Monument - The Palmer Ridge boys' basketball team must've been pretty happy to see the Nehme family head back to Colorado Springs - and with good reason.
Senior Ghassan Nehme, and his brother, Christian - a junior - combined for 43 points in Cheyenne Mountain's 67-56 win Thursday at Palmer Ridge.
"At our old house we had a court and we've been playing together forever," said Christian, who had seven of his 17 points in the fourth quarter. "We're in different age groups, so growing up we've always been the guy wanting the ball in our hands, and now we're sharing it."
When Palmer Ridge cut what was once a 14-point lead to six with five minutes left, Ghassan Nehme hit a 3-pointer and then converted two free throws to push the lead to 54-43.
It was then little brother's turn, as Christian would score seven straight for the Indians (5-1, 1-0 4A Pikes Peak Athletic Conference) to put the game out of reach.
"We played well, but we have to thank our teammates, too, because they were out there setting screens and getting rebounds," said Ghassan, who led all scorers with 26 points. "It was a total team effort, and our teammates do the scrappy things that help us win."
Cheyenne Mountain coach J'on St. Clair had high praise for his dynamic backcourt.
"In my opinion, they're the best guard combination in the state, and you can't stop both of them at the same time," St. Clair said. "If someone would've told me that we'd be 5-1 at this point in the season after the adversity we've faced, I'd say you're crazy."
The Indians have been without two starters - Reece Eddy and Nathan Resty - for most of the season, and hope to get them back after the winter break.
"Once we get those two guys back we'll be very dominant," Ghassan said. "This shows that we're going to have a deep team, and I'm very excited about that."
Palmer Ridge (5-2, 0-1) played well in the first half and found itself tied at 30 at halftime. Cheyenne Mountain, however, would take over in the third quarter, outscoring the Bears 17-5 to take a 12-point lead.
Junior Matt Cameron was terrific for Palmer Ridge, leading the team with 22 points and seven rebounds.
No other Bears player scored more than eight points.
"We just didn't play our best in the third quarter and we struggled on defense," Cameron said. "They're a good team, and I give them credit, but we didn't play our best tonight."
Despite a 31-20 rebounding edge, Palmer Ridge killed itself with turnovers. The Bears committed 18 turnovers to just seven for Cheyenne Mountain.
Palmer Ridge coach Nick Mayer says finding more scoring options is key.
"We have to learn to be more balanced, because teams are going to focus on Matt, and Cheyenne Mountain did a good job of that," Mayer said. "We need someone to step up because we're in the toughest league in the state again this year, and every night is going to be a battle."