Academy (14-8).
Elisabeth Perl drives into the lane against Estes Park at Resurrection Christian High School on Feb. 12. (Photo by Quinn Ritzdorf)
Elisabeth Perl drives into the lane against Estes Park at Resurrection Christian High School on Feb. 12. (Photo by Quinn Ritzdorf)
3. Who will step up in crunch time for Resurrection Christian?
No. 16 Resurrection Christian (15-7) is led by its power three of Elisabeth Perl, Juju Hemeyer and Molli Peacock. It seems like each game, one of these girls steps up and it’s almost never the same one.
Perl leads the team in points per game with 14.5. While Hemeyer and Peacock average 9.5 and 8.5, respectively. However, in the past three games it has been Hemeyer and Peacock taking on most of the scoring.
It’s great to have three players averaging nearly double-digit points, but when you need that game-winning bucket as time is winding down, who do you turn to?
That question will determine if the Cougars make it past No. 17 Salida (12-9). If they do, they will most likely face No. 1 St. Mary’s (21-1).
University girls basketball coach Sarah Wildt converses with her team during its dramatic 23-22 season-opening win against Fort Morgan on Nov. 29 at the Northern Colorado Roundball Classic in Eaton. (Photo by Bobby Fernandez)
University girls basketball coach Sarah Wildt converses with her team during its dramatic 23-22 season-opening win against Fort Morgan on Nov. 29 at the Northern Colorado Roundball Classic in Eaton. (Photo by Bobby Fernandez)
4. How much of an underdog is University?
To be honest, it wouldn’t appear the Bulldogs are much of one at all. This game between No. 21 University (13-9) and No. 12 Moffat County (17-5) could be a lot closer than people think.
For starters, Moffat County has to travel four and a half hours to Eaton for the game. University has an easy 15-minute drive.
University also has three players averaging nearly double-digit points with Madelyn Malm (11.7), Kylie Kravig (10.6) and Taylor Gollhofer (9), while Moffat County has only two, Halle Hamilton (11.6) and Tiffany Hildebrandt (9).
5. Does Brush have a chance at an upset?
Given No. 26 Brush (11-11) are going up against No. 7 The Academy (21-1), the Beetdiggers’ chances appear very, very slim.
The Academy was probably snubbed with a seven seed after losing only one game this season. The Beetdiggers also may not have enough offensive firepower to keep up with the Wildcats.
Brush averages 45 points a game and has only one double-digit scorer in Amber Wolever. If The Academy scores the 60 points it usually does and takes away Wolever, it’s going to be a long day for Brush.
But if something unexpected happens, this would be the upset of the tournament.
Want to see your Patriot League athlete spotlighted in The Playbook?
Calling all Patriot League athletes! Want to be featured in The Playbook?
Click here to fill out the form (which takes about five minutes) to be featured in The Playbook’s new section, Athlete Spotlight. Share the link with all the great Patriot League athletes you support. They deserve the recognition!
Get to know your Patriot League coaches
The Playbook will be launching another new feature in the coming weeks, allowing the Patriot League community to get to know their coaches better.
Coaches, we very much need your help with The Playbook’s new section, Coach’s Corner.
Click here to fill out the form to be featured. It takes just a few short minutes! Speaking of Coach’s Corner… lets get to know University’s baseball coach, Casey Miller.
Coach's Corner: Casey Miller
Patriot League Team and Sport: University Baseball
Years coaching: Eight years
Coaching history: Wheat Ridge assistant coach (2010), Windsor assistant coach (2013-2017), University head coach (2018-current)
Why do you coach?: Love and respect for the great game of baseball and the relationships you build along the way. I have enjoyed getting to know the student athletes, coaches, and umpires. I am humbled to coach alongside some of the very best in Colorado here in northern Colorado!
Favorite coaching moment?: Being a small part of the 2018 State Championship Baseball team at University last year as a first-year head coach. I was very fortunate to have a very solid squad and assistant coaches!
Favorite coach?: Harold Simmons (Erie) and Josh Langford (Fort Morgan). Any time I had questions or needed advice, I turn to them. I hope I can give back to the game in ways they have. They both have great programs and I hope to be half as successful both on and off the field like they have.
Favorite athlete?: Growing up, it was John Elway for obvious reasons, and currently it’s Nolan Arenado.
Favorite sports team? Why?: Broncos and Rockies. I’m a Colorado native so I stay loyal to the local teams.
Favorite inspirational quote?: “Sometimes you have to knock on the door of success before you knock it down.” -Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt Baseball
Biggest role model? Why?: Coach Tim Corbin from Vanderbilt University. I have been fortunate enough to get to know him over the past few years. He is very humble and such a genuine person. He instills character and a family-like atmosphere with his teams in Nashville. I strive to build relationships with my players the way he does with his. Absolute class act!
Favorite food?: Ribeye (medium)
Favorite movie?: Moneyball
Future of the Patriot League
Eddie Lemos is a freshman wrestler at Resurrection Christian. He was the lone Cougar to make the Class 3A Wrestling Championships this past week.
Although he went 0-2 in the tournament, he is one of the best freshman wrestlers in the Patriot League and will only improve as he gets older.
Wha'dya Think?
This is your last chance to enter your answers and get your name on the leaderboard. The poll closes at the tip of the first tournament game tonight.
Question: Will the 12 boys and girls Patriot League basketball teams in the state tournament win more than half of their combined games on Friday and Saturday?
We want to know who among our subscribers is the most knowledgable when it comes to the Patriot League.
We will be keeping track of correct answers and updating a leaderboard every week.
At the end of each month, the leader will win a prize. Not to mention, the weekly winner will receive a shoutout in Monday’s edition of The Playbook. Have fun and good luck!
Scoreboard
State Basketball Tournament Matchups — Round of 32
Girls
No. 16 Resurrection Christian (15-7) vs. No. 17 Salida (12-9), at St. Mary’s HS, 5 p.m. today
No. 8 Platte Valley (19-3) vs. No. 25 Kent Denver (11-12), at Platte Valley HS, 5 p.m. today
No. 5 Eaton (21-1) vs. No. 28 Coal Ridge (11-9), at Eaton HS, 7 p.m. today
No. 21 University (13-9) vs. No. 12 Moffat County (17-5), at Eaton HS, 5 p.m. today
No. 26 Brush (11-11) vs. No. 7 The Academy (21-1), at The Academy HS, 6 p.m. today
Boys
No. 21 Eaton (13-9) vs. No. 12 Faith Christian (16-6), at Delta HS, 4:30 p.m. today
N0. 29 Strasburg (12-11) vs. No. 4 Vanguard (20-2), at James Irwin HS, 6 p.m. today
No. 2 Sterling (21-1) vs. No. 31 The Academy (14-8), at Sterling HS, 5 p.m. today
No. 15 Platte Valley (16-6) vs. No. 18 Alamosa (12-10), at Sterling HS, 7 p.m. today
No. 23 University (14-8) vs. No. 10 Centauri (17-4), at Montezuma-Cortez HS, 5:30 p.m. t0day
No. 11 Resurrection Christian (17-5) vs. No. 22 Grand Valley (12-8), at Coal Ridge HS, 7 p.m. today
No. 30 Frontier Academy (11-12) vs. No. 3 Manual (19-3), at Manual HS, 5:30 p.m. today
Coming up in Saturday's edition of The Playbook
We’ll discuss our thoughts/takeaways, the key moments and results from the first day of Class 3A state basketball tournaments.
Thanks for your support! See you Saturday!
Bobby Fernandez, The Playbook Publisher
Quinn Ritzdorf, The Playbook Reporter
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