LONGMONT -- Justinian Jessup may be a freshman for the Longmont boys basketball team. But Trojans head coach Jeff Kloster has given Jessup the opportunity to score.
The option is there for Jessup to be aggressive with the ball and with his offense. In the first half of a lop-sided Northern Conference win over cross-town rival Silver Creek on Tuesday, Jessup took it.
The freshman guard found his zone in the first half, sparking the Trojans with several step-back jump shots and making plays for his teammates. He finished with 14 points to help guide the Trojans to a 65-34 win in a packed gym on the road at Silver Creek High.
"We came out with great intensity. We played great team defense, we got out in transition and got lots of lay-ups," Jessup said. "I was more aggressive tonight and my teammates found me. But what matters most is that we won."
Averaging 21.7 points over the last three games, Trojans junior Austin Kemp continued his white-hot offensive trend to the tune of 27 points.
Jessup said the Trojans have found their fire since a disappointing loss to Thompson Valley on Jan. 25. Since that game, during which the Trojans (11-4, 4-3) were outscored 10-2 in the first quarter, they have outscored their opponents in the first quarter by a combined 35-7 in wins over cross-town rivals Mead and Silver Creek.
"We've had two really good games against cross-town rivals so that's a big jump for us," Jessup said. "We're building on momentum and every night we come out with more energy."
After building a 19-3 lead after the first quarter and pushing it to a 36-8 lead by halftime, Trojans head coach Jeff Kloster worried his players might relax and trade momentum for complacency.
The Raptors scored better in the second half, partially because Kloster gave all 14 of his players desirable court time against a cross-town rival. But the Trojans kept up the defensive intensity to satisfying levels for the 300-plus win coach.
"I thought everything started at the defensive end," Kloster said. "When you hold a team to eight points in the first half, that's terrific. What can you say? You just tip your hat to the kids in your program. It started out from the get-go and it continued all the way through."
The Trojans defense held Raptors senior forward Luke Goforth, who was averaging 20 points in his last two games, to four on Tuesday. Senior Brock Johnson and freshman Kolton Bachman each score seven points to lead the Raptors.
The Raptors (9-7, 3-4) have now lost four of their last five games. Head coach Bob Banning said the up-and-down nature they have struggled with all season was magnified in the packed gym of a cross-town rivalry on Tuesday night, especially after they fell behind early.
"It was kind of a snowball effect," Banning said. "Early on we missed some shots and some free throws that, if they'd have went in you can't say that it would have been a different game, but it would have made a difference as far as getting off on the right foot."
Senior guard Trey Fleming, who leads the Raptors with 11.6 points per game, did not play due to what Banning termed an administrative decision.
Starting the second round of Northern Conference play, the Trojans face the Greeley Central Wildcats, who beat them 61-49 on Jan. 8 on Friday. Also on Friday, the Raptors play Centaurus.
The Trojans and Raptors will face each other again in both teams' regular-season finales on Feb. 22 at Longmont High School. The Trojans swept the Raptors last season.
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Longmont 65, Silver Creek 34
At Silver Creek HS
LONGMONT (11-4, 4-3)
Alaniz 1 0-0 2, Sterkel 1 1-2 4, Jessup 5 0-0 12, Donaldson 1 4-4 6, Rothe 0 0-0 0, Kemp 13 1-3 27, Sullivan 0 2-4 2, O'Grady 1 0-2 2, Speidel 2 0-1 5, Mitchell 0 2-4 2, Johnson 0 1-4 1, Wilkey 0 0-2 0, Burns 0 2-2 2, Sigg 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 13-28 65.
SILVER CREEK (9-7, 3-4)
Lindsey 1 2-4 4, Machmuller 0 0-0 0, Johnson 1 5-6 7, Grine 0 2-2 2, Goforth 2 0-1 4, Engles 0 0-0 0, Wright 0 4-8 4, Sjobakken 1 0-0 3, White 1 1-3 3, Tarin 0 0-0 0, Bachman 3 0-1 7. Totals 9 14-25 34.
Score by quarters:
Longmont 19 17 11 18 -- 65
Silver Creek 3 5 9 17 -- 34
3-point field goals -- Longmont (4): Jessup 2, Sterkel, Speidel; Silver Creek (2): Bachman, Sjobakken. Total fouls -- Longmont 24, Silver Creek 23. Fouled out -- None. Technical fouls -- None.