DENVER — It's hard for the Rangeview players to remember the school's last boys basketball title. Probably because none of them were alive when it happened.
That's no longer the case as the Raiders beat Chaparral 61-47 to win the Class 5A boys basketball championship.
It's the first state title for the Raiders since 1985.
They wasted no time in jumping out to a lead, going up 13-7 after the first quarter. And getting the early lead was something that coach Shawn Palmer was pleased to see.
“It was really important. We did a good job last night of getting off to a good start early offensively. We really set the tone defensively. We got stops early and I thought we missed some opportunities in transition but then Obi Agbim came off the bench and just caught fire.”
Agbim hit three 3-pointers in the second quarter to keep Rangeview ahead. But the Raiders (26-2) were far from comfortable up seven after two. They couldn't help but think back 24 hours when the Wolverines (23-5) were trailing ThunderRidge but clamped down defensively in the second half.
“We always start the third quarter off pretty slow," Agbim said. "This championship game we had to set the tone to have our best game of the season. We wanted started the third quarter as strong as we possibly could.”
A 9-2 run put them up 14 midway through the third quarter and Chap kept struggling to make baskets. Kobe Sanders made his first field goal with less than two minutes left in the third quarter and Matthews picked up his fourth foul shortly after. Still, the ability of Chap to change the game with defensive pressure made Palmer uneasy.
"We talked about ThunderRidge's 25 turnovers in the second half," he said. "We expected to see some different things, but I trust my guards so much."
Sanders found his stroke in the fourth quarter, but every time he got the Wolverines close, Christopher Speller found a way to keep the Raiders ahead. He had four points going into the fourth quarter but finished with a team-high 17.
"He made his free throws," Palmer pointed out.
“I just didn’t want to lose," Speller said. "When he was hitting those 3-pointers, I knew we had to keep the momentum up and keep up our pace.”
But it was a timely performance from the Rangeview junior guard. Since he arrived in the Raiders program, his quest has been to raise another state championship banner for the school. With trophy in hand, it was hard for him to process the feat that he and his teammates accomplished in front of thousands of fans at the Denver Coliseum.
“I feel amazing," Speller said. "I’m just happy we got the job done. I’ve been waiting for this since I was a freshman. I’m glad we finally got the win. We got it for Aurora and we got it for our school.”
And it was no easy task. The Wolverines had been ranked at or near the top of the CHSAANow.com basketball rankings all year. They looked impressive in wins over Smoky Hill and ThunderRidge early in the year. They beat Mountain Vista when the Golden Eagles were considered the top team in the state.
And through the season, they averaged scoring 64 points per game. But the Raiders held them to 47, the lowest scoring game of the year for Chap.
That wasn't the ultimate goal though. They didn't care how many points they surrendered as long as they scored even one more than the Wolverines. It harps back to the conversation that Palmer had with his boys about the state championship.
Thirty-four years is a long time and it's something the Raiders have openly discussed with each other.
“We have," Speller said. "We wanted to change that.”
They got their wish. And they got their banner. And the championship drought for Rangeview is over.