Saturday's game against the Far Northeast Warriors provided everything Longmont coach Jeff Kloster was looking for when he scheduled it — except for a notch in the win column.
For only the second time in the past two seasons Longmont found itself on the wrong end of the scoreboard when the final buzzer sounded as the Trojans fell to the Warriors on the road 61-55.
And while a nonconference loss to a 5A team in January won't mean much in the overall scheme of things for previously unbeaten Longmont, it could pay huge dividends for the Trojans in their pursuit of the 4A championship down the stretch.
"We kind of need games like this to push us," said Longmont senior Justinian Jessup, who finished with a game-high 19 points. "We can learn from this and get better towards the playoffs."
Indeed, it's unlikely that the Trojans (11-1) will face another team as athletic, as physical or one that exerts as much pressure as FNE (10-3) did on Saturday during the remainder of the regular season. And if the loss puts a chip on his players shoulders, Kloster is fine with that.
"We need to get that ticked off feeling from getting a loss and get it out there," said Kloster, whose last loss came in the 4A title game last season. "The cool thing for me is we battled the whole way through. The areas we were deficient in can be fixed, so we need to address them, we need to be honest with ourselves and we have to go do it in practice."
Longmont looked strong out of the gate on Saturday, and held a 17-8 lead after one. But the Trojans picked up several fouls early and that would prove costly down the stretch.
The Warriors worked their way back into the contest with a strong second quarter, but still trailed Longmont 40-33 midway through the third. FNE would close out the third on a 12-4 run, however, taking the lead 45-44 on Sekou Cisse's put-back bucket just before the buzzer.
Second-chance points hurt the Trojans throughout, and Longmont had trouble handling the Warriors press in the fourth. When the Trojans were able to move the ball up the court, they didn't shoot particularly well, although Kevin Mitchell's 3-pointer with just over a minute to go cut the deficit to 56-51.
Jessup picked up his fifth foul just after that and FNE was able to hold them off from there.
"We need more ball games like this so we know how to react in certain situations," Kloster said. "I thought our effort was tremendous. We've got to look at the video and make sure that we play smarter.
"We have great talent, and like I told the kids, everyone makes mistakes. We just have to make sure that everyone is hustling and everyone is playing hard."
Kolton Bachman added 14 for Longmont. Cisse and Russell Wilkerson each scored 15 to lead FNE.
Far Northeast 61, Longmont 55
At Far Northeast
Jessup 7 4-5 19, Speidel 2 0-0 6, Rothe 2 2-4 6, BAchman 7 0-0 14, Mitchell 1 0-0 3, Rulon 2 2-2 7, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Mugunga 0 0-0 0, Riss 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 8-11 55.
Far Northeast (10-3)
Wilkerson 6 3-5 15, Nelson 2 2-3 8, Bar 3 1-2 7, Si. Cisse 0 0-0 0, Ayol 3 3-5 9, Bonds 1 0-0 3, Se. Cisse 6 3-8 15, Tom 2 0-0 4. Totals 23 12-22 61.
Score by quarters:Longmont 17 15 12 11 — 55
3-point field goals — Longmont (5) Speidel 2, Jessup, Mitchell, Rulon; FNE (3) Nelson 2, Bonds. Fouled out — Jessup, Bachman.
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