Sand Creek students responded the way you expect students to respond after their basketball team conquered the state’s defending champs.
A big collection of Scorpions stormed the court seconds after Sand Creek edged Lewis-Palmer, 67-64. They wanted to hug and dance and celebrate a big victory.
Coach Joe Rausch declined to join the party. He asked the students to depart the court and hurried his players into the locker room.
Sand Creek is undefeated and announced to anyone paying attention that it ranks as the finest 4A boys' basketball team in the state. Rausch, though, is looking forward. He wants to win the Metro League. He doesn’t come right out and say it, but he wants to do what Lewis-Palmer did last season.
He wants to rule Colorado.
“I guess that’s a statement to some,” Rausch said of the victory, “but if we’re as good as we’re supposed to be, we just did what we were supposed to do.”
For 29 minutes, the Scorpions controlled Lewis-Palmer’s Rangers. Sand Creek looked quicker and faster and appeared more motivated. When Sand Creek star Josh Smith dropped a 3-pointer with 3:20 left, the Scorpions led 56-43 and looked on their way to a breezy, convincing win. Smith led the Scorpions with 20 points.
The shot seemed to finally awaken the Rangers. Led by Jordan Scott, who finished with a game-high 22 points, the Rangers scored 21 points in the next three minutes to cut Sand Creek’s lead to 66-64. It was a furious, dazzling display of pressure defense and long-range shooting.
Smith missed the first of two free throws with 14 seconds left, giving Lewis-Palmer the chance to tie the game with a 3.
Scott drained the drama. His errant pass to Sand Creek’s Tim Clemens allowed the Scorpions to clinch the victory.
The kings of the state lost this one and watched their conquerors celebrate, briefly, on the court, but you get the feeling this loss might serve to awaken the state champs.
Scott was surprisingly upbeat after the game. Maybe that’s because he realizes Sand Creek will be traveling to Lewis-Palmer on Feb. 19 for a rematch.
“We came out and we weren’t the aggressors,” Scott said. “We played not to lose, and we can’t play like that.”
When the Scorpions arrive at Lewis-Palmer, the Rangers will be offered one of life’s great blessings:
A second chance.
“We can play how we actually play,” Scott said.
The Rangers had won their previous eight games by a total of 192 points, or 24 per game. This domination lulled them to sleep.
But now they realize a motivated, confident challenger lurks a few miles down the road.
When Rausch asked the students to depart the court after one of the biggest victories in school history, he was sending a message to his players.
He expects wins. He expects success.
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