Lewis-Palmer boys advance to state basketball semifinals after Matthew Ragsdale's last-second shot

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Photo - Lewis Palmer junior Matthew Ragsdale, center, is swarmed by his teammates who rub his head for good luck as they celebrated his game winning three point buzzer beater in the round of eight of the 2018 4A CHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships on Saturday March 3, 2018 in Monument. Lewis Palmer advanced with a 70-67 victory to the round of four held at the Denver Coliseum on March 9. (Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette).

Lewis Palmer junior Matthew Ragsdale, center, is swarmed by his teammates who rub his head for good luck as they celebrated his game winning three point buzzer beater in the round of eight of the 2018 4A CHSAA Boys Basketball State Championships on Saturday March 3, 2018 in Monument. Lewis Palmer advanced with a 70-67 victory to the round of four held at the Denver Coliseum on March 9. (Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette).

MONUMENT - Matthew Ragsdale doesn’t need anything else for his birthday.

A game-winning buzzer-beater to send Lewis-Palmer to the Class 4A semifinals was enough.

With four seconds left in regulation of the boys’ state quarterfinal game against No. 10 Widefield, Ragsdale and his Rangers were looking at overtime with the game tied at 67.

Ethan Forrester inbounded the ball to Ragsdale, who made his way down the far side of the gym, pausing for a 3-pointer with less than a second left on the clock.

Swish.

Lewis-Palmer fans stormed the court as the Rangers locked in an appearance in the state semifinals with a 70-67 win over Widefield.

Lewis-Palmer will face No. 6 Pueblo West on Friday at the Denver Coliseum.

“We wanted to get the ball in Matthew’s hands,” Lewis-Palmer coach Bill Benton said. “He’s by far the most consistent shooter for us, and we had our other shooter Salim (Nehme) over on the other wing. We knew at the very worst we were going into overtime, so I told them, go until they stop you, and shoot.”

And he did.

So far in his junior season Ragsdale averages 16.7 points and shoots 56 percent from the field. Saturday he had 19 points.

“We knew we had to stay calm and composed there,” Ragsdale said. “When Widefield came back to tie it emotions were high but we kept it at one level, and executed that play perfectly.”

Lewis-Palmer is no stranger to overtime in the playoffs. In last year's quarterfinal game, the Rangers went into double overtime against D'Evelyn.

"For some reason these games always come down to overtime, double overtime, buzzer beaters, but there's a reality to that, that these are eight very good teams that are left, and it should come down to that," Benton said. "But to do it in front of these (fans), we had a great atmosphere tonight, and you couldn't ask for a better night."

The Gladiators were down by six with 1:59 left on the clock in the fourth quarter, but Tre Pierre, who had just two points in the first half, scored six points - two free throws, and two heavily contested layups - to tie the game with four seconds remaining.

Widefield trailed by as many as eight points with less than five minutes to go, but the Gladiators were not about to send coach Mark Munoz, who announced his retirement after 21 years of coaching at Widefield, without a fight.

“Well to be honest with you, we wanted a practice on Monday,” Munoz said. “That was probably the biggest thing that got us back up.”

The Gladiators entered the round of eight on a 15-game winning streak, despite what some called a sluggish start in league play.

“We didn’t pay attention to the seeds, or records this year,” Munoz said. “At one point we were 1-2 in league and people were doubting us and I’m proud of our guys for staying with it and believing.”

Pierre scored 22 points in the second half alone, and finished with a team-high 24. TJ Davis scored 19 for Widefield.

Lewis-Palmer was led by Joel Scott with 31 points, including a 9-for-10 performance from the line.

The Gladiators finished 21-5 and claimed the 4A Colorado Springs Metro league title in Munoz’s last year at the helm. And although tears were flowing as the players exited the locker room, Saturday, Munoz hopes this season will be one they will remember.

“It’s about these kids, it’s not about me,” Munoz said. “I’m very proud of them as young men on the floor and off the floor. I told them in the locker room, the sun is going to come up tomorrow and hopefully after this hurt stops you can look back on this season and it will be a positive experience.”