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Lewis-Palmer pulls away from Cheyenne Mountain, returns to 4A boys' semifinals
DENVER • Jordan Scott didn’t mean to, but the Lewis-Palmer senior artfully found a way to weave Saturday’s snowstorm into describing what it took to keep league rival Cheyenne Mountain at bay and return to the 4A boys’ semifinals for the fifth year in a row.
“We believe that we just keep playing, weather the storm and eventually it’ll go our way,” said Scott, who scored 11 points and added nine rebounds in helping the Rangers hold off the pesky Indians, 66-49 Saturday at the Denver Coliseum. “It’s all about toughness. We were the tougher team today and came out with the W.”
Justin Smith led all scorers with 19 points and 12 rebounds, Tyler Owens added 13, and Lewis-Palmer (23-3) used a pair of runs, one in each half, to ward off a pair of Cheyenne Mountain comeback attempts.
Up next for the defending 4A state champions is Wasson in one of Friday’s semifinals at the Coors Events Center in Boulder.
The Indians (19-7), who lost two previous meetings to the Rangers during Pikes Peak Athletic Conference play — both without leading scorer Ghassan Nehme — hung around early. Reece Eddy’s follow of his missed shot cut the Lewis-Palmer lead to 17-16 with 5:15 left in the first half.
Lewis-Palmer then went on an 11-2 run to finish the half, taking a 10-point lead into intermission.
Two Nehme shots, plus a 3-pointer from younger brother Christian Nehme, brought the Indians to within 33-29 with 4:25 left in the third quarter.
Again, a well-balanced attack and ability to break the Indians’ press opened the floodgates for another Rangers run. By the time four different players scored during a 12-0 run, Lewis-Palmer had built a 45-29 pad and wasn’t challenged again.
“They’re very good, and they do everything right,” Indians coach J’on St. Clair said. “We’d get close, then they’d go on a run. We didn’t execute our defensive game plan, and they were more aggressive in getting after the ball.”
While Cheyenne Mountain grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and forced 15 turnovers, it had little to show for it after shooting just 33 percent (19 for 57) from the field. The Indians missed 18 of 20 shots from 3-point range.
The Rangers, on the other hand, put their accurate shooting on display. They took 20 fewer shots but made three more (22 of 37) then Cheyenne Mountain, and Smith hit three of his team’s five 3-pointers.
“They got Ghassan back, and he’s obviously a great player,” Owens said. “We had to prepare for him, and we had good stops. We play defense first and do our thing. Hopefully, we get good results after that.”
Ghassan Nehme and Eddy, both juniors, paced Cheyenne Mountain with 16 and 15 points, respectively.
“I’m very proud for what we accomplished,” said St. Clair, who guided the Indians to the quarterfinals for the first time in school history. “We’ve done a lot of good things, but I’m still disappointed. I still believe we could have done some other things better.”