LITTLETON — The race for the Class 6A Jeffco League boys basketball title turned into a three-team race.
Valor Christian (14-7, 9-1 in league), Ralston Valley (15-6, 7-3) and Arvada West (15-7, 7-4) had distanced themselves from the rest of the field with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season. However, things did get a little clearer last week.
Valor — No. 9 in the 6A CHSAANow.com rankings — took a big 82-63 home win Feb. 7 over Ralston Valley to take a 2-game advantage over the Mustangs.
A-West stayed right in the mix with a tight 61-58 road victory against Chatfield on Feb. 7. The Wildcats hung on to the win after Chatfield junior Liam McGuire’s 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have forced overtime was just short.
“It’s good to get out of here with a win playing like we did,” A-West coach Jeff Parriott said. “I don’t think we were looking ahead to Thursday, but they are kids. That might have been in the case. We walked out with a win and focus on Thursday.”
A-West had its huge rematch against Valor on Feb. 9 back on the Wildcats’ home court. A-West handed Valor its lone conference lost Jan. 23. A sweep of Valor would give A-West the all important tiebreaker over the Eagles if both finish with the same conference record.
“We’ve got something to play for when it comes to a league championship and something to play for when it comes to seeding when we get to the postseason,” Parriott said. “We will turn it around.”
Valor was the one turning things around Feb. 9. The Eagles dominated A-West to take a 75-46 victory.
The Wildcats’ last conference title was back in the 2017-18 season when A-West officially shared the league title with Columbine. Valor won the 5A league title back in 2020-21 and Ralston Valley captured the conference championship last year going undefeated in 5A Jeffco League play.
A-Wests then suffered a 61-34 loss to Bear Creek on Feb. 11 that ended any hopes for a conference title.
Before the 2-game losing streak, Nichols led A-West with 21 points, including going 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final minute against Chatfield. Senior Zion Thomas scored just 4 points, but was also money in the final minutes going 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.
Senior Jasper Padia had a quiet first three quarter that included some early foul trouble, but the Wildcats’ leading scored poured in 7 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 13 points.
Sophomore Jordan Stremel had a big game off the bench with 13 points, including three 3-pointers for A-West.
“Thankfully Jordan gave us that boost offensively,” Parriott said. “We really needed that after Jasper picked up his second foul and had to set a little bit in that first half.”
Junior James Hadzic had 8 points, but his biggest contribution in the fourth quarter was taking two defensive charges.
“If those kind of small things don’t happen we don’t win the game,” Nichols said of Stremel’s pair of 3-pointers and Hadzic’s two defensive plays in fourth quarter. “Those were big by those guys.”
Chatfield (5-15, 1-8) has lost 10-of-11 games, but defintely had a strong showing against the lWildcats. Senior Shay Rumsey had 21 points for the Chargers. Senior Donovan Doyle came off the bench with 11 points, including two 3-pointers in the final 22 seconds that cut the Wildcats’ lead to 1-point on both occasions.
“I thought Chatfield outplayed us. I thought they played harder and played smarter than we did,” Parriott said.
Chatfield has the chance to play spoiler in its final two games. The Chargers are at Valor (Wednesday, Feb. 15) and home against Ralston Valley (Friday, Feb. 17). It isn’t likely that Chatfield will make the 32-team field for the 6A state tournament. The Chargers were No. 44 in the RPI standings before Tuesday’s games.
A-West closes out the regular season at home versus Columbine (Friday, Feb. 17). The Wildcats were No. 17 in the RPI standings. The top-16 seeds get a home game for the first round of the 32-team 6A state tournament that begins next week.
Dennis Pleuss is the sports information director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.