LONGMONT — After watching his first two shots go down on Saturday night, Mead senior Alex Sandstrom recognized an opportunity to have a big game against cross-town rival Longmont.
Utilizing his perimeter skills and 6-foot-7 frame, Sandstrom took advantage of his hot hand and height mismatches against the undersized Trojans to score a game-high 28 points. His outstanding production on the Mavericks' home court led Sandstrom and his teammates to a 60-52 win over the Trojans.
It was the first time the Mavericks had beaten the Trojans in six meetings of what has developed into a highly-competitive Longmont-area rivalry between two of Colorado's best prep programs.
"I was feeling it, yeah," Sandstrom said. "I had a height advantage so I was just trying to get the ball down low. If I could score, I'd score, if not, I dish it back out. That's how I tried to play and that's kind of what won the game."
The Trojans (6-4, 3-0 Northern) had a three-point lead after the first quarter of the non-conference affair and at one point in the second quarter, Sandstrom (14.5 ppg) scored four straight Mead baskets to give the lead back to the Mavericks (11-2, 4-0 Tri-Valley), who were up 29-28 at halftime. Neither team led by more than four points in the middle quarters.
A 3-pointer by Longmont junior guard Luke Johnson (17.8 ppg), who led his team with 18 points, gave the Trojans a three-point lead midway through the third quarter but the Mavericks again led by one, 41-40, to start the fourth. Back-to-back steals led to a six-point Mavericks lead with 5:20 left in the game, which stood as the largest lead of the game for either team until free throws but the Mavericks up eight in the final 30 seconds.
"The 3-pointer just wasn't there tonight so we decided to go inside," Sandstrom said. "That worked. In the first half, we were eight for 10 inside so we only shot three threes in the second half. We just got the ball inside and everyone got their touches, made the plays and got good shots."
Leading scorer Michael Ward (20.8 ppg) scored 10 points for the Mavericks, who have not lost to a team outside the CHSAANow.com top 10 this season and are themselves currently ranked fifth in Class 4A. Despite graduating every single starter following last year's state Final Four appearance, the Trojans are still playing above-.500 ball and saw a three-game win streak snapped with Saturday's loss.
"I'm proud of my kids because they worked extremely hard and a game like this shows great character in both teams," Trojans head coach Jeff Kloster said. "Both teams, they wanted the game, there's no doubt about it. They had the height advantage and got some offensive rebounds to extend possessions and it came down to the end of the game when we lost some possessions. We kept ourselves in a position where we had an opportunity to win. We'll learn from it and become better."
Longmont will have a tough Northern League game against Silver Creek (8-1, 2-1 Northern) on Tuesday at home. Mead will return to Tri-Valley League play at Windsor (4-8, 2-1 Tri-Valle) on Tuesday.
Mead 60, Longmont 52
At Mead H.S.
Johnson 6 4-4 18, Mugunga 3 2-2 8, Dye 0 0-0 0, Dehning 3 1-1 7, Dion 2 1-4 5, Page 3 0-0 8, Thompson 2 2-2 6, Fixmer 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 10-13 52.
Cheung 1 1-2 3, Kastratovic 0 0-0 0, Brin 0 0-0 0, Ward 3 5-6 12, Lee 0 0-0 0, Edwards 1 2-3 4, Sandstrom 11 3-3 28, Rice 2 0-0 5, Cloke 3 1-2 8. Totals 21 12-16 60.
Score by quarters:Longmont 18 10 12 12 — 52
Mead 15 14 12 19 — 60
3-point field goals — Longmont (4): Johnson 2, Page 2; Mead (6): Sandstrom 3, Rice, Cloke, Ward. Total fouls — Longmont 12, Mead 14.