By Jon Miller
Denver – In the last two seasons, the Lewis-Palmer Rangers have been oh so close to the coveted 4A state championship. First losing to Valor Christian, and again to Longmont last season. This time, they made sure the state championship trophy was headed back to Monument.
The Rangers capped off their historic 28-0 season with the 57-52 4A state championship victory over the Longmont Trojans, their first state title since 2013.
“For this group to just be able to go and celebrate and enjoy that (state title) makes me so happy,” Lewis-Palmer head coach Bill Benton stated. “It could not have happened to a better group of young men. They are great guys on and off the court and they have taken us on a heck of a ride.”
Just like last season, the Rangers were number one throughout the year but came up short in the state championship. This time, they were on a mission. There is no next year for the nine seniors, it’s now or never.
“It was our last game in high school, so the mentality of our team was just to leave it all out there today,” Lewis-Palmer senior Joel Scott said. “We got nothing else to lose so we just played hard every minute.”
Lewis-Palmer and Longmont faced off for the second straight year in the 4A state championship. Both teams came in with a perfect 27-0 record. It was a dream matchup for any high school basketball fan. Two teams that dominated all season long had to finally face each other on the biggest stage.
Longmont jumped out to a 5-2 lead before Rangers made one of their signature runs. Matthew Ragsdale’s
Lewis-Palmer extended its lead to nine with 4:57 left in the second quarter on a Joel Scott bucket and foul. Scotts free throw put the Rangers up 19-10.
The Trojans didn’t flinch as they finished the half on a 13-4 run to tie the game up at 23 at the break.
Longmont carried their first half momentum into the second half as they regained the lead on back to back baskets by Dallas Dye. The Trojans took their biggest lead of the game, 31-25 on a pair of Calvin Seamons free throws with 4:49 left in the third quarter.
The Longmont Trojans had completed a 21-4 run over the last 6:14 of play and the Rangers were in a position they had not had to deal with this season.
In a single play, Joel Scott turned the game around.
Down 31-25, Scott was guarding Seamons on the top of the key. Seamons attempted to pass but Scott grabbed the ball and took off down court for the two-handed dunk with 4:15 left in the third, resulting in a loud roar, bringing the Lewis-Palmer faithful to their feet and giving the Rangers the energy boost they had been lacking since the midway point of the first quarter.
“We always talk about playing hard on the defensive end and how our defense will lead to our offensive points and easy runouts,” Scott said. “That is what happened and that was the spark we needed.”
The Rangers defense did not allow a field goal for the remainder of the quarter, just four free throws as they took the 36-35 lead into the final period.
Noah Baca capped of the Ranger 15-4 run with a play similar to Scotts. Baca stole the ball at the top of the key which turned into a one-handed dunk to give the Rangers to
Down 42-37, Longmont’s Beck Page nailed a three to cut the lead to two, 42-40. The Rangers pushed their lead to seven only to see Page strike again with another three, cutting the lead to four, 47-43 with 3:06 left in the game.
“We just needed to play our game. We knew they were going to have a comeback like that, and we knew it was going to happen. We just had to keep our composure, play our game, and not worry about it,” Scott said of the late Longmont push.
Page, who scored 11 of 15 points in the final quarter alone, hit a third three with 21 seconds left in the game, cutting the Lewis-Palmer lead to two, 54-52.
“Beck (Page) doesn’t miss. He is a great shooter and he was making his shots,” Ragsdale said.
Trailing by two the Trojans fouled the Rangers Ethan Forrester.
Forrester who finished his day with seven points, was headed to the line for his two biggest shots on the biggest stage of his prep career. He needed to make at least one of the two to give the Rangers a three point lead, a lead that Longmont can only tie.
“It was a long walk up to the line, so I definitely heard the crowd and all the noise but as I got the ball, I just focused up, and focused on the rim,” Forrester said. “I thought that this is what all the reps at practice come down to, this one free throw.”
His hit his first of two to give the Rangers the 55-52 lead.
“It was a big relief, a big exhale,” Forrester added.
His second shot hit the back of the rim and bounced out. Baca grabbed the rebound, but a jump ball was called with possession arrow pointing to the Rangers. Ragsdale was fouled on the possession.
With nine seconds left, Ragsdale was headed to the line.
“I just wanted to knock down the free throw. I have been shooting pretty bad from the free throw line this year,” Ragsdale said. “It was just focusing on my shooting mechanics, making sure I had my follow through high, and honestly, just focusing.”
Ragsdale who hit 9 of 10 free throws on the day, hit them both to seal the 57-52 state championship win.
“It means everything,” Ragsdale said of winning the 4A state championship. “When the buzzer went off, it was about time. We have been there three times now and came up short the last two, so it is amazing to finally get one.”
“It is amazing, I didn’t know what to do,” Joel Scott said. “I was just so happy, and it was great to finally finish it the right way this year and not come out with a loss. It was awesome.”
Ragsdale finished with a game high 23 points. Scott added 15.
Lewis-Palmer coach Bill Benton captured his first state title as the head coach of the Rangers.
“I told them I love them,” Benton told his team in the locker room after the game. “They took us on a heck of a ride, and I could not be prouder of them as young men, and that is exactly what I told them.”
“You just proved you can play, and everybody knows you are the best team in the state,” Benton continued. “I don’t think people know how truly good young men they are. Who they are off the floor speaks more to why they have success on the floor.”
Longmont was led by Calvin Seamons 16 points and Beck Page’s 15.