Regardless of what happens in the postseason, the Lewis-Palmer boys’ basketball team has already made history.
The Rangers completed the program’s first undefeated regular season in more than 15 years Thursday with a dominant 88-47 victory over Cheyenne Mountain — but that’s just step one for this hungry and experienced L-P team.
Season records for Lewis-Palmer do not date back past 2005, but reports to The Gazette on Friday indicate that the Rangers also completed undefeated regular season runs in 2002 and 1980.
A year ago Lewis-Palmer fell in the 4A state title game in a 62-59 battle with Longmont — a game that motivated the team, especially the large senior class, through the regular season.
“We can’t waste this opportunity. This is our last chance to go win one,” said senior Matthew Ragsdale. “Losing by one possession last year, we learned that we can’t take any possessions off this year and stay focused.”
Lewis-Palmer coach Bill Benton recalled the program’s first state championship year in 2011-12 in which the Rangers went 27-1 after losing on opening night.
“If you go into any season with the goal of being undefeated, and then lose on the first night, one of your biggest goals is already done,” Benton said. “So we don’t ever really worry about going undefeated, but that’s not to say you don’t think about it.”
Prior to Thursday’s game Lewis-Palmer was ranked No. 1 in Class 4A RPI standings, with Longmont, which is also undefeated, trailing closely behind at No. 2. According to MaxPreps, however, the Rangers (6.5 strength) boast a much tougher regular-season schedule than the Trojans (3.5) — a purposeful strategy to get the team ready for postseason play.
“I’ve been a part of this program for 11 years, and we’ve always had a bull's-eye on our backs,” Benton said. “These guys have had it since they were freshmen and they’re used to it. It doesn’t mean we always handle it perfect, but we know we’re going to get everybody’s best every night.
“We scheduled great opponents outside of our conference this year knowing that we would get everybody’s best.”
L-P leading scorer Joel Scott said no matter who the opponent, though, his team learns something from every game, which they were able to carry through to an undefeated regular season.
“We knew that we could do it,” Scott said. “This is a special run and we’ve created a really strong brotherhood and it’s been a lot of fun.”
Benton said the "brotherhood" has a unique identity that balances everything, from the pressure of winning, to a level head — all while having a great time.
“We want to have fun every night,” Benton said while trying to keep a straight face as Ragsdale, Scott, Noah Baca and Ethan Forrester tried to make him laugh. “There’s a fine line between having fun and flipping the switch to focus, but these guys don’t have a switch. They can have fun and be very intentional and focused on getting stuff done.
“This group does such an amazing job,” Benton added. “They’re unselfish and they don’t care about anything other than us and I think that’s evident when you watch us.”
Pikes Peak region basketball fans will have plenty of opportunity to watch the Rangers as they dive into the postseason next week — likely as the No. 1 overall seed.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated 2017-18 was the first undefeated regular season in program history. Reports have come in stating the program was also undefeated in 2002 and 1980.