MONUMENT - “This is our town,” the chant rang out through the Palmer Ridge gymnasium as the home team celebrated and The Battle for Monument concluded.
The Bears upset crosstown rival Lewis-Palmer 50-41 in front of two rowdy student sections Wednesday at Palmer Ridge. It’s the second consecutive loss for the Rangers and the second loss for the team all year after Lewis-Palmer began the season 13-0.
“It’s like going to Disneyland," Palmer Ridge senior Nathan Kugler said. "This is the first time I’ve ever beaten them. It’s just an amazing feeling; I love it.”
The Bears relied on takeaways on defense and creating opportunities for easy layups or free throws by driving hard to the basket on offense.
The 41 points Lewis-Palmer scored is the team’s lowest of the season. It’s quite a feat considering the Rangers averaged 68 points a game headed into the contest.
Palmer Ridge got things rolling early thanks to a few 3-pointers from senior Maccee Reed. The Rangers tried to respond, driving to the basket and kicking out to a guard on the perimeter for the open 3-pointer but Lewis-Palmer couldn’t knock down shots early.
Defensively the Rangers started off well but their inability to get buckets at the other end of the floor led to Palmer Ridge holding a comfortable lead. It was 24-14 Bears at the half.
Kugler said that the Bears wanted to use the Rangers’ tight defense against them.
“My mentality was just get to the hole just try to get them to foul me because they play really tight defense, really good defense,” Kugler said. “But we knew that they pressured us so much that if we spread them out, we could get to the lane a little bit and maybe get some easy layups, some easy free throws.”
Lewis-Palmer got a few 3-pointers to fall in the second half but Kugler and the Bears held them at bay. Every time the Rangers would cut the lead down to six or seven, Palmer Ridge responded. Kugler and senior Kyle Cordova would often drive to the hoop and find an open player down low for an easy bucket or draw a foul.
The Rangers got into foul trouble and the Bears were in the bonus early in the fourth quarter. Between fouls, long offensive possessions and takeaways on defense, Palmer Ridge stymied Lewis-Palmer’s comeback bid.
The end result was a sea of Palmer Ridge students storming the court after handshakes.
“It’s just great for our school,” Bears coach Nick Mayer said. “They are the standard in 4A and they have been for many, many years. We’re just trying to catch up to them and emulate them. This group of guys we have, they’re committed and they’re a very tight-knit group that believed that they could do it and they did it.”