Posted On: 01/8/18 5:17 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.
In the combo 5A/4A Southwestern League, Montrose (8-4), Fruita Monument (7-5) and Grand Junction Central (5-7) are three of the more intriguing teams with league play coming up quickly.
Fruita Monument Wildcats
Last year’s record: 10-14, 3-5 in Southwestern
Head coach: Ryan Hayden
Players to watch: Blake Anderson (Jr.), Ian Barnes (So.), Daren Davison (Sr.), Reilly Flinn (Jr.), Trey Morrill (Sr.)
At the end of last school year, the Wildcats graduated four seniors that were integral parts of last year’s near-.500 season but thus far don’t appear to have been too adversely affected by the loss. With four players – Trey Morrill (14.8 ppg), Blake Anderson (10.5), Ian Barnes (10.2), Daren Davison (10.0) – averaging in double figures, and Reilly Flinn scoring 8.6 a game, the Wildcats are averaging just over 60 points a game.
What to expect from Fruita Monument this year
Having played a number of their first 12 games of the season against solid 4A and 5A teams, the Wildcats’ 7-5 record is nothing to sneeze at. When the first RPI standings are released on Jan. 16, they should be in a good early position to play their way into the postseason. On top of that, expect the Wildcats to be one of the early favorites to claim the automatic playoff berth that comes with winning the Southwestern.
Grand Junction Central Warriors
Last year’s record: 16-8, 6-2 in Southwestern
Head coach: Josh King
Players to watch: Isaiah Cameron (Sr.), Caleb Davis (Jr.), Joey Estep (Sr.), Ryan Kirby (Jr.), Jacob Leon (Sr.)
Last season’s league champs, the Warriors were hit hard by graduating eight seniors last spring. Those eight seniors included the top six scorers from last year’s 16-win ball club, which is a lot of production for any team to replace. To that end, Caleb Davis (11.2 ppg), Isaiah Cameron (10.5) and Jacob Leon (10.5) have stepped up to fill in the gaps and the Warriors have fought their way through their early schedule and aren’t far off from the .500 mark.
What to expect from Grand Junction Central this year
Expect the Warriors to continue to battle while they reconfigure their team’s identity in the face of such massive roster turnover. At 5-7, the Warriors have a ridiculously narrow point differential of plus-1 (657-656) and this season has certainly had its ups and down. One possible silver lining to suiting up so many new faces this season is that it could make it more challenging for familiar conference opponents to put informed game plans together when the Warriors come up on their schedules.
Last year’s record: 6-17, 0-8 in Southwestern
Head coach: Ryan Voehringer
Players to watch: Andru Aragon, Sean Alex, Jordan Jennings, Chris Eckerman, Connor Imus, Trey Schwerdtfeger, Kade Terrell
In a league that could be turned upside down this year, there may be no better example than the Indians, who won just six games and went winless in league play last season. So far this winter, they are 8-4 and have already eclipsed last year’s win total. They even received top-10 votes in the latest CHSAANow.com rankings poll after going 3-0 and winning the Palisade tournament before the winter break and winning the Aztec Rumble tournament this past week in New Mexico.
What to expect from Montrose this year
Whether it be Kade Terrell, Andru Aragon, Trey Schwerdtfeger, or whomever, the Indians have had a number of different players lead them in scoring. It seems like it could be a different guy on any given night. While no significant statistical information is readily available on the Indians, it’s reasonable to expect that they will be a balanced scoring club this winter. They also seem to thrive in low-scoring games, holding their first 12 opponents to an average of 40.25 points.