MONUMENT — Joel Scott's game-high 20 points will stand out when Thursday's box score is examined.
But Class 4A No. 1 Lewis-Palmer's 71-59 win over 5A No. 1 Chaparral wasn't determined by anything seen in a box score. It was hustle, grit and toughness that was the catalyst for the Rangers claiming - at least for a night - supremacy in boys basketball, regardless of classification.
Heading into Thursday's game, Chaparral's offense was paced by junior guard Kobe Sanders who averages 23 points per game. But he hadn't run into Noah Baca.
The L-P senior did something not many players - or teams for that matter - will be able to brag about doing this year, he held Sanders scoreless for three quarters.
"Noah Baca had a pretty special night on the defensive end," coach Bill Benton said. "He knew he had a tough matchup. He came down with the (right) mentality. We knew if we could contest their shots, contested jumpers weren't going to be the ones to beat us it was going to be the one that we didn't matchup or rotate to. It was about us getting up into people all night."
And once that happened, the Rangers (8-0 overall) were able to establish a rhythm on the offensive end. Scott scored six of his 20 points in the first quarter, but it was Tre McCullough battling for second-chance points from the start that got L-P going.
"All of those points came off good defensive stops," McCullough said. "That's what Coach kept telling us, that our defense generates most of our offense. Everyone one our team, even our sophomore swingers, can score the ball on any given night. It's not all about Joel, it's not all about Rags, everyone can score."
And as the players all said afterwards, what made the difference was not allowing the Wolverines (9-2) to establish an offensive pace of their own. Chaparral only connected on two field goals in the second quarter and scored just seven points.
Although early in the season, the Rangers looked very much to form with what they had done in the first seven games of the year.
"We play the same way every night," Scott said. "We come out and have to have fun and play on the defensive side like we did tonight. Noah really helped us and it was a team effort."
That team effort sent the Wolverines into the locker room at halftime down 31-19 and Sanders had yet to register a point.
"That's not normal," Chap coach Tellus Truesdale said. "Kobe is our leading scorer and a great player and when he doesn't score you have a half like we did. He had a couple of open looks but they played great defense on him as well. It took a little while but when you're not in sync you can't get up and pressure as much when you're not making shots."
The Wolverines came out firing in the second half as Sanders, Joseph Dalton and Tanner Giles each connected on early 3-pointers. Dalton scored two late baskets in the quarter to pull the Wolverines into a 45-45 tie heading into the final eight minutes.
But that Rangers defense settled back in at the start of the fourth quarter. An 8-0 run to start the quarter prompted a Chaparral timeout.
But it wouldn't do any good. L-P regained a double-digit lead and never looked back showing that even as a 4A team, they a true basketball power in the state of Colorado.
"Coming down here we knew it was going to be a dogfight," Truesdale said. "We missed some easy ones, some threes and some bunnies around the basket, but you have to give Lewis-Palmer's defense a lot of credit for that. They make it tough."
And by doing so, they compete in a way that allows them to play with any team willing to take on the challenge.
"It's fun," Scott said. "A lot of people dog on 4A and think that we can't compete with some 5A teams, but it really shows that we have the athletes that can compete with them."
Dalton led Chaparral with 17 points, all but five coming in the third quarter. Giles sat right behind him with 16.
The Rangers had five players score in double digits despite only player (Baca) connecting on a 3-pointer. Matthew Ragsdale scored a quiet 14, finding ways to get the ball to the hoop when his long-distance shots weren't falling.
"That's what he did a great job of, getting to the rim," Benton said. "Trying to cut and get back door looks off penetration. He didn't stand out there until he made one go in. He made the next play or he made the play to the guy who was in rhythm. He was very unselfish tonight."
Ethan Forrester and McCullough each scored 10.
The Rangers open up Pikes Peak Athletic Conference play on Friday against Falcon. The Wolverines will face Denver East and Columbine in non-league play before they jumping into Continental League action.