MONUMENT — Lewis-Palmer senior guard Noah Baca brought his clamps to the court and put them to use Thursday when the Rangers hosted Chaparral in a showdown of the top teams in Colorado’s two biggest classifications.
The assignment of limiting the Wolverines' leading scorer, junior guard Kobe Sanders, fell on Baca for most of the game, and the 6-foot-2 guard excelled in Lewis-Palmer’s 71-59 win.
“It was great,” said Ranger senior Joel Scott of his classmate’s defense. “We knew he was going to come out big for us tonight, and we just trusted everyone and trusted the system our coach has in play for us. It was a big night for him.”
Sanders went to the half scoreless with Lewis-Palmer leading 31-19. He came in averaging more than 20 points per game.
“Just staying focused on every play, making sure we’re where we need to be every play,” Baca said detailing his strategy.
“He’s very quick. He’s a very good shooter too, so it’s hard to stay in front of him.”
Sanders got going in the third, hitting a 3-pointer from the corner. He later added a pair of three-point plays as part of a 26-14 Chaparral run throughout the third that tied the game at 45 to start the fourth.
Some of Sanders later buckets came against Dom Roma, another Ranger senior, when Baca headed to the bench with three fouls midway through the third, but he also did what was asked.
“Those guys did their job all night long,” Ranger coach Bill Benton said.
“I think the biggest thing for Kobe, he was never able to find a rhythm and get that confidence.”
The Rangers used their size to open up the double-digit halftime lead, as Scott and Tre McCullough - both listed at 6-foot-7 - had eight points apiece.
Then, Sanders and the Wolverines scored in threes throughout the third, hitting four 3-pointers with two old school three-point plays to tie it.
With Baca back out there to start the fourth, the Rangers rolled once again, opening the final period on a decisive 13-0 run.
“Our defense, getting stops, and being patient on offense really helped,” said Baca who made three free throws in the stretch.
That lockdown defense came at a price, however, as Baca made an early exit after an inadvertent elbow to the face brought blood.
“I’m good now,” he said.
In addition to his defensive efforts, Baca finished with 11 points, trailing only Scott, who led all scorers with 20, and Matthew Ragsdale, playing in his third game after missing time with a foot fracture, who added 14 despite struggling from deep where he’s usually lethal.
“I wasn’t making my shots, but I found other ways,” said Ragsdale.
Joseph Dalton came off the bench to lead Chaparral with 17 points, while Tanner Giles and Bryce Matthews added 14 and 12, respectively.
Sanders ended his night 3 of 13 from the field much to the credit of Baca.
“Kobe’s contested shots weren’t going to be the ones that beat us,” Benton said. “It was going to be the one that we didn’t guard that he knocked down that gave him confidence. We didn’t give him any.”
McCullough and Ethan Forrester each added 10 for the Rangers, who had all five starters in double figures.
While it was an admittedly strong performance, the Lewis-Palmer coach quickly shut down talk that his team might be Colorado’s best regardless of classification.
“I’m very comfortably saying this team is pretty special when they play the way they played tonight - when they play together, when they play that hard. They’re a pretty special team, but no,” he said.
“There’s a lot of teams, a lot of games left, and I think the test is how do we handle success.”