Lewis-Palmer players know all about coming close to ruling Colorado. For the past two seasons, the Rangers traveled to the 4A state basketball championship game and lost.
This season, the mission is clear.
Go to the state title game.
The Rangers rolled to a breezy 65-31 over the Sierra Stallions, who in recent years have often been a fierce opponent.
But there was little fierce about Thursday’s game, which was over almost as soon as it began at the Sierra gym. Lewis-Palmer stampeded to 10-0 lead and was never seriously threatened.
Sierra coach Terry Dunn has seen many teams over the years, and he was wisely hesitant to place the state crown on Lewis-Palmer.
“I hate to say that now because I haven’t seen everybody else,” Dunn said, “but I would like to think there are not too many other teams like the one we played tonight.”
In 2016-2017, the Rangers lost to a deep, talented Valor Christian team in the 4A final. In the 2017-2018 title game, the Rangers fell behind early and could never quite catch Longmont.
L-P coach Bill Benton was standing in a hallway at Sierra while he considered his team’s chances this season.
“We’re a pretty talented team,” he said. “This is a group that’s playing very well together, very unselfish. It’s a fun group. We will give ourselves a chance if we continue to play this way.”
A chance at what?
“A championship. But what I think this group gets is that getting there doesn’t mean it’s handed to you.”
On Thursday, the Rangers came at the Stallions in waves. Benton used his bench liberally, and the subs were as effective as the starters.
L-P plays with consistent generosity and consistent intensity, always a strong combo. In the late minutes, with the Rangers up by more than 30, Benton was still moaning over every L-P error.
Senior Joel Scott led the Rangers with 21 points. He was part of the good times and the ultimate heartache of the past two seasons.
“We worked hard the last two years,” he said, “and now we’re just having fun with what we’re doing. If we play the right way, we should be all right.”
Anyone who watched the Rangers on Thursday night knows they have a chance to be much more than just all right.