COMMERCE CITY — If the same scenario played out 100 times, the Longmont Christian boys basketball team likely would come out victors in 99 of them.
But Thursday's Class 1A District 8 semifinal against Rocky Mountain Lutheran saw momentum fall into an unseen abyss for the visiting Warriors. Even seeing wasn't believing as the Eagles scored the first 18 points of the fourth quarter to completely erase a 51-33 LCS lead and set up RML junior Ilan Gibson's short jumper with 1.5 seconds left in regulation as the game-winning shot in a 56-54 decision at the Community Leadership Academy gym in Commerce City.
Simply put, everything that could go wrong did for coach Myron Huey's team — which fortunately will have a chance to play again Saturday in the third-place game.
"We were playing like we were behind instead of ahead, and you sit over there as a coach and do everything you can, but it still happens," Huey said after the heartbreaking defeat. "We got in a hurry to do things we don't normally do.
"The last play was the only play we were behind the whole game.
Even when RMLHS (17-3) scored the first 10 points of the fourth frame over a span of 3 minutes, 5 seconds it didn't appear the outcome was in question. However, the fact the Warriors (12-9) couldn't get clean passes in the half-court set did feed into the Eagles comeback over the next few minutes of play.
Gibson, who had 21 points including 19 in the second half, converted a traditional 3-point play at 4:37 to make it 51-46, and it stayed that way until Andrew Zemlicka hit a 3-pointer from the wing to make it 51-49 with 3:24 to go.
Gibson tied the game at 51-51 with two free throws, but Longmont Christian regained the lead with a Jackson Solem 8-footer with 2:14 left. The Warriors got a stop and added a point with a Luke Puchino free throw, but Zemlicka nailed another 3-pointer with 1:03 left to tie it back up at 54-54.
Puchino, who had 18 points in a solid performance, had a chance at the line soon after but missed both free throws, and the Eagles killed the clock all the way down for a last-second bucket. Zemlicka had a huge offensive rebound and found Gibson at the baseline for the winner.
Senior exchange student Antun Maricevic had 19 points and 18 rebounds but was shut out in the fourth quarter. Solem added 12 points for the Warriors.
Longmont Christian had nine turnovers in the final frame after committing just nine through three quarters.
"We lost this one by making not just bad passes but passes that we didn't have to make so quickly, and we didn't do a great job of clock management," Huey said. "We didn't get the ball inside in the last quarter. It's a tough lesson and a tough ride home."
Rocky Mountain Lutheran 56, Longmont Christian 51
At Community Leadership Academy
LONGMONT CHRISTIAN (12-9)
Solem 6 0-0 12, Jauregui 1 0-0 2, Hannan 1 1-2 3, Shaefer 0 0-0 0, B. Azar 0 0-0 0, Puchino 6 1-4 18, Maricevic 7 5-5 19. Totals 21 7-11 54.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN LUTHERAN (17-3)
Shade 1 1-2 3, Schlittenhart 0 0-0 0, Hahm 2 3-3 7, Sievert 4 2-2 11, Wiedersberg 0 0-0 0, Zemlicka 5 0-0 14, Gibson 6 9-10 21. Totals 18 15-17 56.
Score by quarters:Longmont Christian 17 17 17 3 — 54
Rocky Mountain Lutheran 8 14 11 23 — 56
3-point field goals — Longmont Christian (5): Puchino 5; RMLHS (5): Zemlicka 4, Sievert.