Posted On: 01/6/18 1:45 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.
As a whole, the 4A Western Slope League currently has a 24-34 record in non-conference play. Though Devin Huffman (18.8 ppg) and Battle Mountain are off to a good start, the Western Slope’s three most intriguing teams at this point are Glenwood Springs, Steamboat Springs and Summit.
Glenwood Springs Demons
Last year’s record: 14-11, 8-4 in Western Slope
Head coach: Cory Hitchcock
Players to watch: AJ Crowley (Sr.), Luke Gair (Jr.), Angel Garcia (Jr.), Holden Kleager (Jr.), Aaron Smith (Sr.)
Both Glenwood Springs and Steamboat Springs finished with matching 8-4 conference records last season, with the latter winning the head-to-head tiebreaker by only a couple of points. Following a successful 2016-17 campaign, all three of the Demons’ top scorers are back this winter. Senior Aaron Smith is currently the team leader, averaging 14.1 points a game. Last season’s leading scorer, AJ Crowley is averaging 13.8, and junior Angel Garcia is scoring 10.1. The Demons also picked up where they left off and are off to a good start at 6-3 roughly a third of the way through 2017-18.
What to expect from Glenwood Springs this year
Good balance in the scoring book and good ball movement. The Demons have three double-digit scorers in their rotation and figure to use that as one of their strengths against opposing teams. Through nine games, they are also averaging 15.1 assists per game and Smith leads the way in that regard with 3.4 a game. The Demons have enough guys who can put the ball in the basket to compensate for one of their top scorers having an off night, and they will continue to move the ball around in search of an open look.
Steamboat Springs Sailors
Last year’s record: 12-12, 8-4 in Western Slope
Head coach: Michael Vandahl
Players to watch: Jake Berry (Sr.), Tyler Doyne (Jr.), Aden Knaus (Jr), Ethan Pyles (So.), Mac Riniker (Jr.)
This year’s Sailors team is a young one, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Sailors are off to a 5-4 start and recently played undefeated Silver Creek closely at the Roughrider Shootout. Six-foot-4 junior guard Mac Riniker is averaging 15.7 points, 6.6 rebounds,3.6 assists and 3.1 steals, and has emerged as an intriguing college recruit. Knaus gives the Sailors a second double-digit scorer and players like Tyler Doyne, Ethan Pyles and Jake Berry provide plenty of length and athleticism at the defensive end.
What to expect from Steamboat Springs this year
With as many young players as the Sailors have, expect them to steadily improve as the season goes on. They were pretty solid last year, so with that in mind, the Sailors could end this season looking like a potential Sweet 16 or even Great 8 team in 2018-19. The Sailors also look like a strong defensive club, as they are second in the league in points allowed behind Battle Mountain.
Last year’s record: 8-15, 3-9 in Western Slope
Head coach: Jordan Buller
Players to watch: Wyatt Buller (Jr.), Chance Jacobs (Jr.), Turner McDonald (Sr.), Dimitri Preciado (Sr.), Mario Ramirez (Sr.)
One of the bottom teams in last year’s conference standings, the Tigers are looking like they could be much-improved in 2017-18. Senior Turner McDonald is this team’s go-to guy and is already averaging 17.4 points a game. The Tigers probably aren’t one of the favorites to win the league title, but Wyatt Buller (11.9 ppg), Dimitri Preciado (11.8 ppg) and others give them the depth to move up into the upper half of the conference this winter.
What to expect from Summit this year
Expect a major improvement from last year. In what’s shaping up to be a top-heavy league with a lot of disparity between the top three teams and the bottom three teams, the Summit Tigers may be the closest thing to a middle-of-the-road club as there is in the Western Slope. The key for the Tigers this season will be how consistently they can take care of business against the bottom teams and if they can steal a win or two from the early favorites.