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Lewis-Palmer defends 4A state title, grinds out 51-40 win over Valor Christian
BOULDER – For three quarters Saturday at the Coors Events Center, Lewis-Palmer’s attempt at defending its 4A boys’ state title teetered on a most delicate balance, knocked off its axis by key injuries, foul trouble and lousy long-range shooting.
For the 8 minutes that mattered the most, the Rangers responded like champions.
That’s why they still are.
Jordan Scott scored nine of his team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter, Justin Smith added 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Lewis-Palmer pulled away from Valor Christian, 51-40, for their second straight state title and third overall.
Without starter Chase Stone, who suffered a concussion in Friday’s win against Wasson, and with starting guard Tyler Owens playing with a dislocated ring finger on his shooting hand, Lewis-Palmer (25-3) certainly wasn’t its usual self. Complicating matters, the Rangers also were without the services of Dylan Tucker for the final 4:12 after the senior guard fouled out.
“I’m so proud of the team,” Smith said. “We had guys step up. It was a battle, and we battled through. All season long, we’ve talked about toughness, doing the little things well. We got that tonight.”
Leading 29-28 heading into the fourth quarter, Scott took command. His drive through the lane highlighted a 10-4 run to start the fourth quarter that ultimately gave the Rangers the lead for good. His alley-oop slam off a great pass from Tyler Owens made it 49-38 with 1:11 left and put the exclamation point on the championship.
“We needed baskets, and I just happened to be the one getting them,” Scott said. “It was one of those nights where you go out and do it and get it done. We did, and we’re state champions.”
Valor Christian (22-5), making its first trip to the finals under first-year coach Ronnie DeGray, shot only 32 percent from the field but hung around, leading on five occasions but by no more than three points. The Eagles got to the finals after a 16-point, second-half rally shocked Broomfield on Friday.
A follow-up jumper by Chase Foster, who led his team with 17 points, gave the Eagles a 30-29 lead in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter. After that, however, Valor Christian went cold, making just four more shots and two free throws the rest of the way.
Lewis-Palmer outscored Valor 22-12 in the fourth quarter, reminiscent of Friday’s 19-8 edge it enjoyed over Wasson over the final 8 minutes in another come-from-behind victory.
“The kids played hard, but we came up short,” DeGray said. “We tried to get the guys to relax, to come off the big high we had the day before. We never got our legs underneath us, but the better team won.”
Lewis-Palmer, which kept Valor Christian out of last year’s final with a 70-59 victory, survived a game in which it suffered 13 turnovers and went just 1-of-13 on 3-pointers.
Early Saturday, team staff ruled Stone out for the championship after diagnosing the junior with a concussion, the result of a run-in with Wasson 6-foot-10 center Larenz Stalcup on a screen during Friday’s 61-54 semifinal victory.
Senior Logan Jones got just his second start of the season and first of the playoffs, scoring only two points but grabbing six rebounds, two of which came on the offensive end.
“When you’re the coach, you have to have faith and trust in your players,” Rangers fifth-year coach Russ McKinstry said. “If you do, they’ll perform for you. Logan was our next man up. We were sad and wanted Chase to be a part of it. That’s the way sports is. It’s how you handle adversity. They didn’t make excuses. They just stepped up and made plays.”
Enough plays to earn another gold ball and championship banner, becoming the fourth team in a decade to claim consecutive 4A boys’ titles; Thomas Jefferson won in 2005-06, Abraham Lincoln in 2007-08 and Sierra took titles in 2009-10. Since the addition of 5A in 1991 – and two years of 6A from 1991-94 – no 4A boys’ team has claimed three consecutive state titles.