MONUMENT – Forever memories tend to be made by basketball teams in March, but this one came after the final buzzer and involved a player 90 miles away from the action.
Fifth-seeded Mead knocked off No. 4 Lewis-Palmer 61-50 on Tuesday night, overcoming an early 13-point deficit in the Rangers’ gym.
The Mavericks used the combo of 6-foot-11 center JP Shiers (20 points) and 5-11 guard Elijah Knudsen (18 points) in a pick-your-poison tandem to knock off a Lewis-Palmer program that had been a part of the past three 4A championship games that were actually played (they had lost in the round of 32 last year, but the season was canceled before the semifinals were contested).
But then came the chill-inducing, thank-goodness-sports-are-back moment.
In Mead’s locker room, the team shared a victorious FaceTime call with sophomore guard Nick Basson. Five days earlier, Basson, the team’s third-leading scorer, suffered a stroke at his home. He had been hospitalized until Tuesday, earning a release in time to cheer on his team from afar.
“Friday was certainly rough on the guys,” coach Darin Reese said. “Knowing he was doing better Saturday morning certainly lifted everyone’s spirits. There’s no question this is such a tight-knit group and a good group of kids, they were playing for him.”
The Mavericks (13-3) warmed up in shirts that had Basson’s name on the back. They lifted those shirts up to the small visiting crowd when the game was finished.
“That’s awesome,” Lewis-Palmer coach Bill Benton said afterward when told of the FaceTime call. Benton had been in touch with Reese over the weekend and had received updates on Basson's condition.
“That’s one of the things we try to talk about on a daily basis is don’t take anything for granted,” Benton said. “Our thoughts and prayers go with him as they go forward and obviously with him and his family.”
Adding to the made-for-TV saga of Mead, it had reached its first 4A semifinal last season and carried a 25-game winning streak and the No. 1 seed into the final weekend of action that never took place.
Now, it’ll get another shot.
Lewis-Palmer (12-3), on the other hand, is not accustomed to an “early” exit like this. The Rangers won recent titles in 2012, ’13 and ’19 and were runners-up in ’18 and ’17.
They looked like they were heading to another semifinal when they shot to a 15-2 lead. But Mead recovered and went ahead 30-25 at halftime, stretching that advantage to 10 points in the third quarter. The Rangers forced a tie at 44-44 early in the fourth quarter, but Mead responded with an 11-0 run.
Edward Speller Jr. scored 13 points in his final game, while Colin Westfall and Cam Lowe added 11 apiece.
“Having been here as many times as we have, there’s an understanding that a lot has to go your way,” Benton said. “There’s some bounces that have to go your way. It’s not easy to get here and it’s not easy to get to the next round.”