DENVER — Playing a regular-season game on the floor at the Pepsi Center was a pleasure shared by all who suited up for the Longmont boys basketball team on Tuesday.
With the coaches running a nearly even rotation throughout a 78-33 rout of Weld Central, the Trojans bench players got a unique opportunity to dictate the pace of the game. Not only that, but they got to do so on the same floor where the Denver Nuggets play their home games.
Trojans senior guard Ryan Rulon in particular made the most of his opportunity, finishing 4-for-7 from behind the arc to score 14 points off the bench in the NBA arena.
"We all wanted to enjoy the experience but we also wanted to get the win," Rulon said. "We got the win and we had a great time here. I've been to a couple Nuggets games but I've never been on the court. Once we started, we were just focused on what we were supposed to do. I didn't really notice it until I sat down on the bench and looked up and realized how high everything goes."
The bright lights, message boards and openness of the Pepsi Center didn't bother Rulon in his first experience playing on a professional court. It didn't seem bother the other Trojans, either.
Senior Kolton Bachman led Longmont with 17 points and senior Boise State-commit Justinian Jessup scored 14. Four other Trojans scored five or more points while the collective defense held the Rebels to one point in the first quarter and amassed 18 steals in the game.
"We had 10 strong today and our bench play was about as good as the starters so it was a good win," Rulon said.
The Trojans led 39-9 at halftime and continued to pull away, largely thanks to 34 total points from the team's five non-starters. If the Trojans intend to make another run like they did last year, head coach Jeff Kloster knows it will take a productive bench to make it happen.
"We tried to even out the play time as much as we possibly could and pretty much platooned today," Kloster said. "I thought we initiated the set on the defensive end and did a good job of making things tough offensively for them and that gave us run-outs. We ran our sets efficiently, we moved the ball and everyone was rewarded for their good effort."
Two of the run-outs Kloster mentioned ended with Jessup dunking the ball at the other end, including a one-handed finish on a lob pass in the second quarter. After opening the season with a 52-46 win over Mead (1-1) and following it up with Tuesday's rout, the Trojans will host Frederick (1-2) on Thursday.
Longmont 78, Weld Central 33
At Pepsi Center
Eli Sullivan 3 2-2 8, Kole Earhart 2 1-1 6, Luke Johnson 3 1-1 7, Justinian Jessup 7 0-0 14, David Speidel 0 0-0 0, Cooper Rothe 2 1-1 5, Kolton Bachman 7 3-5 17, Ryan Rulon 5 0-0 14, Tol Mugunga 1 1-1 3, Joe Riss 1 2-5 4. Totals 31 11-16 78.
WELD CENTRAL (0-3)
Bryan Gudka 0 0-0 0, Sergio Gonzales 1 0-0 3, Jayden Rivera 0 0-0 0, Ben Lindstrom 1 0-0 3, Alex Ries 2 1-2 6, Gary Rodriguez 0 0-0 0, Enrique Millan 1 0-0 2, Reece Mettler 5 0-0 12, Brandon Fulton 2 2-2 6, Kaleb Streit 0 1-2 1. Totals 12 4-6 33.
Score by quarters:Longmont (2-0) 16 23 26 13 — 78
Weld Central (0-3) 1 8 10 14 — 33
3-point field goals — Longmont (5): Rulon 4, Earhart; Weld Central (5): Mettler 2, Gonzales, Lindstrom, Ries. Total fouls — Longmont 5, Weld Central 11.