State title chase begins for Class 3A, 2A and 1A hoops teams

Rachael Keithley, 43, and the Rifle Bears have thrived in their first season in Class 3A. The undefeated Bears are the No. 2 overall seed in the 3A playoffs and host Basalt on Friday at 5 p.m.

This is all still new for the Rifle High School girls basketball team.

The Bears (22-0) have thrived in their first year in Class 3A earning the No. 2 overall seed in the 3A state playoffs.

The Bears host a sub-region this weekend, beginning with tonight’s first-round game against Basalt at 5 p.m.

“It’s all been totally new,” Rifle coach Stephanie Heald said. “We like the fact we see new teams and new competition.”

Senior Cortney Cordova, who leads the Bears with a 20.6 points per game average, is expected to play this weekend despite a sprained right wrist.

“It was a pretty good sprain, but she’s been able to shoot with it,” Heald said. “She’s a tough player and isn’t going to miss this.”

The winner of Friday’s game will play the winner of Manitou Springs and Denver School of Science and Tech on Saturday at 1 p.m.

“We’ve had a whole new focus,” Heald said. “We are ready for this.”

Olathe hoped its schedule — wins over Delta, Paonia and Grand Junction and losses to Fruita Monument and Montrose — was enough to secure a top-eight seed in the 3A playoffs.

The Pirates were rewarded with the No. 5 overall seed and host a sub-region this weekend, taking on No. 28 Bayfield in the first round.

No. 21 Berthoud and No. 12 Machebeuf play in the other first-round game in Olathe.

“We thought with our record and schedule, we’d have a chance to host,” Olathe coach Paul Althaus said. “The kids feel they can compete with anyone. We have some tough teams coming in, but we are confident.”

Also in 3A, No. 25 Coal Ridge plays at No. 8 Pinnacle on Friday.

Paonia was a senior-dominated team last season and used that experience to win the 2A state title.

The Eagles (18-3) lost eight seniors from that team, but didn’t miss a beat and host this weekend’s Region 5 Tournament at Mesa State College.

The Eagles play Sargent on Friday at 6 p.m.

The winner plays the winner of Lutheran Parker and Ignacio in Saturday’s 11 a.m. championship game.

“We’ve come a long way,” Paonia coach Scott Rienks said. “They understand the game a lot better.”

The Eagles use a nine-player rotation and rely on their defense to keep them in games. Paonia gives up an average of 34.6 points per game, including a 34-33 win over Hayden in the District 5 championship game.

Paonia’s leading scorer is Chelsey Reed at 9.7 points per game, but Abby Campbell and Jessica Altman are right there with 7.7 ppg and 7.1 ppg.

“We play with energy,” Rienks said. “We might struggle offensively, but our defense gets us wins.”


The Olathe boys basketball team is playing at No. 5 Pagosa Springs. The Pirates fought adversity all season, but defeated Rifle and Gunnison in the consolation bracket of the Western Slope League tournament to earn a spot in the 3A field of 32 teams.

“I don’t know if I’ve had a year where so many kids have been sick,” Olathe coach Lance Ready said. “But the kids never stopped believing.”

Pagosa Springs finished the season 17-3.

“They are fast, but they don’t have any bigs that are dominant,” Ready said. “If we play well, don’t turn the ball over, and eliminate any easy shots for them, we have a heck of a shot.”

Also in the 3A playoffs, No. 18 Coal Ridge is at No. 15 Jefferson Academy and No. 20 Grand Valley is at No. 13 Dolores Huerta.

In 2A, Paonia finished second in the District 5 tournament, which puts the Eagles in the Region 3 tournament in Durango.

The Eagles play Sangre de Cristo tonight at 8:30 p.m.

In 1A, Plateau Valley has an opportunity to make the state tournament with a win over Shining Mountain on Saturday at Eagle Valley.


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