LONGMONT — Cooper Rothe proved it time and time again during the football season. You just don’t go to sleep on him.
That’s carried over to the basketball court for the Class 4A No. 1-ranked Longmont boys basketball team. One of the area’s premier ball-hawking defensive players on the gridiron, Rothe showed on Saturday night against Skyline that he translates a lot of that quickness to the hardwood.
When that’s your sixth man, you know you’ve got something good, and the Trojans moved to 9-0 on the season with a 70-37 romp of the Falcons in front of a capacity crowd at SHS.
Rothe came off the bench to score seven points in the first half, but more importantly was a spark plug for the Trojans with his passing and defense as Longmont blew the game open very early.
“We’ve told our team we believe there’s eight kids who can be starters, and the thing they have to understand is when they get the opportunity they need to value the minutes,” Longmont coach Jeff Kloster said. “If they do that, they’re going to help our team win.
“Cooper, he’s got such quickness and lateral movement. It’s fun to watch him move his feet, stay in front of his man and defend the way he does. We’re encouraging him to attack the hoop more, too.”
For Rothe, he knows that the opportunities to play are precious with the talent of the Trojans’ starting five. So when he comes in, defense is the first thing on his mind.
“We like to challenge ourselves, and come out to see who of us can be the most energetic, be that Energizer Bunny when we come out on the court,” Rothe added. “It’s between a lot of us. We just go out there and go hard playing good defense, because that leads to good offense.”
Every once in a while, he gets the chance to show off some flash, and Rothe did that with a couple of assists in transition — one a behind-the-back dish midway through the second quarter that even got the Skyline student section in a tizzy.
Rothe lauded the team’s confidence in their up-tempo play, something that begins in practice.
“It’s really fun, with the athleticism we have,” Rothe said. “We have to have confidence, and we know that good teamwork leads to good plays.”
Besides the rivalry apsect with the Falcons (4-6), there was added motivation to jump on the hosts early. Longmont squeaked by Northridge on Friday night, and the Trojans didn’t want to raise any doubts when it came to playing back-to-back this weekend.
Over the first 5 minutes, 30 seconds of the contest, Longmont scored 12 of the game’s first 13 points before the Falcons finally hit a field goal. At the 1:55 mark, Justinian Jessup nailed a 3-pointer from the corner, and then Rothe had two steals down the first-quarter stretch to push the lead. He found Eli Sullivan in transition once to make it 17-3, then took it to the hoop himself at the 1:17 mark to make it 19-3.
At the end of the second quarter, he beat the buzzer with a quick burst down the lane and a foul, and the Trojans had forged a 30-point edge.
Skyline had nearly as many turnovers (nine) as points (11) the first two quarters, and did not give itself many opportunities to put shots in the air.
“It was good to come out with the energy we did, especially after kind of a close one (Friday) which we were still able to win,” said Longmont’s Blake O’Grady, who tallied nine points. “We want to be the hammer and not the nail. We preach coming out with that energy … come out and do what we do and execute.”
“Some of the turnovers we had weren’t forced, more just us giving them the ball and that’s frustrating,” said Skyline coach Jason Johnson. “They like to come over here and stick it to us, and yeah, they did it.”
A number of Trojans contributed defensively, but Jessup had a tremendous shooting night on his way to 20 points. He took just 10 shots, hitting five 3-pointers and seven field goals overall.
Kevin Mitchell added 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting.
The Falcons were led by Josh Angstead’s 13 points. Deshon Elcock scored eight points on 4 of 6 shooting, and Matt Dietz added seven points for SHS.
“Tonight, the effort in the first half especially was tremendous, and it started at the defensive end,” Kloster said.
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LONGMONT 70, SKYLINE 37
At Skyline HS
Eli Sullivan 1 1-2 3, Justinian Jessup 7 1-1 20, David Speidel 1 0-0 3, Cooper Rothe 3 1-1 7, Jorge Cordova 0 0-2 0, Kolton Bachman 4 0-1 8, Blake O’Grady 3 3-3 9, Kevin Mitchell 7 3-5 17, Kole Earhart 1 0-0 3. Totals 27 9-15 70.
Logan Ekern 0 1-2 1, Justin Forsyth 1 4-4 6, Josh Angstead 3 7-9 13, Deshon Elcock4 0-0 8, Dominic Mansanares0 2-2 2, Matt Dietz 2 3-5 7. Totals 10 17-22 37.
Score by quarters:
Longmont 19 22 12 17 — 70
Skyline 3 8 19 7 — 37
3-point field goals — Longmont (7): Jessup 5, Speidel, Earhart; Skyline (0). Total fouls — Longmont 17, Skyline 15.