DENVER — Pressure is nothing new to Oakley Dehning.
As the starting quarterback on the Longmont football team — a position he first held for a short while as a freshman before taking over the role full time to start his sophomore year — Dehning is used to the weight of expectations.
The Trojans football team is one of the most successful programs in Colorado and contending for a state title year-in and year-out is the rule and not the exception. As the quarterback, he is the most high-profile player on a high-profile team.
When Dehning steps on the basketball court for Longmont, however, he's just a role player and he's fine with that.
But when Dehning found himself with the ball with time running down and the Class 4A state championship on the line, he didn't hesitate.
Dehning drained a 3-pointer from the right wing with 25 seconds left that proved to be the game-winner as the Trojans (26-2) pulled out a thrilling 62-59 victory over Lewis-Palmer Saturday afternoon at the Denver Coliseum.
"I'm a role player on this team and I just filled my role, which just happened to be to shoot that shot," said Dehning, who had missed his two previous 3-point attempts in the game. "I'm just happy it went in."
Dehning's shot came amid a frantic comeback by the Rangers (25-3), which started the fourth quarter down by 15 but forged a tie on Joel Scott's layup with 40 seconds left as part of a 26-11 run.
Lewis-Palmer had all the momentum and Longmont was visibly shaken. As the more aggressive team, the Rangers were getting the lions share of the calls and the Trojans had went ice cold from beyond the arc. And Scott, the younger brother of former University of Colorado star Josh Scott, had taken over.
After Joel Scott's layup that evened things at 59-59, Lewis-Palmer put on a full court press. Longmont worked the ball to Brady Renck, who crossed halfcourt and drove the lane before kicking it out to a wide-open Dehning, who didn't hesitate before drilling the shot that delivered the Trojans their first state basketball title since 1942.
"You can't think about the repercussions of making it or missing it. You just have to be in the moment. That's the mind-set you have to have," said Dehning, who finished with five points.
"The pass was on the money, there was no one around. I knew I had to take that shot and I knew I was going to take that shot. And I'm happy it went in."
Dehning said his time under center in football did help him prepare for his big moment in basketball. As a freshman, he was called into emergency action when the senior starting QB went down with an injury on an undefeated squad with designs on a state title of its own. He led the team to a last-second win that first game, and then two more victories before being sidelined by an injury of his own.
Dehning became the full-time starter as a sophomore, leading the Trojans back to the playoffs and then had a breakout year this past fall, throwing for 1,668 yards and 17 TDs as Longmont football made the semifinals for the second time in three seasons.
"I'm a junior now so I've been through a couple of big moments in my sports career," Dehning said.
"I've definitely faced pressure before and, as a freshman it used to get to me lot more than it does now. I think (being quarterback) helps staying in the moment here."
John Rosa: 303-473-1315, email@example.com