DENVER • Lewis-Palmer boys’ basketball coach Bill Benton thought his team had one more magic moment left in the final seconds of Saturday’s 4A state championship game against No. 5 Longmont at Denver Coliseum.
After trailing by 18 midway through the third quarter, the second-seeded Rangers (25-3) used pressure defense and junior Joel Scott’s offense to manufacture a shot at overtime.
The Rangers inbounded the ball across the court from their bench with 4.8 seconds to play and got the ball into junior Matthew Ragsdale’s hands. Ragsdale hit the game-winning 3-pointer against Widefield a week ago to get the Rangers to Denver, but his off-balance 3 as time expired ended up just long, bouncing off the rim and starting Longmont’s celebration of a 62-59 win.
“I thought he had another shot at it,” Benton said, “maybe we were going overtime.”
Even thinking about overtime seemed like a foolish proposition for much of the game.
Longmont’s left-handed senior guard Luke Johnson got going early, scoring 13 of his 23 points in the first half.
“He broke his guy down to where they had to start dogging him,” Longmont coach Jeff Kloster said. “They made it really hard for him to get the ball, then we had to have the other people step up.”
The Trojans (26-2) led 19-10 after the first quarter and were up 10 in the second before Ragsdale buried a 3-pointer in the final 15 seconds of the first half.
The Trojans started the third on a 14-3 run to go up 41-23 with 3:33 left in the third quarter. To that point, Benton was still looking for his team to play “L-P basketball.”
Longmont led 48-33 to start the final eight minutes.
“About the fourth quarter, we got back to who we are and what we do,” Benton said. “It’s hard to dig yourself out of that hole.”
While the Ranger defense extended its pressure into the Trojan backcourt, Scott began to make his presence known in the paint. He hit two free throws to pull Lewis-Palmer within 13 before 3-pointers from Ethan Forrester, Ragsdale and carter Kreischer brought the Rangers within five midway through the quarter.
That was close enough for Scott, who scored the Rangers’ final nine points. His last bucket - he finished 6 of 10 from the field and 13 of 16 from the free-throw line for 25 points - tied the score at 59 in the final minute.
“Coach Benton kept telling me just to go play and have fun,” Scott said. “That’s what I was trying to do. I tried to do whatever I could to get back into this game.”
Longmont, however, got a 3-pointer from Oakley Dye, the team’s ninth on 17 attempts, to move back in front before Scott was whistled for a charge, a day after the Rangers drew a charge to preserve a semifinal win over Pueblo West. Dye finished with five points.
“We knew on any given night someone was going to step up,” Kloster said. “Everyone played a part, and that’s what makes it that much more special.”
The Rangers were forced to foul and saw Dye miss the front end of a one-and-one with just over 10 seconds left. Lewis-Palmer grabbed the rebound, advanced the ball beyond midcourt and called time to draw up a look to tie.
Ragsdale got the shot, albeit a difficult one, but couldn’t recreate his magic from the previous week as he finished with 13 points.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win. Our last three games have come down to that final possession. It came down to it, and this time, it didn’t fall,” Benton said. “This is a group that has nothing to hang its head on.”