The Bayfield High School boys basketball team is right back where it was one year ago. The Wolverines are fresh off winning the Class 3A Intermountain League championship against the Mean Moose of Alamosa and are set to host a 3A regional tournament with hopes of making the eight-team state tournament next week in Denver.
However, last year’s home regional tournament didn’t go according to plan, as the fifth-seed Wolverines lost to No. 28 Delta in the opening round of the tournament to see their season end in inglorious fashion. Lesson learned.
“We want to go get after it, especially after last year’s disappointment,” BHS head coach Jeff Lehnus said. “It was great to get there last year, but now we’re not satisfied with just getting there. We want a regional championship and to get to state.”
This year, BHS will enter the tournament as the seventh seed and will host No. 26 Brush in the first round at 5:30 p.m. In the other regional game in Bayfield, No. 10 Resurrection Christian will face No. 23 The Academy at 7 p.m. inside BHS gymnasium.
Here’s a closer look at the regional:
No. 26 Brush (14-9) at No. 7 Bayfield (14-7)After a 2-4 start to the regular season against elite opponents with players barely back from winning a football state championship, the Wolverines got on a roll and have played their best basketball of the season during the course of the last eight games, including a 57-53 win in the IML championship against No. 2 Alamosa.
The Wolverines are led by senior forward Ryan Phelps, who has averaged 18 points, 13 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.3 steals and 2.2 blocked shots per game.
Hayden Farmer has averaged 10.7 points per game to go with 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Dax Snooks, a tough athlete who plays bigger than his size, has averaged 9.2 points and nearly five rebounds.
With point guard Keyon Prior healthy and key contributors such as Turner Kennedy and Carl Heide in good form off the bench, the Wolverines are loaded for a run at state.
“Bottom line, we’re excited for this opportunity against Brush,” Lehnus said. “I feel the boys will be very ready for this game. I know we’re going to come out and get after it.”
BHS also hopes to have usual starter McKay Wells, who injured an ankle last week in the IML tournament, available off the bench as he has progressed well during a week of rehabilitation.
Brush went 5-5 in the incredibly tough 3A Patriot League this season to finish sixth in the league that is headlined by No. 1 Sterling. Senior captain Ryan Dunker has led the team with 12.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. The 5-foot-9 point guard must be slowed down along with junior Armando Saucedo, who has averaged 11.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Saucedo is a volume shooter, while Dunker has done damage at the free-throw line all season.
“Brush is a worthy opponent,” Lehnus said. “We feel confident about our ability to play with all these teams in the region and succeed. Brush has a couple of good players who get double-digit points. We have to make sure we don’t get off of them too much. They will press pretty much all game, we think, so it most likely will be an up-and-down game, and we feel we should do good with that.”
No. 23 The Academy (16-6) vs. No. 10 Resurrection Christian (16-6)Friday’s other semifinal features a pair of 16-game winners who have faced elite competition this season.
Resurrection Christian, based in Loveland, went 8-2 in the Patriot League to finish third. The team is led by a pair of sophomores in Reece Johnson and Jackson Romero.
Johnson, at 6-foot-3, has averaged 17.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and three assists per game, and has shot 62 percent from the floor this season. Romero has averaged 16.7 points and 3.7 assists per game. The 6-foot point guard has made 49 percent of his shots and has been crafty defensively with 37 steals this season. Senior Derek McCormick has given the team another 9.3 points per game this season.
The Academy, based out of Westminster, went 10-2 in the 3A/2A Frontier League to finish third. Junior guard Isaac Gallegos boasts healthy averages of 16.3 points, 5.8 steals, 3.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game, though he only played in 12 regular-season games. Junior wing Dane Olson, in 21 games, averaged 15 points per game to go with 6.4 rebounds and is a tough matchup at 6-foot-5.
The winners of Friday’s semifinals will meet in the championship game at 1 p.m. Saturday in Bayfield with a spot in the state tournament on the line.