PARKER • Chaparral is a top-five basketball program in the state this year. Lewis-Palmer is too, albeit at the 4A level.
The Rangers received a front-row seat to see how close they are to the Wolverines. The also realized the big-game inexperience still present for coach Bill Benton's squad in a 66-57 loss on the road Thursday.
A plan to limit senior Cameron Lowe, one of the area's top players, was readily apparent. While many teams seek to shut him down, few have the athletes needed to double team and get back to their original man when he passes away.
In his stead, junior Eli Robinson was given more room to operate. And the Rangers were given a runway to the restricted area as a team, too.
Through eight minutes, the results were bleak. On four consecutive attempts, the Rangers failed to convert lay-ups — all four coming in the same possession after a bundle of offensive rebounds.
It exemplified their efforts early. Down 17-9, there wasn't any quit, despite the missed chances.
"They want to be successful for and with each other," Benton said. "That's a huge piece to us. It's a tough team to play, and we have a couple sophomores. This was the first time they've seen this."
Through the game's first 16 minutes, Lowe sat at two points, though the Rangers only trailed by six at halftime. Robinson, partly by way of the senior's passes out of double teams and by a knack for fighting through contact at the rim, finished with a team-high 19 points.
Lowe may be the team's leading scorer this year, but it's not necessarily by design.
"We're not worried about who scores the most," Robinson said. "We're just trying to get good shots and possessions. If they're really focused on Cameron, then I'll just post up and we'll find success with other guys."
The Rangers tied it at 36-36 in the third quarter. But that was as close as they'd get to overcoming the Wolverines.
With under six minutes left, and the game still in reach, Chaparral put together three consecutive possessions resulting in uncontested lay-ups.
The margin for error shrinks against a top opponent, especially with their student section in full throat.
"They hit some shots and we weren't taking care of the ball," Robinson said. "They're a great team, but we're going to play more great teams. It's the details. In a two-possession game, all it takes is a turnover or a stop we don't get and there's the game."
Through 11 games, Thursday was the first loss for the Rangers. Coming off the break, Benton noticed a propensity to start slow — both in practice and games.
Chaparral, among many of the state's top teams, will take advantage and limit the chances for a comeback. It was a lesson for the younger players, and a reaffirmation of the difficulties of big games for the elder statesmen.
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