Matthew Ragsdale missed the first five games of Lewis-Palmer’s season with a broken bone in his foot. The senior shooting guard has not missed a beat since his return.
On Feb. 23, the sharpshooter scored a season-high 28 points to lead the No. 1 seed Rangers to a 69-52 victory over Ponderosa in the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
Ragsdale converted all six of his 3-point attempts and was 4-of-4 from the charity stripe.
“I got my rhythm and my teammates kept finding me,” said Ragsdale, who scored 27 points in two other games this season.
The first half was the Ragsdale and Joel Scott show for the Rangers (24-0). The dynamic duo combined to score 27 of the Rangers’ 29 points as they took an eight-point lead into the locker room.
Scott had 12 in the half and finished with 24.
Lewis-Palmer took control of the third quarter and outscored the Mustangs 20-7 to take a commanding 21-point advantage heading into the final eight minutes of action.
Lewis-Palmer had a nine-day break between its regular season finale and its first playoff game. Rangers’ coach Bill Benton said his team did not show any rust.
“Ponderosa is not the 33rd ranked team in the state. They’re pretty good,” Benton said. I told our guys, ‘They’re not going to be afraid of us at all. They played the 5A powerhouses. They’re tough.”
Lewis-Palmer is attempting to reach a third consecutive state championship game. The Rangers lost in 2017 to Valor Christian and in 2018 to Longmont. Longmont improved to 24-0 this season with a second-round victory over Discovery Canyon (78-48).
But to a player, Lewis-Palmer is not thinking beyond Wednesday’s Sweet 16 game at home against No. 17 Greeley Central (16-9). The Wildcats advanced with a 54-49 victory at The Classical Academy.
“The next game is the most important game of the season and that’s the way it’s been 24 times this season,” said Scott, who leads the Rangers in scoring (18.6) and rebounding (5.7) per game.
If the Rangers defeat Greeley Central, they would host either No. 25 Thomas Jefferson (15-10) or No. 9 Centaurus (17-7) on Saturday.
“It’s nice to have home court advantage and to have all our friends come around and cheer us on,” Scott said.
Greeley Central comes into Wednesday’s matchup with a 6-7 record over its last 13 games. The Wildcats have not won two consecutive games since mid-January.
Greeley Central got a game-high 23 points from Jackson Hayslip in the team’s second-round victory over TCA. He is averaging a team-best 21.0 points per game. Senior Spencer Conway is next with 12.9.
“The reality is this is playoffs and everybody is gunning for you,” Benton said. “We have an L-P bullseye on our backs and teams are going to fight us until it’s over.
“Central plays in a great league and they’ve seen Longmont. It’s playoff basketball. We have to be ready.”
Greeley Central lost to Longmont by 40 on Jan. 25, but took Longmont to overtime in their regular-season finale on Feb. 13, only to lose 68-59.