Published: March 1, 2014
When Ghassan Nehme fouled out with 3:30 to play and Cheyenne Mountain clinging to a four-point lead, the players on the Longmont bench leaped in excitement.
The Trojans thought the game was in hand. They didn't count on the Indians controlling the ball and playing solid defense.
After never reaching the quarterfinals in school history, No. 2 Cheyenne Mountain is headed back for the second consecutive season after holding off No. 3 Longmont 52-44 on Saturday at Cheyenne Mountain.
The Indians (20-5) will play Thompson Valley on Saturday at the Denver Coliseum.
Nehme got hot in the second half, scoring 17 of his game-high 30 points. But with 4:05 left in the game, he committed his fourth foul. Indians coach J'on St. Clair opted to keep Nehme in the game. Thirty-five seconds later, Nehme walked to the bench with his fifth foul.
While the Trojans (19-6) were celebrating, Nehme wasn't concerned.
"Actually, I wasn't worried at all," said the Montana State signee. "We do this all the time in practice. Those four (on the floor) against me and the bottom five of the group. I just know we always have that killer instinct to go in there and finish strong. I trusted in them. At that point you just got to be a cheerleader and hope for the best."
Blake O'Grady made his first free throw, but missed the second, and before he and the rest of his Trojans could get back on defense, Christian Nehme was scoring a basket to put the Indians back up by five, 44-39.
The Indians committed turnovers on their next two possessions and Justinian Jessup capitalized, hitting a 3 to cut the gap to 44-42. Jessup finished with a team-high 23 points for Longmont.
But Cheyenne Mountain never turned the ball over again, and the Trojans got no closer.
Cheyenne Mountain sunk 8 of 12 free throws in the last 1:42 and forced a pair of turnovers to get back to the state quarterfinals.
Afterward, St. Clair watched as his players took turns cutting down the nets.
"We had some guys who stepped up and did some great things today," St. Clair said.