DENVER — Luke Johnson and Marcell Barbee put on quite the show Friday night in the Class 4A boys basketball state semifinals, lighting up the scoreboard and getting the fans at Denver Coliseum on their feet.
When all was said and done though, it was Johnson and his Longmont teammates who put the final exclamation point on the night. The Trojans were on fire from the perimeter all night, knocking down nine 3-pointers on their way to a 71-60 victory over top-seeded Pueblo South.
Longmont punched its ticket to the 4A state title game for the second time in four years, where the Trojans will face Lewis-Palmer at 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Coliseum.
“I think a lot of people were kind of counting on Pueblo South to win. They were the heavy favorites, the No. 1 seed,” Johnson said. “They kind of rolled through the playoffs, and we fought through a lot of games.
“In a close game, we were confident how we would finish.”
Johnson scored 10 of his 22 points during a third-quarter explosion in which Longmont poured in 21 points. The Trojans (25-2) kept it up with 28 more points in the fourth quarter, opening up an 18-point lead at one point.
Jaydon Elkins scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve always said we’ve been a second-half team all year. We knew what was on the line, we knew what was at stake,” Elkins said. “We hit free throws is a big part, and our defense won this game. We had a lot of energy on the defensive end.”
Barbee, who had 12 points in the third quarter, finished with a game-high 24 points for Pueblo South (24-3), which was attempting to get back to the championship game for the first time since 2009.
“It was a fun battle. He’s a great player,” Johnson said. “It was just a great battle both ways. He was getting his and I was getting mine, but it was really a team effort, which is really cool.”
Longmont fell behind 7-0 in the opening minutes of the game and didn’t connect on a field goal until more than four minutes had gone by. But the Trojans closed the gap with a 9-2 run, and at one point led by four points in the second quarter.
Longmont knocked down five 3-pointers in the first half, but a Jeremy Cody lay-in in the final seconds of the half sent the Colts into the locker room with a 24-22 advantage.
Johnson didn’t take a shot in the first quarter after getting into early foul trouble.
“The second straight game we started down. We’ve been through it before, so we kind of knew what to do,” Johnson said. “The first half we went down two into halftime and talked it over like we usually did. The third quarter we came out really strong.
“I’m really proud of our team. I had two fouls in the first half and a bunch of other guys stepped up.”
Dallas Dye added 10 points for Longmont and Brady Renck scored 10, including a pair of big 3-pointers in the first half. Oakley Dehning scored nine points and added a team-high six rebounds.
Tonay Aragon scored 10 points for the Colts, including a pair of 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter to pull Pueblo South within 10. Lawrence Ramos and Cody combined to score 17 points.
Lewis-Palmer held off Pueblo West 56-54 in the other semifinal. Elkins said the Trojans are well aware of the Rangers’ size advantage, but said it’s been that way all year for Longmont.
It’s the team’s first trip to the championship game since an overtime loss to Air Academy in 2015.
“It’s still hard to believe right now, but at the same time we knew we could do this and we knew we could be here in this final stage,” Elkins said. “Obviously we’re happy, the team is super happy, and I know we’ve just got to be ready for (Saturday).”