It was close, and then it wasn’t.
Lewis-Palmer used a 14-1 run in the third quarter to bury Pueblo South on its way to a convincing 79-62 win.
Pueblo South arrived at the L-P gym as a leading contender for the state 4A title. The Colts departed with the same down feeling they had after their last season's loss to Lewis-Palmer in the state semis.
L-P’s Rangers have four new starters. The roster is filled with players who were role players or bench sitters or JV players last season.
Doesn’t matter. The Rangers are unbeaten (6-0) and playing precise, generous offense and stingy, disciplined defense.
“They don’t surprise me ever,” said South coach DJ Johnson. “They are very good at what they do. They run their stuff very well, and they’re super talented in addition to that. We knew what to expect coming in.”
At halftime, South remained within sight, trailing 36-30. But the Rangers pressing defense shook up the Colts, and the Rangers quickly burst to a 50-31 lead. The rally ignited the crowd and drained the Colts.
The Colts are led by forward Marcell Barbee, named the state’s top 4A football player on Thursday. In the first half, Barbee collected points in the lane.
In the second half, Barbee collected a crowd of Rangers. He finished with 16 points, but was barely a factor in the final two quarters.
Matthew Ragsdale led the Rangers with 29 points, followed by Joel Scott’s 20. Ragsdale is a super 3-point shooter, but he impressed coach Bill Benton by dribbling into crowds in the lane and scoring. He’s more than jump shooter.
“He’s a pretty special shooter, but he’s not afraid to put it on the floor and get into the paint,” Benton said. “That’s a great weapon.”
A year ago, Ragsdale was sitting on the bench, watching the Rangers on their run to the state final. He had confidence that this team, loaded with juniors, would be ready to follow the lead of last season’s Rangers.
“I just watched what the guys above me did,” Ragsdale said. “How they carried themselves, how they ran the system. You just got to trust the system.”
Benton said he’s not surprised by L-P’s impressive start. He saw the desire and talent of his bench players last season in practice. Those players have now escaped the bench.
“I’m very proud of them,” Benton said. “But I’m not satisfied, and they aren’t satisfied, either. That’s key.”