LONGMONT — The Longmont boys basketball team had reached the Sweet 16 or further in six of the past eight seasons, but this year's team didn't enter with Final Four experience or a Division-I player it could lean on.
Perhaps because they were being compared to their predecessors, and perhaps because they went 13-12 last winter, this year's Trojans entered the season ninth in the CHSAANow.com poll and were not awarded the same statewide recognition the program usually receives. So this year's group set out to prove that it's never wise to write off the Trojans, and that it could be as good as the many talented teams that came before it.
On Wednesday night in the Longmont High gym, the Trojans won 59-56 over Windsor in the Class 4A Sweet 16. Though the most experienced of them first cut their teeth as varsity starters just last season, this year's Trojans have taken Longmont back to the Great 8.
"We kind of expected it but maybe people doubted us a little bit," Trojans senior Luke Johnson said. "Now we're here and we're ready to prove ourselves. We're not done yet. I think, firmly, we're the best team in Colorado. We've just got to go out and show it every night."
Whether or not they cared that the fifth-seeded Trojans (23-2) viewed the Sweet 16 as a benchmark to prove their quality, the visiting 12th-seeded Wizards (18-7) made sure it was a tough challenge by battling their hosts for 32 minutes.
The Wizards jumped out to an early 11-5 lead on the Trojans and junior guard Brennon Seyboldt hit a running 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer to put the Wizards up 18-12 to start the second. The Trojans closed the gap in the second quarter but the Wizards still led 30-29 at halftime.
Then Johnson took over the game.
Scoring 15 of his game-high 27 points in the third quarter, Johnson (18.9 ppg) willed the Trojans into the lead. He shot 10 for 18 from the field and made five of his seven 3-point attempts in the game.
"I knew I had to kind of take it over and I just didn't want it to end for us," Johnson said. "I think our defense was also much better in the second half."
Windsor hit another last-second shot to end the third quarter and cut the Longmont lead to two points to begin the fourth. The Trojans opened the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run and led by as many as nine points in the final frame.
With the game still close down the stretch, junior Calvin Seamons hit two free throws to put the Trojans up six with 1 minute, 13 seconds left in the game. Windsor got two points back at the free-throw line and after a Trojans missed free throw, missed a free-throw attempt of their own at the other end. Longmont's Jaydon Elkins was fouled after rebounding the miss and made one of two free throws at the other end to put the Trojans up five with under 20 seconds to play. Brady Renck added another free throw that made a late 3-pointer from Windsor 's leading scorer Kirk Relford (18.0 ppg) less of a threat. The Trojans inbounded the ball with 0.3 on the clock after Relford's long ball and the game was over.
"They made a run there in the fourth but our defense came up big," Elkins said. "We shoot 40-45 free throws at practice and we still both went 1 for 2. But it was a enough to pull out the win so we got it done."
The Trojans will play No. 4 Falcon in the Great 8 on Saturday.
Longmont 59, Windsor 56
At Longmont H.S.
Relford 9 3-4 24, P. Greene 0 0-0 0, Rasmuson 0 0-0 0, Scoggin 0 0-0 0, Seyboldt 2 0-0 5, K. Greene 0 0-0 0, L. McGinnis 2 0-0 5, Schumacher 0 0-0 0, Huntsman 2 0-0 6, Hageman 0 0-0 0, Peterson 2 0-0 4, T. McGinnis 4 3-4 12. Totals 21 6-8 56.
Johnson 10 2-3 27, Renck 4 1-2 11, Elkins 2 1-3 5, Dye 3 1-2 7, Dehning 1 0-0 2, Dion 0 0-0 0, Page 1 0-0 3, Seamons 0 4-4 4. Totals 21 9-14 59.
Score by quarters:Windsor 18121412—56
3-point field goals — Windsor (8): Relford 3, Huntsman 2, T. McGinnis, L. McGinnis, Seyboldt; Longmont (8): Johnson 5, Renck 2, Page. Total fouls — Windsor 15, Longmont 11. Fouled out — Rasmuson.