Reaching for a state crown |

Reaching for a state crown

Post Independent Photo/Jim NoelkerRoaring Fork's Dan Markoya leaps for a jump ball during a game earlier this season.

It’s called regionals, but it may not seem too regional to the teams driving more than three hours (in good weather) to Carbondale today.

Of the eight teams competing at Roaring Fork High School, five have a trip of more than three hours to the regional rounds of the Class 3A State Basketball Tournament.

Two teams that won’t be traveling far are Roaring Fork High School’s boys and girls, which swept the Western Slope League district tournament last weekend to earn the homecourt advantage.

“I think it’s huge just because those other schools have to travel over the mountains,” Rams boys head coach Roger Walters said. “We get a chance to play in front of our fans, it’s nice for the community and the kids are excited.”

The fans should be excited too.

Along with the homecourt edge, the Roaring Fork squads also have high seeds, giving yet another advantage to the Rams, who haven’t needed much outside help this season.

On the boys’ side, Roaring Fork enters the tournament as one of two undefeated teams in 3A and with the No. 2 seed.

The Rams also boast top-ranked players in Class 3A in scoring (7th, Dan Markoya, 19.5 points per game), free-throw percentage (2nd, Nic Lough, 87.9 percent), assists (1st, Aaron Markham, 9.2 per game) and steals (4th, Christian Tena, 3.0 per game). And, keep in mind, the Roaring Fork starters didn’t often see much action in the fourth quarter this season.

Still, coach Walters isn’t heading into the regionals overconfident, despite facing the No. 31 seed in Salida (9-14).

“Everybody makes me nervous,” he said. “It’s just that way this time of year. Hopefully we play our best and we’ll be traveling next week.”

Chris Matezjewoki is the only Salida player averaging double digits, compared with four Rams who drop 10 or more each game.

Matezjewoki has a season average of 12.4 per game, but don’t expect Roaring Fork to make any special adjustments for him. The Rams’ signature this season has been making other teams change their style.

“We’re just going to do what we do and they are going to have to adjust to that,” Walters said. “We’re only concerned with what we do.”

The other teams in the regional bracket are No. 15-seed Denver Christian (15-8) of the Denver Metro League and the Western Slope’s Eagle Valley (17-5).

Boys’ action starts today at 4 p.m., with Denver Christian facing Eagle Valley. Roaring Fork takes on Salida at 8 p.m. The winners advance to Saturday’s regional championship at 3 p.m.

To say the No. 5-seed Roaring Fork girls’ team enters regionals with momentum may be an understatement.

After suffering their second loss of the season to up-valley rivals Basalt in the regular-season finale, the Rams rebounded at the district tournament to beat the Longhorns in the title game. The victory ended a losing streak to rival Basalt that dates back to before head coach Jacky Gaddis took over the program three years ago.

The Rams (20-2) will face a team that plays a style drastically different than Basalt in the first round, however.

Manitou Springs posted a winning record of 14-8 in the Tri-Peaks League, but isn’t a prolific scoring team. The No. 28-seed Mustangs average less than 40 points per game, but hold their opponents to under 40 as well.

Julia Steinbach is the main weapon, averaging 15.8 points a game for Manitou.

The Rams offense averages over 61 points a game and revolves around post Tarn Udall. The team’s only senior, Udall is the 3A leader in rebounds (13.5 per game) and also averages almost 16 points a contest.

On the other side of the regional bracket, a tough No. 12 Bishop Machebeuf squad (18-3) faces No. 21 Roosevelt (13-10) in the first round.

Machebeuf is the defending state champion and would likely have had a higher seed if not for a player injury that contributed to the team finishing fourth at the Metro League district tourney.

“It is what it is,” Gaddis said of the seeding. “If we want to be state champion would I rather meet Machebeuf at a neutral site or at home? I’d rather meet them at home.

“We’re going to have to beat them or somebody of that caliber at some point,” she added. “We’ve got to think of ourselves as being ranked fifth in the state. We didn’t get there by accident, we’re 20-2. So, you know what, bring it on.”

Machebeuf and Roosevelt open the tournament today with a 2 p.m. game. The Rams take on Manitou at 6 p.m., and the winners from each game advance to the regional title game at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

The admission fee is $6 for adults, $5 for students and seniors. Only CHSAA passes will be accepted

The regional winners in both boys and girls advance to next week’s “Great 8” round at Moby Arena on the Colorado State University campus in Fort Collins on Thursday.

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