5A Playoff Preview: Lower-Seed Sleeper Teams To Watch

High School

Posted On: 02/14/17 11:43 AM

While the official 5A state playoff bracket won’t be released until sometime Sunday, it isn’t too early for us to get a jump on previewing what should be a thrilling tournament that could feature good depth and talent in every round.

Today we want to take a look at some of the sleeper teams that aren’t necessarily on the radar but who could make some noise — and possibly pull an upset or two — when the tournament tips off next week.

In this edition we are looking at teams seeded Nos. 24-48 in the current RPI standings on CHSAANow.com. Those seedings, of course, could change a little bit between now and Sunday, but for the purpose of this article they should remain close enough to approximate their positioning for the playoffs. Records provided are the marks for teams entering Tuesday night’s action.

Let’s have a look:

Fossil Ridge

Record: 12-9

Current RPI: No. 26

Why They Could Surprise: Having a player who can take over a game come playoff time is a valuable asset, and it’s one the Sabercats certainly have in Braxton Bertolette. The 6-2 senior guard is averaging 27 points per game, which is better than two points higher than any other player in 5A. Bertolette, who is coming off a season-high 40-point performance in a win over Legacy — the eighth in 10 games for Fossil Ridge — is shooting 41 percent (85-of-206) from 3-point range. Bertolette’s ability to stack up points in a hurry could give the Sabercats a chance to pull a second-round upset that would advance them to the Sweet 16.

Ralston Valley

Record: 12-9

Current RPI: No. 27

Why They Could Surprise: The Mustangs may not be the most individually talented team in the bottom half of the 5A bracket, but we saw during a road victory over Lakewood last month what this team can do when it plays together. Coach Mitch Conrad’s team is unselfish and seems to genuinely enjoy playing together. Jerrod Parker, a 6-2 senior, does a little bit of everything for the undersized Mustangs, averaging a team-leading 10.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. They key to this team, which has won five of six games and played league champ Chatfield tough in a loss last week, is that they have a long list of players who can step up when needed.

Highlands Ranch

Record: 10-12

Current RPI: No. 32

Why They Could Surprise: A stunning 59-56 overtime victory last week over Rock Canyon proves the improving Falcons are capable of playing with anyone. The Falcons have won four out of their last five games and are really finding their stride behind rising 6-6 junior Brendan Sullivan, who leads the team in scoring (16.6 points per game) and rebounding (10.0). Jorian Spann, a 6-1 senior guard who is averaging 11 points per game, and 6-2 senior guard Holten Sparling add good veteran leadership. This team is playing some of its best basketball of the season right now, a big plus when you head to the postseason. If Highlands Ranch ends up in the 32 or 33 slot, a matchup with top-ranked Continental League rival ThunderRidge could await in the second round.


Record: 13-8

Current RPI: No. 33

Why They Could Surprise: The Raiders probably would have been looking at a first-round bye had Elijah Blake, a 6-2 University of Denver-bound point guard who is one of the best players in the state, not torn his ACL prior to the season. Losing its best player was certainly a big blow, but Rangeview, which can wrap up the 5A/4A East Metro Athletic Conference title this week, has still put together a strong season. Leading the charge has been 6-2 guard Matthew Johnson, who has had a breakout senior season while averaging 20.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game. Ryan Ongala, a 6-6 junior forward averaging 10.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, adds a valuable inside presence that could pay big dividends in the postseason.