Posted On: 03/3/17 9:02 PM
The Coliseum field is all set.
Saturday’s action in the state quarterfinals includes Eaglecrest, Denver East, Grandview, Rock Canyon, ThunderRidge, Chatfield, George Washington and Fort Collins. Each of these teams has had an incredible season in its own right. Some started out on fire. Others overcame early adversity to hit their stride at the right time. However they made it, these are the eight who who are left standing in the race for a state title with two weekends left in the 2016-17 Colorado high school season.
As we’ve now previewed each team in this group, we are going to switch up these preview by doing something a little bit different. Here are 10 questions that will be answered from the tip off between Rock Canyon and Grandview at 12:30 until the final second of the clock ticks off in the nightcap between Chatfield and ThunderRidge:
1. Can the Jaguars keep up the defensive intensity?
The Far Northeast Warriors have the athleticism and talent to put up points in bunches. But they were nowhere to be found in their Sweet 16 game Wednesday game against Rock Canyon. With the game tied at 20-20 at halftime, Canyon gave up only six points in the third quarter. They only gave up 50 points in their second-round win over Boulder, too. With a strong defensive backcourt of juniors Sam Masten and Tyson Gilbert applying pressure up front, wing Colin Rardin using his length to bother shooters on the perimeter and JT Bley playing tough-nosed defense down low (he’s among a group for RC that is great at drawing charges), the Jaguars don’t give you a lot of room to work with. Can they keep up the same intensity on that end of the floor against a Grandview team with a bunch of weapons? A trip to the Final Four will depend on it.
2. Can Grandview continue getting production from multiple spots?
Mountain Vista knew it would have one Prim brother to deal with Wednesday in 6-foot-7 senior Gaige Prim. But it was sophomore Dayne Prim who had one of the best games of his career in a Sweet 16 victory. Dayne had 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting. Oh, and he collected a monster 13 rebounds. The Wolves know they can count on the production of Gaige Prim and senior point guard LeChaun Duhart just about every night. But it’s rotating performances like the one they got from Dayne Prim on Wednesday — similar to ones they’ve had from Ben Boone, Tyler Unger, Gunner Gentry and others — that have helped Grandview reach new heights this season. The more they keep Rock Canyon with diverse production, the better off they will be Saturday.
3. Can Ross lead the Raptors to a second straight Final Four?
Colbey Ross, with 14 points, five assists, two rebounds and zero turnovers, helped Eaglecrest stifle Vista Ridge to make his fourth Elite Eight appearance in as many high school seasons. Ross will go down as one of the most decorated guards in Colorado prep history in terms of the constant team success. The only thing that has escaped him to this point is a state title, which he is trying to grab in coach John Olander’s final season. Standing in his way Saturday? A Denver East team coached by 11-time state champion Rudy Carey. Is Ross up to one more major challenge?
4. Can anyone stop Daylen Kountz?
Efforts to do so have been futile ever since Kountz played his first game for Denver East back on Jan. 6. The 6-4 junior wing, ranked No. 113 nationally in the 2018 class by Prep Hoops, has scored at least 24 points in eight straight games. That was his total in a Sweet 16 victory for East over Smoky Hill. The Buffs held Kountz to just 4-of-11 shooting from the field, but his relentless ability to attack led to 17 free-throw attempts, and he nailed 15. That’s why he’s so difficult to deal with. He can get buckets in so many ways, and it’s hard to defend all of them. Only one team has been able to hold Kountz under 19 points all season. You guessed it … Eaglecrest.
5. Which team will make the winning adjustments between East and Eaglecrest?
This is the only Elite Eight game that is a rematch of a previous meeting. Eaglecrest beat East 55-49 on Jan. 23. Ross and Kountz both struggled from the field in that game, but it was the Raptors who came up with the stops they needed late to hold on for the win. With two fantastic coaches in Olander and Carey, it will be great to watch this chess match again. These are a pair of very evenly matched teams. The one who adjusts best since the last meeting will be headed to the Final Four.
6. Can Chatfield keep its amazing run alive?
The Chargers are a wonderful testament to what a team can accomplish when it shares the basketball. Constantly moving, cutting and passing, Chatfield has played a beautiful style on the way to back-to-back incredible seasons. The Chargers just ran through the 5A JeffCo League with a perfect record for the second straight time. And a hungry group of seniors — Joe Miks, Mike Vrabel, Lucas St. Germain, Titus Reed, Alex Beckley and others — want to finish the job. A highly talented, well-coached ThunderRidge squad stands in the way.
7. Can the suddenly surging ThunderRidge offense be stopped?
In two playoff games, the Grizzlies are averaging an eye-popping 90 points per game. Their two playoff victories — over Liberty in the second round and over Rampart in the Sweet 16 — have come by an average of 32 points. Could it be that a 49-48 loss to Rock Canyon in the regular-season finale emboldened this group? The Grizzlies have averaged 12 3-pointers per game in the playoffs, including five of them from senior wing Corey Seng in the win over a talented Rampart squad. If T-Ridge keeps hitting like that, it will be hard to stand in its Final Four path.
8. Will Jervay Green break a rim at the Coliseum?
OK, so we don’t think the 6-5 senior guard for George Washington will actually pull that off, but we also wouldn’t put it past him. Green’s two-way excellence has helped the Patriots roll through the playoffs to this point. He scored 32 points in a second-round win over Ralston Valley and wreaked havoc on both ends of the court in a Sweet 16 win over Chaparral. There may not be a more exciting player in the state on the fastbreak than Green, who is a highlight dunk waiting to happen. And it’s fair to wonder whether there’s a better two-way player. If Green continues to hum along at the pace has been playing at the past month or so, G-Dub will be very hard to stop.
9. Can Fort Collins keep the dream season alive?
The senior-led Lambkins have accomplished something the close-knit group set out to do four years ago: reach the Coliseum. The Lambkins are in the Great Eight for the first time in 29 years. With five senior starters who are all talented enough to draw interest from some level of college — Iseri Palacio, Brian Read, Jacob Pfaffinger, Damien Murillo and Ricky Orozco — the group has gelled over time and got over the hump with gritty wins over Broomfield and Arapahoe. Sure, the Lambkins have to be considered major underdogs against powerhouse George Washington. But overachieving has been a theme for Fort Collins this season. It may not be ready to stop now.
10. Who will steal the show?
There is always some player under the bright lights of the Coliseum who has a career day. Last year it was it was Cherry Creek’s Will Haflon, who nearly shot the underdog Bruins into the Final Four. You can believe that there will be at least one player who goes out of his mind to give his team one more shot at glory. There are plenty of candidates for that kind of performance. You’ll have to tune in to find out.