Prep Notebook: L-P, TCA and AA hoops on the rise, Canon City wrestling finding late-season confidence

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Lewis-Palmer has enjoyed a long-winning tradition in boys’ hoops, but its defeats have often played an important role, too.

It wasn’t long ago when the Rangers found themselves in a brief, but strange, losing spell.  

Following last year’s state finals loss, L-P – and its new-look roster – didn’t lose until its 13-point loss to Liberty on Jan. 20, abruptly ending a 13-game winning streak. Prior to that, the Rangers had won by double digits in all but two games -- a 57-54 win over Mead on Dec. 1 and a 58-49 victory against Discovery Canyon on Jan. 17.

The slide continued four days later – this time in an offensively deficient nine-point loss to Palmer Ridge, which snapped L-P’s four-year winning streak over the Monument rival.

The Rangers, looking to get back on track,  used the stumble to refocus their season.

“I’m not sure if you ever want to lose, but this group has done a very good job of having success and learning through (the losses),” said L-P coach Bill Benton, whose team has won four straight. “It is sometimes easier to learn from your mistakes, so I guess that’s how we approached it – let’s learn from this, let’s get better, and if we do that, we’ll be a better team because of it.”

In wins over Sand Creek, Erie, Vista Ridge and Falcon over the last two weeks, L-P has a winning margin of 28 ½ points. The Rangers are ranked first in 4A RPI.

Canon City wrestling's frustrations in tight matches has a new narrative

Zeon Ortega helped put to rest the team’s early-season struggles in close matches, beating TCA’s Brendan Johnston in the 106 finals, and the Tigers won their third straight 4A Metro League title on the strength of six individual champions Saturday.

“I felt like we really pulled out some close matches on Saturday,” Canon City coach Duff Seaney said. “I really saw a change in how we’re handling the end of the match.”

Mesa Ridge finished second with four individual titles.

Regionals for both the Grizzlies and Tigers begin Friday

The Grizzlies, who won the Colorado Springs Metro Wrestling Championships two weeks ago, will take part in 4A Region 4 at Golden High School. The Tigers are in 4A Region 3 at Northridge High School.

“I’m thinking we should have a good feeling going into regionals,” Seaney said. “Hopefully our confidence is up and right now we’re pretty healthy. If we can just stay healthy for another couple of weeks, it should be a good end of the season for us.”

Kadet girls looking for another run

For a second straight year, Air Academy appears to be headed for one of the top four spots in the girls’ basketball state playoffs.

Just don’t expect the Kadets -- winners of 15 straight – to focus too much on it.

“We’re trying not to keep track (of our win streak),” Air Academy coach Phil Roiko said. “We just try to play it one game at a time, a one-game season.”

Last year, Air Academy won 17 straight before ending the year with losses in three of its final five games, including a 42-35 loss to Rifle in the round of 16.

The Kadets will try to avoid a similar late-season funk as they conclude an eight-game road trip Wednesday at Vista Ridge before playing their final three games of the regular season at home.  

“The one thing that this group probably has over groups we’ve had in the past is they’re a pretty composed group,” Roiko said. “We’ve been down a couple times in some games, but they’ve been composed and poised.”

Air Academy is ranked second in 4A RPI.

Titans' Belcher continues to tear through record book 

The Classical Academy boys' basketball team seems to be resetting school records by the week.

TCA - which has long surpassed its most 4A CSML wins in its fourth year in the league - rang in another record Wednesday

In a 67-52 win over Canon City, Jared Belcher scored 39 points for the most points by a boys’ player in school history. Belcher surpassed Erik Cilek, who held the record with 36 points in an 82-63 win over Rye on Dec. 3, 2016. 

This season, the senior guard also claimed the school’s most career points and most 3-pointers made in a career, per TCA coach Kevin Wenger.

“It’s been fun,” Wenger said. “It’s been a fun season already, and we’ve been talking to the boys to not be satisfied and keep fighting.”

The Titans are winners of nine of 10.

Discovery Canyon wrestlers rest up

Many teams wrestled over the weekend in preparation for regionals. Discovery Canyon chose to rest.

The Thunder will not take part in a dual or tournament in the two weeks leading up to regionals, a strategy the program has long prescribed.

“We purposely take some time off to heal the bumps and bruises and the booboos,” Discovery Canyon coach Marques Bravo said. “It’s a long season and we have a pretty tough schedule with tournaments like Northern Colorado, Arvada West and Metros. We try to take a little bit of time off to heal up, and get ready mentally and physically for a tough regional.”

Discovery Canyon is in 4A Region 4.

Davis hits 1,000 for Gladiators

Widefield senior TJ Davis eclipsed 1,000 points with 18 in a win over Elizabeth Friday. He now has 1,015 points in his career.