By Jon Miller
Denver, CO – The Lewis-Palmer Rangers are headed to the 4A State Championship. If you think you heard that before, you probably have. The Rangers will make their third straight appearance after defeating the Holy Family Tigers 70-56 in Fridays 4A Final Four at the Denver Coliseum.
The Tigers started the game how any team would want to against the top seeded Rangers, they jumped out to an early 7-0 lead with confidence and Garret Green. Green scored the Tigers first 7 points whereas the Rangers struggled to find their comfort level, as if playing at the coliseum for the first time.
“We just had to take a deep breath. There was a little bit of jitters in the beginning, but we kept our composure was able to come back and extend our lead over each quarter,” Lewis-Palmers Matthew Ragsdale said.
The Rangers found their groove. Noah Baca scored 11 points and Joel Scott scored 10 as Lewis-Palmer outscored the Tigers 31-12 for the remainder of the half to take the 31-19 lead at the break.
“I just saw the opportunities when I was open, and I just had to be aggressive because offense was kind of hard to come by in the beginning,” Baca said.
The Rangers only shot two three pointers in the first half, with Baca hitting their only one.
“They did a great job of guarding Ragsdale and forcing us to run off the line. They packed it in a little bit and were out guarding us,” Lewis-Palmer head coach Bill Benton said. “They sagged off of some guys but protected the paint.”
With the Tigers limiting the Ranger three-point shots, Lewis-Palmer continued to work the ball down low.
“Pound the paint,” Scott said. “We always have to pound the paint. Tonight, it was a little bit more than we usually do, we didn’t have those three pointers that we usually do so we just kept pounding it and it got us to the free throw line.”
Baca and Scott continued their scoring in the second half with Matthew Ragsdale and Ethan Forrester joining the party. Lewis-Palmer extended its lead to 52-37 after three quarters.
“They overplayed the screens and they were leaving certain players open, so we just took advantage of it,” Baca said.
The Rangers pushed their lead to 18 with 3:38 left in the game, in what looked to be route.
Trailing 64-46, the Tigers outscored the Rangers 10-2 to cut the deficit to 10 late in the game.
“We forced some stuff at the end, and we knew they were not going away,” Ragsdale said. We expected that so we needed take a deep breath in the end.”
The Rangers regained their composure to hold off the late Tiger charge to defeat Holy Family 70-56.
Noah Baca led the Rangers with 20 points on 9 for 9 shooting. His only miss was a free throw. Joel Scott added 17 points and 9 rebounds. Ethan Forrester and Matthew Ragsdale each scored 13 in the win.
Tanner Baird and Garrett Green paced the Tigers with 33 combined points. Baird scored 19 and Green added 16.
Lewis-Palmer tied its school record with most win in a season, currently at 27. The Rangers will play Longmont on the 4A State Championship game on Saturday at the Denver Coliseum, in a rematch of last years state title game, a game which Longmont won 62-59.
“This is a business trip, and we are going out hunting. We have always been hunted. We are hunting this year and will try to finish it,” Scott said of his teams third straight championship game appearance.
A Lewis-Palmer win will mark its first state title since winning back to back states championships in 2012 and 2013. Each of those teams had a Scott that closed out their senior season with a state title. Josh on the 2012 team and Jordan on the 2013 team. Joel, the youngest of the Scott brothers can close out his career in the same fashion.