LONGMONT -- In more than two decades as a coach at Longmont High, Jeff Kloster has experienced just about every twist of fate the sport of basketball has to offer.
One thing that Kloster has never done, however, is throw three freshmen into the fray essentially at the opening tip of the season. That lengthy streak ended Tuesday.
Sporting a new, youthful look, the Trojans were able to record a familiar result in their season opener against Fort Lupton. Longmont, which started two freshmen and had another make an early appearance off the bench, might not have gained many style points, but the revamped Trojans nonetheless received an early jolt of confidence by outlasting Fort Lupton for a 47-34 victory.
"We have great kids -- they're fun to be with in the gym and they're hungry," Kloster said. "We know the learning curve is going to be huge. We've never had a situation where we've had three freshmen on the varsity ever in my 22 years here. We have to make sure that every day we get better as far as understanding how to play at a varsity speed."
The Trojans' freshmen -- starters Justinian Jessup and Kevin Mitchell, as well as reserve Eli Sullivan -- certainly endured their rookie moments, yet overall the group acquitted themselves well in their first varsity game.
After an uneven start, Mitchell, a 6-foot-3 post player, finished with a team-leading 11 points and knocked down three critical free throws late in the fourth quarter. Jessup finished with nine points and helped give the Trojans a 25-19 halftime lead after manufacturing a foul on a desperation shot attempt at the second quarter buzzer.
"I'm kind of feeling my way, but I have my teammates to help me along the way," Mitchell said. "I felt more comfortable after my teammates picked me up on the sideline. I was just trying to play the best I could to help my team get a win. Coach's message was to pick it up on defense and always crash the boards."
That message clearly was received, as the Trojans' erratic offense was set off by a stifling defensive effort. Fort Lupton, a Class 4A playoff entrant last year, went only 12 for 52 from the floor, a mark that included a 2-for-15 effort from 3-point range.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Longmont junior Brett Sterkel early in the second quarter broke an 11-11 tie and gave the Trojans the lead for good. Longmont built an 11-point lead going into the fourth quarter, but the team's youth complicated matters throughout the second half.
After committing just four turnovers in the first half, Longmont committed 14 after the break, allowing Fort Lupton to crawl within six points with about 2 minutes remaining. However, the Trojans scored the game's final seven points to ice the season-opening win.
"I feel like our chemistry is getting better and better each day at practice," said junior Austin Kemp, who scored 10 points. "It's coming along. It's going to take a while to learn all the plays since we have so many young guys, but I think we'll come together."
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Longmont 47, Fort Lupton 34
At Longmont HS
FORT LUPTON (1-1)
Merritt 0 0-0 0, McCutchan 1 0-0 2, Vasquez 3 0-0 7, Nelson 5 4-5 14, Boyd 4 0-0 9, Tijerina 0 0-0 0, Morales 0 0-2 0, Reckard 0 2-2 2. Totals 12 6-9 34.
Sterkel 3 0-0 8, Jessup 2 4-5 9, Kemp 4 2-4 10, Mitchell 4 3-5 11, Johnson 3 1-2 7, Donaldson 0 2-2 2, Sullivan 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 12-18 47.
Score by quarters:
Fort Lupton 8 11 6 9 -- 34
Longmont 11 14 11 11 -- 47
3-point field goals -- Fort Lupton (2): Boyd, Vasquez; Longmont (3): Sterkel 2, Jessup. Total fouls -- Fort Lupton 16, Longmont 14. Fouled out -- Sterkel, Merritt.