Posted On: 01/10/18 1:40 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.
All but two of the eight teams in the 5A/4A Pikes Peak League currently have winning records, and the league has a number of talented scorers including Falcon’s Reece Warren (17.4 ppg), as well as Cheyenne Mountain’s Luke Martin (17.3) and Javonte Johnson (16.3). As these teams begin to square off head-to-head for the conference title, the three most intriguing Pikes Peak teams are Air Academy (8-3), Lewis-Palmer (8-0) and Palmer Ridge (8-3).
Air Academy Kadets
Last year’s record: 1-22, 0-14 in Pikes Peak
Head coach: Barry Clark
Players to watch: Brock Bendrick (Sr.), Joshua Biddle (Sr.), Thad Dewing (So.), Niko Lunt (Sr.), Calvin Yocum (Sr.)
With a trio of scorers in Niko Lunt (14.0 ppg), Brock Bendrick (12.9) and Thad Dewing (10.3), the Kadets also share the ball well at the top of their lineup with each of their top scorers averaging over 1.5 assists a game. Those three are also the team’s defensive leaders with each averaging over 2.5 steals. The Kadets have played an exciting first half of the season including several games against the tough Pueblo Schools and a total of four overtime periods.
What to expect from Air Academy this year
A one-win team last season, the Kadets are off to their best start since they won the 4A state championship three years ago. It’s difficult to predict how they will fare in league play, but don’t expect last year’s Kadets team. This year’s squad is greatly improved across the board and has shown the ability to win close games, boasting a 3-1 record in games decided by five or fewer points and a 2-1 record in overtime games.
Last year’s record: 23-5, 12-2 in Pikes Peak
Head coach: Bill Benton
Players to watch: Ethan Forrester (Jr.), Carter Kreischer (Sr.), Salim Nehme (Sr.), Matthew Ragsdale (Jr.), Joel Scott (Jr.)
There’s no secret or bounce-back story here, the Rangers are ranked No. 1 in the CHSAANow.com poll simply because they are one of the best teams in the state. In juniors Joel Scott (18.9 ppg) and Matthew Ragsdale (17.1), the Rangers have one of the top one-two punches in the state and plenty of depth behind those guys including guard Salim Nehme, who is averaging 4.1 assists a game.
What to expect from Lewis-Palmer this year
Expect them to still be playing in the final weeks of the season. Nothing is guaranteed, but the Ranges look like a Final Four team in 2017-18. They have averaged 69.4 points a game while emerging undefeated from a brutal first-half schedule that included wins over No. 3 Pueblo South and No. 4 Golden. Even with Silver Creek rising in the rankings, the Rangers are the clear favorites in 4A at this point.
Palmer Ridge Bears
Last year’s record: 13-12, 6-8 in Pikes Peak
Head coach: Nick Mayer
Players to watch: Nick Boldvich (Sr.), Zach Hester (Sr.), Nathan Kugler (Sr.), Cory McLellan (Sr.), Maccee Reed (Sr.)
Toughness on defense and balance on offense are the name of the game for the Bears this season. Allowing just 44.2 points a game to their first 11 opponents, the Bears put together an eight-game win streak after starting the season 0-2. They have also faced a range of opponents from all over Colorado, Kansas and Texas to challenge themselves against a variety of different looks.
What to expect from Palmer Ridge this year
The Bears have had three double-digit scorers in their first to Pikes Peak League games and are aiming to surpass the .500 mark in conference play this season. Though they have what it takes, the Pikes Peak won’t offer many gimme games this winter so they’ll have to be on top of their game. Their defense should keep them in games and the number of different scorers they have in their rotation will make it difficult for other teams to guard them.