DENVER - Third time’s the charm.
After settling for silver in back-to-back title games, the Lewis-Palmer boys’ basketball team is finally a state champion.
The No. 1 Rangers defeated No. 2 Longmont 57-52 on Saturday for the program’s first state championship since 2013, and completed a perfect 28-0 season.
“I didn’t think it was going to feel anything like this,” said Lewis-Palmer senior Joel Scott. “This is amazing. (When the buzzer went off) I didn’t know what to do. I just threw the ball up in the air and ran toward my teammates.”
Lewis-Palmer found revenge after a three-point loss to the Trojans in the 2018 title game.
While a state championship was already something to celebrate, coach Bill Benton said getting last year’s game back made it even sweeter.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. This group, man, holy cow, that was a lot of fun to watch this group finish it,” Benton said. “The ride that they took us on, I’m blessed. Could not ask for better young men on the floor or off the floor.”
Tied at 23 heading into halftime, Lewis-Palmer fell into a six-point deficit midway through the third quarter, but a steal and a breakaway dunk by Joel Scott flipped the momentum in the Rangers’ favor.
“We always know it’s about the defensive end so once we got that steal and kept getting stops and that just led to great offensive plays,” Scott said. “The whole second half, the first part we struggled but after that we started coming together and fighting that adversity and we pulled it out.”
Lewis-Palmer eventually regained the lead with a pair of free throws by Matthew Ragsdale, and never looked back.
“We knew it was going to be a game of runs and they were going to come out punching, so we just knew we had to play the same way we have been all season long,” Scott said.
Benton called a timeout after Longmont put up a six-point lead and reiterated that the team must continue to play L-P ball.
“I told the guys, nobody ever dreams about hitting the basket that puts us up by 39,” Benton said. “You dream about making the basket that puts you up by two or makes it a two-possession game, and I think of that and they embraced it.”
Lewis-Palmer played with the mantra that defense wins championships, and that’s exactly what happened Saturday, according to Benton.
“Watching those kind of guys make plays and have it being a huge stop,” Benton said. “We got a couple of big stops. We won this game on the defensive end and that’s who we are. And I’m very proud of them for being able to finish it that way.”
Longmont kept it close thanks to a few late 3-pointers, but when the Trojans’ were forced to foul in the final minute, Lewis-Palmer shot 80 percent from the line to keep the game out of reach.
“There was still a lot of time left in the game and they’re a really good team,” Ragsdale said. “We have to give them a lot of credit, they’re a really good team and they didn’t go away all game. We needed to take care of the ball and get good stops.”
Ragsdale led the team with 23 points. Scott had 15, followed by Ethan Forrester with seven. Tre Mccullough had six.
Longmont was led by Calvin Seamons with 16 points, followed by Beck Page with 15.