Six area teams get byes in 4A-5A boys' basketball state playoffs

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Photo - Lewis-Palmer senior Eli Burkett (11) guards Vista Ridge sophomore Tristan Pratt (21) in the first. The Rangers hosted the Wolves in boys' basketball action on Friday, January 6, 2017 at Lewis-Palmer High School. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing
Lewis-Palmer senior Eli Burkett (11) guards Vista Ridge sophomore Tristan Pratt (21) in the first. The Rangers hosted the Wolves in boys' basketball action on Friday, January 6, 2017 at Lewis-Palmer High School. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing

If there's such a thing as heading into the postseason with momentum, no boys' basketball team has much more of it than Lewis-Palmer or Doherty.

The Rangers, who own the longest winning streak in Class 4A at 15 games, and the Spartans, whose run of 14 wins is tied for second best in 5A, were each awarded the sixth seed in their respective state postseason fields Sunday.

Both teams will get a bye in the first round - one of 16 in each 48-team bracket - and are on course to host their first two games through the round of 16.

"It definitely gives us a lot of confidence," L-P coach Bill Benton said. "Our guys are playing well and they know they're playing well.

"But we understand we have to get better and not be satisfied."

The Rangers' improbable run also saw 12 straight league wins to become co-champions of the 5A/4A Pikes Peak Athletic Conference with Vista Ridge. They finished 19-4 on the year and 12-2 in league.

After opening conference play with losses to Sand Creek and the Wolves, the team's dazzling stretch was put together with unselfish play and no clear star.

Benton says it's a trend they hope to continue deep into the postseason.

"They know this (streak) is because of how they're playing, not because they're head and shoulders more talented," Benton said. "They're playing better together, continuing to find ways to play more together.

"They have the confidence that they're ready to play."

Then there's the Spartans.

They do have a star - the sharp-shooting Brevin Brimble. But their second consecutive 5A Colorado Springs Metro League title was just as much thanks to a deep rotation and an absorbing defense that allowed the fewest points in league play (54 per game).

The Spartans (20-3) were especially impressive in the final weeks, which included road wins over Denver East and Rampart earlier this month. On Friday they beat Fountain-Fort Carson to saw off a 12-0 record in the 5A CSML, the league's first unblemished mark since the Trojans went 10-0 in the conference in 2011-12.

Doherty, with an eight-day break between games, will face the winner of No. 27 Arapahoe/No. 38 Pine Creek on Saturday.

"I like the rest," Spartans coach Jarris Krapcha said. "We have a couple kids that are a little bit banged up and will sit out of practice (Monday). And then we get a chance to see our opponents play Wednesday, so that's pretty good."

Rampart (No. 15) also received a bye in 5A, while Vista Ridge (No. 17) just missed out.

In 4A, Sierra (No. 11), Sand Creek (No. 14) and Mesa Ridge (No. 16) earned a bye. Widefield (No. 17), though, did not.

The Grizzlies (17-6) beat the Stallions (19-4) on Thursday to surpass the Gladiators in the final Ratings Percentage Index standings.

"We knew we would get a home game by winning that game, and then we knew we would move ahead of Widefield to get the bye," said Grizzlies coach Paul Mileto, whose team ended Sierra's streak of 44 conference wins. "And of course, Sierra stole one from us last time so my kids wanted to prove that we can beat them."

The Gladiators (16-7) will need a first-round win over No. 48 Roosevelt to set up their third meeting of the season with Mesa Ridge. The teams split the previous two matchups.

"Where we fell is where we fell," Widefield coach Mark Munoz said. "We're excited to be one of the 48 and hopefully we get on a roll."