One of the more exciting boys’ basketball rivalries around town over the recent years has been from Manitou Springs-Colorado Springs Christian -- games that have often been decided in the final moments, and usually with league titles or state playoff runs teetering in the balance.
Fun. More so for the Lions, though.
CSCS had won 17 straight against Manitou Springs before the Mustangs’ 57-49 win on the Lions’ floor on Wednesday night. The victory was Manitou’s first since Jan. 26, 2010.
The Mustangs now have four wins in their last 30 games against their 3A Tri-Peaks rival.
“It’s been a big game for both schools and we’ve had a lot of really good games,” Manitou Springs coach Ken Vecchio said. “They’ve won a lot of close games, so it was nice to break through.”
Cole Sienknecht led the way with 20 points in the long-awaited win, while Eli Stephens added 18. Last year, CSCS won on a last-second shot in league play followed by a one-point overtime win in the district championship.
“We’ve had a lot of close games, really close games,” CSCS coach Mark Engesser said. “We just happened to come out the winner in those games – we’ve had overtime games, a double overtime game. We’ve been the two best teams in our conference for the past seven years so it’s been our big boys’ rival over the past seven years, for sure.”
Right now, though, they’re both looking up at Vanguard.
The Coursers also benefitted from Manitou’s win over Colorado Springs Christian, and after their 72-67 win at St. Mary’s on Saturday, they own a two-game lead in the league.
With four league games left on its schedule, Vanguard (13-1. 7-0) is in prime position to win its first league title. Its success on the road has been key.
“We do have a chance to do something special,” said Vanguard coach Joe Wetters, whose team is 7-0 away from home this season. “Our three toughest tests have been on the road – CSCS, La Junta and St. Mary’s. Just having special games on the road has increased our confidence, too.”
The Coursers are currently No. 6 in the 3A RPI rankings.
CSCS girls, meanwhile, is No. 3.
CSCS beat Lamar 32-28 on Friday night in a grudge match that had been circled on the Lions’ calendar since the Savages beat them 24-18 in the state finals last March.
“Obviously we played them three times last year and they beat us twice,” Engesser said. “The girls were mentally ready for this one.”
Lamar, to its credit, did manage to once again slow down the Lions’ potent scoring attack. The Savages were aggressive with guards Megan Engesser and Rachel Ingram – the recipe that helped them win last year’s title game – and held CSCS and its 61.6 points per game to just 32.
“They are very physical with Megan and Rachel,” CSCS's coach said. “Both teams are very solid defensively and both of us are very familiar with each other. So, when you know each other and are familiar with the other team it’s harder to score against them.”
Lamar trailed by seven in the final minute but scored a quick five points to bring the game within 30-28. Megan Engesser’s steal and two free throws in the final seconds was enough for the Lions to hang on.
Clutch -- same can be said of Cheyenne Mountain hoops of late.
The Indians have won three straight to stay relevant in the Pikes Peak Athletic Conference.
Last week, Cheyenne Mountain (9-8, 4-4 PPAC) had victories over Discovery Canyon, Air Academy and Palmer Ridge. They held on Friday for a 47-46 win over the Bears, who’d handed league-leading L-P a stunning loss earlier in the week.
“I think we have definitely noticed a change in the last week with their toughness and getting past some adversity,” Cheyenne Mountain coach Elgin Fitzgerald said. “We definitely think this group has a high ceiling and hopefully we’re clicking at the right time.”
The Indians beat Harrison in the first round last season for their first playoff victory since 2014.
Oh, and in cased you missed it …
Coronado graduate Kyle Snyder became the first U.S. man to win two golds at the Yarygin Grand Prix in Russia with a win in the 213-pound class.
Snyder is a 2016 Olympic champion and a two-time world champion, per USA Wrestling.