Lewis-Palmer boys to face Longmont in 4A basketball title

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DENVER - Two weeks in a row, Lewis-Palmer’s Matthew Ragsdale knocked down an all-important shot with the game on the line.

Two weeks in a row, Lewis-Palmer’s fate in the boys’ Class 4A state tournament has come down to the wire.

Thankfully for the Rangers, those close battles only prepare them for what’s next - in this case - a chance at a state title.

Only No. 5 Longmont stands in their way.

No. 2 Lewis-Palmer will face the Trojans at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Denver Coliseum in the 4A title game. 

Lewis-Palmer coach Bill Benton said Friday’s 56-54 win over Pueblo West, and last week’s three-point victory over Widefield will help keep his relatively inexperienced squad composed on the state’s biggest stage. LP has just two seniors on its roster. 

“There isn’t that sense of worry, or looking around the huddle wondering what’s going to happen,” Benton said. “These guys have the resiliency to be able to bounce back and get it done.”

Joel Scott leads Lewis-Palmer with 19.4 points per game, followed by Matthew Ragsdale, who averages 16.8. Ragsdale has been the Rangers’ hero late in their last two postseason games. Last week he had the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer, and Friday he made a free throw in the waning seconds to give Lewis-Palmer a two-point lead to win it.

“You have to have confidence when times are tough and emotions are high,” Ragsdale said.

But the Rangers will need more than a level head to take down the Trojans, who upset No. 1 Pueblo South on Friday.

Lewis-Palmer’s semifinal appearance featured free-throw shooting trouble in the second half, which gave Pueblo West the opportunity to come back late. But with one game under their belts at the Denver Coliseum, Scott is confident the Rangers’ shooting trouble is behind them.

“Now that we’ve played here and we know what’s going to happen I’m sure our shots will be hitting tomorrow,” Scott said. “But our coach always says we have to play at the same level, even if the shots aren’t falling and that’s what we do. We always play at a high level, and have enough mental toughness to hold it out.”

Longmont senior Luke Johnson is a 5-foot-11 sharp shooter who averages 19.3 points. But Johnson is the only double-figure average scorer for Longmont. He’s accompanied by a trip of seven-point per game shooters, 6-foot-4 sophomore Dallas Dye, and juniors Brady Renck and Beck Page.