Lewis-Palmer, a team without stars and five new starters.
It didn't sound much like the promise of hardware, let alone a deep postseason run. But the Rangers (23-5) used "team ball" and rode a 19-game winning streak all the way to the 4A finals.
"If you would have told me we were playing for a state championship I would not have been shocked," said Lewis-Palmer coach Bill Benton, The Gazette Boys' Basketball 5A-4A Coach of the Year. "If you would have told me we were riding a 19-game win streak to do that, that's where it was a little bit of a surprise."
The Rangers were forced to learn their tough lessons through wins, not losses, and split the Pikes Peak Athletic Conference title with Vista Ridge. They were the No. 6 seed en route to their seventh semifinals in nine years, and were one win short of their first basketball title since 2013.
Benton said his players separated themselves not by their desire to win, but by their hatred of losing.
"You're motivated if you hate to lose," Benton said. "Everybody wants to win, but when it gets hard you go, 'eh, it's not worth it.' But if you hate to lose you will push past it, and man, you just aren't going to. This was a group of 13 guys that we had this year that hated to lose, loved competing and loved playing for and with each other."
Benton will lose six seniors and four starters for next season. He credits his assistant coaches for, year in and year out, helping L-P groom players to fill the void.
"I have the same approach for next year as well," Benton said. "We're going to reload and not rebuild."