2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Get ready for more white-knucklers in second half of PPAC boys’ season

Published: January 27, 2014, 6:28 pm, by Scott Kaniewski

We’ve reached the unofficial halfway point of the 4A Pikes Peak Athletic Conference season in boys’ basketball, and J’on St. Clair was right all along.

“No one is going undefeated in this league. The league is that good,” the Cheyenne Mountain coach told me Jan. 10, minutes after watching his team struggle to a 54-39 loss at Air Academy. “It’s all about matchups.”

Yes, indeed. Eight unique teams have given each other fits through the first six league games. There’s the Air Academy 2-3 zone, which subdued everyone except Sand Creek. With Cheyenne Mountain, it’s not so much the defense as much as how much Ghassan Nehme can single-handedly carry his team with his ability to score from almost anywhere.

Then there’s the pure athleticism of Sand Creek and Falcon to go with the throwback defense-first, halfcourt offense run by Lewis-Palmer.  Palmer Ridge already has won two more games than it had all last season. Vista Ridge will equal its 2012-13 win total with its next triumph. Discovery Canyon, despite a 5-10 mark, continues to improve with each game. Just ask Joe Rausch of Sand Creek, which escaped with a narrow victory last week.

In basketball, some teams just don’t match up well with their opponents, regardless of records. It’s the great equalizer. There’s a reason why Cheyenne Mountain had a season-low 39 points against Air Academy. On Friday, the two teams meet again, this time on the Indians’ home court.

One night, Falcon scored 76 points against Air Academy. On a different court, the Falcons registered only 41 at Lewis-Palmer.

Now the fun part: we get to see how players and coaches adjust after a previous meeting.

Besides the matchups, just look at the scores. Sand Creek cornered the market on clutch victories, winning its first five PPAC games by single digits before losing a nail-biter at Falcon. Six of the eight teams had at least one single-digit victory and one opposite result by the same margin.

Although six of the eight teams have winning overall records, not one has more than a two-game winning streak. To flip the coin, no PPAC team has lost more than three games in a row.

Any given night? You betcha. That’s the top-to-bottom strength of the PPAC, and matchups.

- Kevin Carmody