DENVER — Two years of frustration can wash away quickly when gold hardware is involved. Lewis-Palmer got to realize that on Saturday. Two loss in the last two state championship games had a way of driving the Rangers all season long. They didn't want to be champions, they wanted to be perfect.
With a 57-52 win over Longmont, the dream of perfection became reality. And with perfection came a Class 4A state basketball title, something the Rangers (28-0 overall) have been chasing since 2013.
“It’s awesome and an unbelievable feeling," senior Joel Scott said. "I didn’t think it was going to feel like this. It’s awesome, especially to do it with my teammates.”
And they did it together from the start.
The Trojans (27-1) jumped out to a quick 5-2 lead, but the Rangers found their groove to close out the first quarter. They went on an 11-2 run to grab momentum and try to quiet the rowdy Longmont students.
But hustle and high awareness defensively helped Longmont battle its way back into the game. Calvin Seamons scored nine of his 11 first-half points in the second quarter. He made as many field goals on his own as the Rangers did as a team.
“Longmont’s a good team," senior Matthew Ragsdale said. "Last year we knew they were a good team. They were amazing last year so we knew coming into this one it was going to be a dogfight. All the guys embraced it.”
Longmont opened the second half with back to back baskets from Dallas Dye to grab a lead.
A steal and dunk by Joel Scott followed by a Longmont turnover ignited a spark for the Rangers. Ragsdale eventually gave the Rangers a lead on a 3-pointer sending the Rangers fans into a frenzy. He scored nine of L-P's 13 points in the third quarter.
But it was the work on the defensive side of the ball that made the difference. The Rangers took charges on back to back possessions, one of which was on Brady Renck. That was his fourth foul of the game and he was forced to the bench.
“For us to be able to finish a game getting charges, getting steals (was big)," L-P coach Bill Benton said. "We knew we would get looks and so would they. It came down to the rebounding battle in the fourth quarter and the defense.”
The Lewis-Palmer performance at the free throw line also helped. They were 9-for-9 heading into the fourth quarter and made 11 of 16 attempts in the final eight minutes.
“Coach is always telling us we need to make free throws when it matters," Ragsdale said. "We’ve been working on that all season and it paid off.”
Ragsdale led all scorers with 23 points and Scott added 15. He also pulled down seven rebounds and blocked four shots.
Seamons led the Trojans with 16 points.
Longmont got the better of Lewis-Palmer in last year's 4A title game. The year before that, it was Valor Christian who knocked off the Rangers. From the start of the 2018-19 season the Rangers looked like their only mission was to get their hands on championship gold. A 71-59 win over Chaparral in January sent a message to the rest of the state that winning was the expectation.
They marched through the the 4A bracket all the way to the Coliseum where they beat Holy Family 70-56 in the Final 4. In the second half when Longmont took the lead Benton had faith that his guys would remain calm. When Scott and Ragsdale took momentum back, he knew it was going to work out fine.
“You get that sense that we’re going to be okay and we’re going to grind through this. Sometimes it just doesn’t hit until there’s nothing left on the clock.”