Joel Scott strapped the Lewis-Palmer boys’ basketball team to his back this season and carried the Rangers as far as he could as a junior.
Unfortunately, the trip ended just shy of the dream destination.
For the second straight year, Scott, a 6-foot-6 junior forward, led the Rangers to the state championship game only to come up short. The second trip was much different than the first, however.
As a sophomore, Scott led the Rangers with 14.1 points per game but was surrounded by four senior starters that combined to average 41.4 points per game.
With a new supporting cast, Scott upped his averages to 19.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and increased his assists, steals and blocks to earn Gazette Preps 2017-18 Class 4A/5A Boys Basketball Peak Performer of the Year.
“This year I really had to step up and take control,” Scott said.
He did just that, especially on the biggest stage.
Scott opened the playoff run with 33 points and 18 rebounds - 10 on the offensive end - in a 13-point win over Sierra. A 19-point, six-rebound performance followed in a victory over Palmer Ridge before Scott helped get the Rangers back to Denver with 31 points and nine rebounds in a 70-67 quarterfinal win over Widefield. His 17 points and nine rebounds in a two-point win over Pueblo West led the Rangers to a second consecutive Class 4A title game.
A hot-shooting Longmont team fought off a furious Lewis-Palmer fourth-quarter run to take the title 62-59 in a game Scott went for 25 points - 20 in the second half - and nine rebounds.
Scott scored the Rangers’ final nine points, tying the game at 59 and bringing L-P back from 15 down to start the quarter.
“He’s been great about it, and our guys have been great about (it). They know he can take over a game when he wants to,” Rangers coach Bill Benton said after the championship game. “I think part of why we had the success we had is because he doesn’t try to every time. It’s not a ‘let me go get my average, let me go try and get this.’ He does it within the game.”
Longmont had one last 3-pointer, leaving Scott with an obvious goal for next season.
“It’s been tough losing in the state championship two years in a row, but I think this year we’ll come back very strong,” Scott said. “If we put our minds to it, no one is going to stop us.”
Scott will be joined by classmate Matthew Ragsdale, who established himself as one of the premier shooters in the area as a junior, and scored 16.5 points per game after appearing in just six games as a sophomore.
The Lewis-Palmer standout has plans for coming back even better as a senior. He’ll spend the summer on the AAU circuit with Chauncey Billups Elite and hopes to improve his range and shot off the dribble. He’s already established as a back-to-the-basket scorer and someone who can finishing bruising drives to the hoop.
“It just kinda comes naturally,” said Scott of his abilities on the inside. “That’s why I gotta work on my outside game and make people respect me so it does open up the inside more.”
The hope is a more versatile game can help Scott lead Lewis-Palmer a step further in 2018-19.