Posted On: 01/1/18 10:04 PM
The 2017-18 Colorado high school basketball season is in full swing and the winter break is over. With the New Year comes the excitement of conference races all across the state.
To prepare fans for league play, Prep Hoops is doing a preview series for each of Colorado’s Class 5A and 4A conferences, including which players to watch, what to expect and other noteworthy info on each league’s top teams.
Northridge ran away with the Northern League title last season, but that team graduated five of its six top scorers at the end of the year. Though Justin Wiersema (20.5 ppg this season) and Thompson Valley are definitely in the conversation, the teams with the most returning – Longmont, Mountain View and Silver Creek – are the most intriguing teams to start the conference seasons.
Mountain View Mountain Lions
Last Year’s Record: 13-12, 6-8 in Northern
Head Coach: Michael Jobman
Players to watch: Brexton Butcher (Sr.), Trey Bruschke (Jr.), Dyson Bassett (Sr.), Nick Messinger (Sr.)
So far in 2017-18, senior Brexton Butcher has picked up right where he left off and is averaging 18.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.4 steals a game in five games this season. Sure, the Mountain Lions finished just above .500 overall and fifth in the league last season but they’re off to a 6-3 start this winter. The Mountain Lions also had good showings at both the Spartan Classic and the Greeley Invitational, and appear ready to improve on last season’s 6-8 conference record.
What to expect from Mountain View this year
Lots of guard play and lots of balance in the stat sheet. While Butcher is the clear first option when it comes to scoring, the Mountain Lions also have five other players averaging seven or more points game – Trey Bruschke (10.1 ppg), Dyson Bassett (8.8), Nick Messinger (8.2), TJ Mendoza (7.3) and Brian Flohr (7.1). The Mountain Lions have also rarely been at full strength this season and when they finally have everyone available at the same time, they should be able to build even further on the ball-movement chemistry they already possess.
Last Year’s Record: 13-12, 7-7 in Northern
Head Coach: Jeff Kloster
Players to watch: Dallas Dye (So.), Jaydon Elkins (Jr.), Luke Johnson (Sr.), Beck Page (Jr.), Brady Renck (Jr.), Calvin Seamons (Jr.)
Some were surprised to see the Trojans ranked No. 9 in the CHSAANow.com preseason poll but they have since backed up that early nod to their potential and have even moved up three spots after the first month of the season. A junior-heavy club that features talented lefty point guard Luke Johnson (17.8 ppg), this year’s Longmont team is the usual possession-oriented club that plays excellent defense under veteran head coach Jeff Kloster. Senior Caden Dion is the defensive specialist for the Trojans, who have allowed an average of just 44 points to their first five opponents. And at 4-1 with their only loss coming on an overtime buzz-beater against then-No. 1 Golden, the Trojans are looking the part of a top 10 team early on.
What to expect from Longmont this year
Defense, defense and more defense, and then some Luke Johnson. As long as Jeff Kloster is the head coach at Longmont, the Trojans will be a defense-first team. With that said, Luke Johnson is the guy on this year’s roster (and last year’s too) that has the green light to shoot his shot. Crafty and lightning-quick, Johnson is also a creative playmaker and can usually be found at the center of any lengthy scoring runs the Trojans put together.
Silver Creek Raptors
Last Year’s Record: 21-4, 11-3 in Northern
Head Coach: Bob Banning
Players to watch: Charlie Belcher (Jr.), Trent Dykema (Sr.), Nick Eaton (Jr.), Erik Grossaint (Sr.), Trevor Riters (Sr.), Christian Warner (Sr.)
The Raptors won a school-record 21 games and reached the Sweet 16 last season, and look like an early Class 4A contender early on at 4-0. Senior guard and Colorado School of Mines commit Trent Dykema is among the top players in 4A and is eighth in the state averaging 26.8 points a game. The Raptors also have plenty of talent in Nick Eaton (11.3 ppg) and size in Erik Grossaint (6-foot-7), as well as athleticism in Joe Roth-Bogrett and Trevor Riters, around Dykema to compete with any team in the state. Oh, and their second-best player Christian Warner will return from an injury after the holiday break.
What to expect from Silver Creek this year
Ranked No. 4 in the CHSAANow.com poll, the Raptors are the early favorite to win the Northern League title, though cross-town rival Longmont likely will have something to say about that. The Raptors play good defense and have the depth to run the floor all game long and should have plenty of 70-plus scoring nights this season. With a back-loaded schedule, the Raptors have a lot of games remaining on their schedule in 2018. Expect them to win most of them.