The 2018-19 Lewis-Palmer boys’ basketball team may not have broken a program record just yet with its undefeated regular season, concluded Thursday with an 88-47 win over Cheyenne Mountain.
Although all available records do not date back to before 2005, a search in The Gazette archives proves the Rangers achieved back-to-back undefeated seasons in 2002 and 2003.
According to a March 29, 2002, edition of The Gazette, the team put up a 25-game winning streak in 2002 for the longest streak in program history at the time. The record was broken again 10 years later when Lewis-Palmer went 27-1 on the way to a state championship in 2012. The most recent Rangers have won 23 in a row heading into the playoffs and completed the program’s first undefeated regular season since the 2002-03 campaign.
But this Lewis-Palmer team is looking to achieve something those two historic teams could not — a state championship.
In 2003 and 2003 the Rangers secured No. 1 seeds in Class 4A for their undefeated regular seasons, but ultimately fell short of the state title both years.
The current Lewis-Palmer team has faced similar struggles, making it to back-to-back title games, but settling for second place the last two seasons. Last year the Rangers lost to Longmont 62-59, and to Valor Christian the year before, 68-55.
The 2002 team, seeded tops in Class 4A, made it to the state quarterfinals with a 78-63 win over Niwot in early March for its 24th straight win, which tied the previous program record, according to The Gazette archives.
"It's been our goal all season," said then-junior Bobby Burling in the March 19 issue of The Gazette. "This was definitely our biggest win of the season because it got us back to the Pepsi Center."
The Rangers went on to defeat Evergreen 46-42 for their 25th straight win, but fell in the 2002 state semifinals in a 54-52 loss to Broomfield, according to The Gazette archives.
Burling, Brendan O'Connor, Chris Bohn and Will Stingley were integral in the close quarterfinal win, according to The Gazette archives. Burling went on to play in MLS for the Colorado Rapids. O’Connor went on to coach men’s basketball at Otero Junior College in La Junta, eventually coaching Jonathan Scott, a three-year starter for Lewis-Palmer and older brother of current Ranger Joel Scott.
In 2002-2003 the Rangers returned with another undefeated regular-season campaign and earned the top seed in the 2003 Class 4A playoffs, but were upset by No. 8 Golden in the quarterfinals in a double-overtime loss, 74-66.
All five starters of the 2003 team, Stingley, Burling, O’Connor, Aaron Puckett, Eric Hume and bench players Logan Fellhauer and Alex McGeorge, played together for seven years and were 49-2 through their last two seasons, and 70-7 from 2001-03, according to The Gazette archives.
Similarly the current Rangers are led by a group of nine seniors who have cultivated an expectation of excellence since their freshman year. Lewis-Palmer has gone 95-10 since 2015.
“I think their experience goes a long way,” said current Lewis-Palmer coach Bill Benton. “They don’t get rattled and they don’t ride the roller coaster through the games. But they can’t just be the team that plays hard handles pressure, they also have to use their talent and they do a great job using both their experience and talent every night.”
Lewis-Palmer won the program’s first state championship in 1994 in a 56-39 victory over Sheridan, led by future NBA star Pat Garrity, according to The Gazette archives. The title capped off a 23-2 season.
The Rangers have since won back-to-back state championships in 2012 and '13.