DENVER — Saturday evening's Class 4A boys basketball state championship game was billed as a clash between two powerhouses that have spent the past calendar year on a collision course toward one another.
Like royal siblings warring over a birthright, Longmont and Lewis-Palmer both rose unbeaten to the top of the 4A classification and threw everything they had at everyone while prep basketball fans watched from above in the Denver Coliseum stands, as well as from all corners of Colorado. In the rematch of last year's state title game, it was No. 1 seed Lewis-Palmer that finally avenged last winter's upset by claiming a 57-52 victory and its first title since 2013 on Saturday.
The Rangers rejoiced at finally securing a championship in their third attempt in as many years. For the No. 2-seeded Trojans, falling a handful of moments short of back-to-back titles meant the end of an era in which an uncommonly altruistic group of Trojans exceeded expectations by winning even one.
"The past two years have been an incredible ride," Longmont senior Calvin Seamons said. "It's been nothing but everybody playing for each other. The culture in this Longmont Trojans program, coach Jeff Kloster sets it and we all just bought in and followed it. Nobody was selfish. We all just played for each other. That was the beauty of playing here and why we all have just loved it so much."
Both Longmont and Lewis-Palmer returned the bulk of their starting lineups from last season to this one. But as dominant as the Longmont boys basketball team proved to be throughout its title defense this winter, no team was as dominant in 2018-19 as Lewis-Palmer.
In recent years, both programs have been fixtures on the final day of the season. The Rangers (28-0) have played in the past three 4A championship games and the Trojans (27-1) have appeared in three of the past five. Further solidifying their shared reign atop Class 4A, the Trojans have won 52 of their last 54 games while the Rangers have won 40 of their last 41 games, which includes last winter's title-game loss to Longmont. Through this season's first 27 games leading up Saturday's title game, Longmont outscored its opponents by an average margin of 26.6 points and Lewis-Palmer was even more dominant, posting a 27.6-point average margin of victory.
"It's pretty awesome, they are a heckuva team," Lewis-Palmer senior Joel Scott said of the teams' rivalry. "We haven't played anyone like them. They are strong and physical and they play hard. It's so much fun to go out there and compete. We didn't want a blowout, so we just came out and played hard and have fun."
Both teams exchanged runs in the first half, with Lewis-Palmer pulling ahead with an 11-0 run in the first quarter and leading 13-7 to start the second frame. The Rangers led by as many as nine, 19-10, in the second quarter but the Trojans finished the first half on a 13-4 run and the game was tied 23-23 at the break.
Opening the second half with six unanswered points, the Trojans pushed their mid-game run to 19-4. But with Longmont ahead 31-25, a Lewis-Palmer steal with 4 minutes, 15 seconds remaining in the third quarter led to a dunk at the other end from Scott (18.7 ppg) that sparked a Rangers run that tied the game 31-31 with 3:22 left in the third. After taking the lead with a Matthew Ragsdale 3-pointer on their next possession, the Rangers led by one point, 36-35, to start the fourth quarter.
The Trojans stayed within striking distance with big 3-pointers from Seamons (13.1 ppg) and senior Beck Page (14.3 ppg). Page's second 3-pointer in the final three minutes cut the Rangers' lead to 54-52 with 17.6 seconds left in the game. Lewis-Palmer, however, shot 3-for-4 at the free throw line down the stretch to seal the win.
"When they were up at the end, we did whatever we could to come back," Page said. "We scrambled really well on defense, got some good steals, some good rebounds, things like that. Calvin hit a big shot, I hit a couple shots, and everybody played well down the stretch. Unfortunately, we just came up a little bit short."
Ragsdale (14.4 ppg) led all scorers with 23 points and Scott scored 15 points.
Seamons, who was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field in the first half, led Longmont with 16 points. Senior point guard Brady Renck (11.7 ppg), who was excellent all postseason, scored six points and junior Dallas Dye scored seven. As a team the Trojans shot 65 percent from the free-throw line in five postseason games and made 13 of 20 attempts at the charity stripe against Lewis-Palmer.
The Trojans defeated the Rangers in last winter's state title game when Oakley Dehning's 3-pointer broke a late stalemate to deliver a 62-59 victory. It was the program's first state championship since 1942.
This year's Trojans nearly made even more program history by becoming the first Longmont team to win back-to-back championships. Even without it, they made an impression on Kloster that no team has been able to make in his 25 years as the team's head coach.
"Our kids, they have great character and that's the thing I'm going to take away from this experience," Kloster said. "I've been counting the days because I knew at some point it was going to be over. I'm going to look back and I'm going to say that this was one of the greatest groups of young men to have ever worn the jersey for the Longmont High School Trojans basketball team.
"They were so special because they cared so much for each other. They were a group of kids that always put themselves second. Their brother was more important. They were all-in with everything we always preached in the gym and they would always say, 'Whatever you need us to do, we're going to do it.' I'll always remember that group of seniors because of what they brought to the culture of our program."
Lewis-Palmer 57, Longmont 52
At Denver Coliseum
Schneider 0 0-0 0, Renck 2 2-4 6, Elkins 2 1-2 5, Dye 3 1-2 7, Dehning 1 1-3 3, Page 3 6-6 15, Seamons 6 2-3 16. Totals 17 13-20 52.
Scott 4 7-7 15, Baca 2 0-2 5, Forrester 2 3-4 7, Ragsdale 6 9-10 23, Roma 0 1-2 1, McCullough 3 0-0 6, Phillips 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 20-25 57.
Score by quarters:Longmont 7 16 12 17 — 52
3-point field goals — Longmont (5): Page 3, Seamons 2; Lewis-Palmer (3): Ragsdale 2, Baca. Total fouls — Longmont 19, Lewis-Palmer 13.
Longmont boys basketball in last 10 state tournaments
2019 State runners-up
2018 State champions
2017 Second round
2016 Final 4
2015 State runners-up
2014 Sweet 16
2013 Sweet 16
2012 Second round
2011 Great 8
2010 Final 4