COLORADO SPRINGS — Lewis-Palmer had two major problems on Wednesday night: Josh Scott and Angelo Battistelli found their way into foul trouble and Hunter Maldonado was on the other team.
But a hot-shooting night from Eli Burkett and lockdown third quarter helped the Class 4A CHSAANow.com No. 8-ranked Rangers came away with a 65-56 win over Vista Ridge.
"We feed off getting some run-outs and getting a big stop," Lewis-Palmer coach Bill Benton said. "That fires this team up more than a dunk does."
They came away with zero dunks on the night, but they'll take that all day if it means they get the win. The Rangers (14-4 overall, 7-2 Pikes Peak Athletic Conference) jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead to start the game, doing their best to take the air out of the Vista Ridge gym.
That was easier said than done. Joel Scott was assessed two fouls in the first three minutes of the game, forcing Benton to put him on the bench for the remainder of the first half.
The Wolves (13-5, 8-1) took advantage with a 15-4 run to take a 15-8 lead late in the first quarter. But a 3-pointer from Burkett and a basket from Battistelli cut that lead to just two heading into the second.
Maldonado was limited to only six points in the quarter, with Billy Cook doing everything possible to slow down the Wyoming commit.
"It's definitely tiring," Cook said. "He's one heck of a player, but it gives me good experience. I've guarded these guys, Hunter and D'Shawn (Schwartz) so the guys I have to guard in the future, it's a little easier."
Maldonado would go on to score a game-high 29 points. But that was about the best news of the night for the Wolves.
The Rangers held a one-point lead in the final 30 seconds of the first half, but a Burkett triple before the clock expired proved to be the beginning of the end for Vista Ridge.
"That was huge," Burkett said. "We were punching back and forth all half, so to hit that, it gave us a lot of momentum heading into the second half."
Burkett came and out scored seven of his team-high 22 points in the third quarter, but what most impressed his coach was what he was able to do at the other end of the floor.
"Eli had a great game on the defensive end," Benton said.
He was also quick to point that Noah Baca and Carter Kreischer also stepped up and provided big minutes when the team needed them.
In the third quarter, the Rangers only surrendered two field goals to the Wolves, both coming at the hands of Maldonado.
Vista Ridge made a push to cut the Lewis-Palmer lead down in the fourth. Raymon Harper scored to make it a 57-53 game, but back-to-back field goals from Battistelli and Cook torpedoed any hope the Wolves had at a comeback.
While it would be easy for Lewis-Palmer to ride the wave of handing Vista Ridge its first loss, the players know that their work is far from over and they need to continue their solid play down the final stretch of the season.
"We have five more games left," Burkett said. "We have to come out and play. We have to win them all."