The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Kyle Newman

Dur­ing his 21 years as ThunderRidge’s boys bas­ket­ball coach, Joe Or­tiz has put his Griz­zlies in con­tention for a state cham­pi­onship nearly ev­ery sea­son.

ThunderRidge won Class 5A ti­tles in 2002 and 2003 and has played in six bigschool ti­tle games un­der Or­tiz. And the Griz­zlies look cham­pi­onship-wor­thy again with an 8-1 start that in­cludes an ap­pear­ance in the cham­pi­onship game of the pres­ti­gious Tarka­nian Clas­sic na­tional tour­na­ment in Las Ve­gas. The Griz­zlies lost 62-52 to the 13-0 Godby (Tallahassee, Fla.) team in the East­bay bracket ti­tle game Tues­day.

But un­like the Griz­zlies of the past, this year’s ThunderRidge team is not de­fined by its size and phys­i­cal post play. In­stead, with ju­nior point guard Kai­son Ham­monds and se­nior shoot­ing guard Corey Seng lead­ing the way, the Griz­zlies are win­ning with their perime­ter play.

“We’re a dif­fer­ent team than we’ve been in the past, be­cause we’ve had a lot of size over the years,” Or­tiz said. “Last year we had two Divi­sion I for­wards (Stet­son’s Clay Verk and Wy­oming’s Austin Mueller) and a 6-foot-8 kid who also grad­u­ated, and this year we’re 6-5, 6-5 in­side and we get smaller when we sub in.”

Seng leads the team in


Each week, Den­ver Post preps edi­tor Kyle Newman re­leases his power rank­ings for Classes 5A and 4A boys and girls bas­ket­ball. (Records are through Mon­day, and this is the last set of rank­ings un­til af­ter winter break.) 5A BOYS BAS­KET­BALL 1. ThunderRidge (8-0) 2. Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton (8-1) 3. Grand­view (8-0) 4. Chero­kee Trail (5-1) 5. Rock Canyon (9-1) 6. Ea­gle­crest (5-2) 7. Den­ver East (8-2) 8. Lake­wood (5-2) 9. Smoky Hill (5-2) 10. Regis Je­suit (3-4) 4A BOYS BAS­KET­BALL 1. Pue­blo West (5-0) 2. Valor Chris­tian (5-2) 3. Sand Creek (7-1) 4. Holy Fam­ily (5-1) 5. Golden (8-1) scor­ing, av­er­ag­ing 21 points per game, and Ham­monds is sec­ond at 17.6. They’ll be asked to carry the team when play in the Con­ti­nen­tal League be­gins af­ter winter break, with se­nior for­ward Ryan Holt, sopho­more cen­ter Bai­ley Verk and ju­nior Justin Mccaw, a trans­fer from Aus­tria, play­ing com­ple­men­tary roles.

“Seng and Ham­monds both have to score for us,” Or­tiz said. “In the past, we’ve had bal­anced scor­ing teams, but this year, it’s mostly on those two guys.”

The Griz­zlies’ guard­heavy lineup has been work­ing well, al­though the team is still ad­just­ing to a new style.

“We’ll play with­out a post quite a bit,” Or­tiz said. “We’re go­ing to drib­ble at­tack a lot more and move a lot more, but it’s still about the same qual­ity shot se­lec­tions and still the same type of in­ten­sity on de­fense.”

And for a team that was up­set in the 5A Sweet 16 as a No. 1 seed last sea­son, it is look­ing to con­tinue to grow and peak at tour­na­ment time.

“We don’t hold any bag­gage over from year to year — we’ve lost in the state fi­nals four times, and it’s re­ally never been a mo­ti­va­tor,” Or­tiz said. “We’re mo­ti­vated for this team, this year.”

The Griz­zlies are in ac­tion back in Colorado on Fri­day on the road at No. 4 Chero­kee Trail. The 7 p.m. game is be­ing streamed live on Post Preps Ra­dio. 6. Mead (6-1) 7. Sierra (3-3) 8. D’Eve­lyn (6-2) 9. Lewis-Palmer (4-2) 10. Sil­ver Creek (3-0) 5A GIRLS BAS­KET­BALL 1. Grand­view (5-0) 2. Ral­ston Val­ley (5-1) 3. High­lands Ranch (7-1) 4. Hori­zon (4-1) 5. Cherry Creek (2-3) 6. Lake­wood (5-2) 7. Fairview (6-1) 8. Do­herty (6-0) 9. Pine Creek (5-1) 10. Ara­pa­hoe (5-3) 4A GIRLS BAS­KET­BALL 1. Pue­blo South (7-1) 2. Ever­green (6-0) 3. Valor Chris­tian (4-3) 4. Golden (7-1) 5. Mullen (3-5) 6. D’Eve­lyn (8-1) 7. Holy Fam­ily (4-2) 8. Mesa Ridge (4-2) 9. Wind­sor (4-2) 10. Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton (7-1)

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