David Ramsey: Lewis-Palmer, a true team, demolishes Sierra in 4A basketball playoffs

0
Photo - Lewis-Palmer sophomore Joel Scott (5) takes a shot against Sierra senior Dondre Savage (30) and junior Derrian Reed (11) in the third quarter. The Lewis-Palmer Rangers hosted the Sierra Stallions in the third round of 4A boys state basketball playoffs on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at Lewis-Palmer High School. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing
Lewis-Palmer sophomore Joel Scott (5) takes a shot against Sierra senior Dondre Savage (30) and junior Derrian Reed (11) in the third quarter. The Lewis-Palmer Rangers hosted the Sierra Stallions in the third round of 4A boys state basketball playoffs on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at Lewis-Palmer High School. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing

MONUMENT - Lewis-Palmer's basketball team is a rarity.

It's truly a team. There's no dominant star. There's a wealth of chemistry. There's virtually no ego. The Rangers hum along with five players cooperating, hustling...

And winning.

No doubt, the team approach is working. L-P's Rangers thumped Sierra, 55-45, in the boys' round of 16 in the 4A playoffs. The score is deceptive. The Rangers, a No. 6 seed, jumped to a 14-5 lead in the first quarter and led 46-27 at the end of the third quarter.

Sierra, seeded No. 11, never had a chance after the first five minutes.

In December, the Rangers were 4-4 and looked to be on a journey to nowhere special. L-P had lost five starters and lacked an offensive leader.

At the time, they were the fourth or fifth best team in Colorado Springs. Climbing to the top of the state looked impossible.

Coach Bill Benton wasn't worried. He sensed this team would blend into a mighty unit. The team was filled with bench-sitters from last season, but Benton had seen their generosity and fire in practice.

"That's what's nice about these guys," Benton said. "They just play with each other."

His no-worry approach was the right one. The Rangers (21-4) are on a 17-game winning streak. They will travel to D'Evelyn for Saturday's quarterfinals.

Sierra had been rolling, too, led by senior C.J. Jennings. The Stallions arrived at L-P's gym on their own roll after winning 17 of 19 games.

But the Stallions struggled mightily to solve L-P's stifling defense, especially in the first half. Jennings finished with 23 points, but managed only seven in the first 16 minutes. By the time he warmed up, the Rangers were out of sight.

The Rangers had battled against star power all season, taking on Sand Creek's D'shawn Schwartz and Vista Ridge's Hunter Maldonado. They usually won those battles, which is no surprise. Five guys can always beat one guy.

The balance worked again on Wednesday. Joel Scott, boosted by a dominating first half, led L-P with 23 points, followed by Angelo Battistelli's 15 and Billy Cook's 11.

"I'm not surprised we are where we're at," Benton said a few minutes after the victory. "I'm a little surprised by our record. If you would have told me we would win 16 straight games, I'd be a little shocked by that. I'm not shocked this team is in the elite eight."

D'Evelyn defeated Sand Creek in a thriller Wednesday night, preventing a Sand Creek at Lewis-Palmer battle on Saturday. The victory also means Lewis-Palmer must take a bus ride to Denver.

Benton shrugged when asked about losing a home game.

"This team has played really well on the road," he said.

This team has played really well everywhere.