GUARDS LEAD WAY FOR THUNDERRIDGE
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)