BOULDER — There were some around the Shining Mountain boys basketball program that were ready to mail it in after a confounding 22-point loss to Longmont Christian a week before Christmas.
Rest assured, the Lions bandwagon is overflowing now.
Coach Sean Lynch's team hasn't lost since that fateful December day and after Thursday night's 52-35 win over Community Christian, the Lions will head to the Class 1A District 8 title game on Saturday at Northglenn High School winners of 17 straight games.
"I feel like we are in a great spot, but that is just my attitude and my teams attitude," Lynch said. "We feel very confident and we are having a ton of fun. We are also playing the best basketball we have all season."
Shining Mountain (19-2) will meet Rocky Mountain Lutheran at 8 p.m. on Saturday night. The Eagles rallied to stun Longmont Christian in the other semifinal.
When word of that spread through the small gym at Shining Mountain is was met with mixed reviews. Lynch wanted another shot at the Warriors, while the players and fans were ecstatic to face a Rocky Mountain Lutheran team they have already beat by 20 points this season.
"We are in the championship game, so we are pretty happy," said Lynch, whose team will travel to Fort Morgan next Friday and Saturday for the Class 1A Region 2 tournament to earn a state berth. ""We are going to play whoever is in front of us and that has been our mentality throughout the post season."
Said senior Jordan Cherin, who was one of five seniors to play their final game in the Lions gym: "We definitely wanted another shot at Longmont Christian, unfortunately, but kind of fortunately, we get RML."
The Lions, whose seven-man rotation never seems to skip a beat, couldn't have drawn up a better start to Thursday's game against the Crusaders. The hot hand of Luke Feigal, who knocked down three 3-pointers early on and a smothering defense opened the game on a 15-0 run and a 19-4 first quarter.
They didn't let up defensively in the first half and went to the break up 33-11.
"We started to lose a little focus at the end," Cherin said. "But we definitely set the tone at the beginning of the game."
The balance was evident in the Lions offensive output. Feigal led all scorers with 12 points and sixth-man Leo Mason came off the bench and chipped in with 11. Leading scorer Gray Hill and reserve Nathan Fairmont each finished with eight points.
The defensive effort of both Mason and Fairmont was impressive too. The duo accounted for six of Shining Mountain's nine blocks.
"One night it is one player and the next night it is someone else, which is how we operate and that is nice from a coaching perspective because we just share the ball," Lynch said. "If our defense locks in and plays solid team defense, we get out and run, get easy buckets in transition and it's all about momentum.
"We've had several quarters like this, this season where we have really dialed in on defense."
Community Christian (10-11), which will play Longmont Christian at 6 p.m. on Saturday for the right to move on to the regional tournament, was paced by Bryan Bruno's 13 points.
Shining Mountain 52, Community Christian 35
At Shining Mountain
COMMUNITY CHRISTIAN (10-11)
Noah Gustafson 0 0-0 0, Jonny Kupin 0 1-6 1, Josh LaGasse 2 0-0 6, Brandon Morgan 1 0-0 3, Devin Obland 1 0-0 2, Eli Corbin 0 0-0 0, Ben Gonzales 2 1-2 6, Bryan Bruno 5 0-6 13, Joey McClay 2 0-0 4, Mark Roenicke 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 2-14 35.
SHINING MOUNTAIN (19-2)
Hans Moser 0 0-0 0, Gray Hill 2 4-6 8, Luke Feigal 4 1-2 12, Nathan Fairmont 4 0-0 8, Gavin Edwards 2 0-2 4, Leo Mason 4 2-3 11, Jordan Cherin 1 1-3 3, Gopal Zubaedi 3 0-2 6. Totals 20 8-18 52.
Score by quarters:Community Christian 4 7 12 12 — 35
Shining Mountain 19 14 11 8 — 52
3-point field goals — Community Christian (7): Bruno 3, LaGasse 2, Morgan, Gonzales; Shining Mountain (4): Feigal 3, Mason. Total fouls — Community Christian 19; Shining Mountain 18. Fouled out — McClay.