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Lewis-Palmer proves smarter than Princeton ... offense, that is
Rangers blow open game in 4th quarter
Lewis-Palmer coach Russ McKinstry has his Rangers in the state quarterfinals for the fifth consecutive time.
It took Lewis-Palmer about 24 minutes to figure out how to stop the Princeton offense, and once it did, it only took a few more minutes to blow the game open.
The No. 1-seeded Rangers used an 18-8 fourth quarter to put away Evergreen and advance to the 4A state quarterfinals with a 52-37 win.
“With only about an hour to prepare with such a quick turnaround from playing last night, I was proud of the way our guys battled,” L-P coach Russ McKinstry said. “But any time you only give up 37 points in a game you’re doing something right.”
Evergreen’s slow-paced offense utilized back cuts and shortened the game. When the Cougars hit a 3-pointer on their first possession of the fourth quarter, Lewis-Palmer’s lead was just 34-32, causing some concerned looks in the crowd.
The sense of urgency seemed to fuel the defending state champs, specifically on the defensive end. The Rangers didn’t allow another point until there was 1:10 left in the game and the lead had swelled to 46-32.
“We pride ourselves on our defense. We knew that the offense won’t always be there, but the defensive effort will be there every night,” said Justin Smith, who led the Rangers with 16 points, 10 rebounds and five steals. “We really tried to attack the rim more in the fourth quarter and controlled the paint.”
With big man Jordan Scott saddled with foul trouble all game, Lewis-Palmer had to resort to a grind-it-out type offense of its own – until that fourth quarter.
The 12-0 run that gave the Rangers a 46-32 lead resulted from turnovers forced by the defense, along with a couple of big jump shots from Scott, who finished with nine points and six rebounds.
“Nights like this happen sometimes,” said Scott, referring to his foul trouble and the team struggling overall on offense. “But this is a strong team and we have a lot of good players who can make plays when we need them.”
The defensive effort L-P showed in the fourth quarter should be something that makes the other remaining seven teams in the bracket a bit nervous.
McKinstry said after battling teams that run-and-gun for most of the season, it was a good thing to be in a battle against a Princeton offense and eventually pull away.
“Evergreen has some talented players and they are well coached, so we weren’t expecting this to be a blowout by any means,” said McKinstry, who has now guided his team to five consecutive state quarterfinal appearances. “But our team is solid in every area and we find ways to get the job done.”
No matter what team or style faces Lewis-Palmer in its quest to defend its title, Smith is confident he and his teammates can handle it.
“It was good for us to see a team like this because now we will be ready for anything come next week,” he said.