Lewis-Palmer sophomore Cameron Lowe (30) drives to the net ahead of Palmer Ridge junior Sevy Allton (25) in the second quarter. The Lewis-Palmer Rangers hosted the Palmer Ridge Bears in boys' basketball on Thursday, February 13, 2020 at Lewis-Palmer High School. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing

The first day of tryouts for the 2019-20 Lewis-Palmer boys’ basketball team, coach Bill Benton talked with his Rangers about forging a new identity.

After graduating nine seniors, it was known from day one that Lewis-Palmer wasn’t going to be the same team from its undefeated run.

But that didn’t mean L-P was free from having a target painted on its back as reigning 4A champions.

“We are going to win games we probably shouldn’t and we are going to lose games we probably shouldn’t, but by February we will be playing, hopefully the right way,” Benton said.

And the Rangers are doing just that.

“We told the guys from day one, we don’t have to be last year’s team, and we don’t have to be. We shouldn’t try to live up to that. Let's go be us,” Benton said.

Lewis-Palmer(13-8, 8-4 5A/4A PPAC) is beginning to play its best basketball in the midst of a five-game winning streak, extended Thursday in a 60-56 win over crosstown rival Palmer Ridge in another intense episode of the Battle of Monument.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Palmer Ridge sparked a comeback and went on a 10-0 run as the Bears chipped away at a large deficit, and threatened the Rangers’ streak. But, just two days ago, Lewis-Palmer pulled out an overtime win over Discovery Canyon, which proved to be a lesson learned for the Rangers.

“This game reminded me a lot of the game against DCC. We learned to calm down, relax and play our game,” said L-P junior Colin Westfall. “I think sometimes we get away from being aggressive, from the offensive and defensive end and we play to not lose instead of playing to win. But we are out here playing and learning every single game and we are playing our best ball right now, I’m excited.”

On the other side of the court, Palmer Ridge (8-13, 6-6) had its own motivation to light a fire in the fourth quarter, stemming directly from the dueling student sections.

“It’s our last game out here as seniors in this kind of atmosphere so we were just going to go out and do everything we can,” said Palmer Ridge scoring leader Wes McEvoy. “We came up short, but, at the end of the day, it’s how you handle situations like that and I’m really proud of us.”

McEvoy said in games like the Battle of Monument it’s never about what you read on the scoreboard, but making the most of playing in the environment while you have the chance.

“You never really get used to it. It’s exciting, it’s nerve wracking — it’s everything at once, but, at the end of the day, it’s just a blast and you have to remember that and take a deep breath,” McEvoy said. “I tell the younger guys to enjoy it. You only get a few of these games and you’ll never get it the rest of your life. Maybe if you go on to play in college, but a rivalry game like this is special.”

McEvoy finished with a game-high 21 points and scored 10 in the fourth quarter alone. Trey Jones followed with 10 points for the Bears, while 19 points were scored by players off the bench in the second half.