Colorado Springs Christian School senior Reagan Chapman let out a joyous yell with an immense smile as the final buzzer went off Wednesday night inside the Lions Den at CSCS.
Chapman, one of three CSCS forwards listed over 6-foot-5, led a punishing defensive effort as the Lions defeated five-time defending 3A state champion Faith Christian 43-32 for the first time since 2003.
“Well, big inspiration for me was that our last win against Faith Christian was March of 2003,” Chapman said. “We lost some close ones and some bad ones. It’s a big deal to us and we were really focused on coming out, playing as a team and getting the win.”
The 6-7 CSCS (2-1) forward teamed with fellow big men Samuel Howard (6-6) and Nic Doherty (6-8) to hold the Eagles (2-5), ranked fifth in the Denver Post 3A basketball poll, to a season-low in points.
CSCS coach Mark Engesser credited his big men in the post for flustering the Faith offense all night in a game that saw both teams struggle offensively and from the free-throw line.
“We just fought hard. It was a pretty ugly game. A defensive battle,” Engesser said. “We just kept fighting and fighting every possession. We slowly crept our way to a lead and then held it at the end.”
Austin Johnson (seven points) put the game out of reach for the Lions when he gave CSCS a 37-27 lead, its largest of the game, on a lay-up with a little under three minutes remaining.
“Faith Christian has been one of our rivals since forever,” Johnson said. “It’s just a very big win for our team. It means everything.”
Holding a slim 19-17 lead to start the second half, Chapman connected on a nice feed from Johnson. The Lions made it a four-point lead on their next possession when Johnson stole the ball from Christian Cambier and hit Josh Hildenbrand (10 points) for a quick layup.
CSCS outscored Faith 24-15 in the second half.
The Lions also never trailed and held Faith leading-scorer Spencer Bazz, who entered the game averaging 15.8 points, to five points. Alex Albright led the Eagles with 10 points.
It was a frustrating night offensively for Eagles coach Andrew Hasz, who said Bazz was a little beat up physically entering the game.
“Well they are certainly big and we struggled to make shots that we normally make,” Hasz said. “It was a tough night. (CSCS) battled hard around the basket and did a lot of good things.”
Not only did CSCS get a great defensive effort from its post players, but also from its bench with senior Drew Wilbur (game-high 11 points) in foul trouble most of the game after two fouls in the first quarter.
Chapman then took Doherty and Howard under his wing with his vocal leadership and physical presence on the court as the Lions battled without their star player.
“Reagan (Chapman) is the talking leader of the team,” Engesser said. “Encouraging guys, and calling out plays, and making sure everyone knows what they are doing.”
Doherty brought energy with a couple of blocks off the bench and T.J Stockton gave the Lions a jolt of intensity during the fourth quarter when Wilbur had to sit.
Howard also came through with a series of blocks in the first quarter when the Lions established their interior dominance.
It was an overall team victory and a big one for the program.
“It’s big for these guys,” Engesser said. “They have won state five times in a row. It’s huge for our program and our guys for the hard work they put in. I’m really proud of them.”