David R. Jennings / Daily Camera
David R. Jennings / Daily Camera
NIWOT — The area rivalry between Longmont High and Niwot High has been a big one in every major sport for a long time. That rivalry spirit was alive and well during Friday night’s boys basketball game.
Longmont has been ranked No. 1 by the Colorado AP media poll all season and Niwot is a much-improved from a seven-win team a year ago. In Friday’s game, this season’s second meeting between the 4A Northern League squads, each team took its turn dominating the action.
Eventually, the undefeated Longmont Trojans pulled away for an 83-72 win. Even more than the team’s 18th win, the game’s intense atmosphere left an impression on Longmont junior forward Kevin Mitchell.
“It’s always great to play against a cross-town rival,” Mitchell said. “You always have to come out with a ton of intensity. We did that in the first quarter and then they had it in the second. We got it back and played like we know how down the stretch.”
Niwot hasn’t beaten Longmont since the 2006-07 season and Longmont leads the rivalry series 13-2 since the 2005-06 season, according to MaxPreps.com. Without Mitchell, the team’s second leading scorer, Longmont defeated the Cougars 61-33 on Jan. 13.
Friday’s rematch played out quite a bit differently.
Longmont (18-0, 10-0 Northern) dominated the first quarter, holding the Cougars (11-8, 5-5) scoreless for nearly the first four minutes and building a 25-4 lead to start the second quarter. Niwot, however, stormed back in the second quarter, outscoring the visiting Trojans 27-15. After Niwot’s Brendan Gray hit a last-second 3-pointer to end the second quarter, Longmont led 40-31 at halftime.
“I think we played eight tremendous first quarter but you have to tip your hat to Niwot,” Longmont head coach Jeff Kloster said. “There was a point in the ball game when they were shooting over 70 percent from the 3-point line. That 27 points was the most against us in one quarter all year. But we kept composure. As we move through the season, there are going to be times when a team is going to play like that. It’s how you control runs and how you keep your composure that dictates whether you win or lose.”
Niwot cut the lead to five with 2 minutes, 15 seconds left in the third and Ryan Kannegeiter hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to cap the quarter. With a seven-point lead to start the fourth, the Trojans quickly pushed their advantage to double digits and shot well enough at the free throw line (14 for 20) to hold on for the win.
For Niwot, putting up a season-high 72 points against the top-ranked Trojans’ vaunted defense was a consolation prize. The Trojans had not allowed more than 51 points since they defeated Mead High 62-51 on Dec. 5.
“We just started to believe,” Niwot head coach Enoch Miller said. “Our goal was to compete with them and we did. Part of changing a culture is learning to believe. We were in a lot games last year even though we only won seven. Our guys have bought in this season and we shot the ball well tonight, which you have to do against Longmont because of their defense. We gave ourselves a chance.”
Junior Justinian Jessup led the Trojans with 24 points, Mitchell scored 23 and Eli Sullivan and Cooper Rothe each scored 12 points. Niwot’s Justin Lee led the Cougars with 24 points and Kannegeiter scored 16.
Longmont starting forward Clint Sigg rolled his ankle early in the first quarter and did not return. Longmont will miss his rebounding and post scoring is he isn’t healthy by Saturday’s showdown with Holy Family (15-2, 9-0 Tri-Valley).
Niwot will host Thompson Valley (12-7, 8-2 Northern) on Tuesday.
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Longmont 83, Niwot 72
At Niwot H.S.
LONGMONT (18-0, 10-0)
Eli Sullivan 1 10-12 12, Justinian Jessup 8 4-5 24, David Speidel 1 2-2 4, Cooper Rothe 3 4-7 12, Jorge Cordova 1 0-0 2, Ryan Rulon 0 0-0 0, Kolton Bachman 3 0-0 6, Clint Sigg 0 0-0 0, Kevin Mitchell 6 11-13 23. Totals 23 31-39 83.
NIWOT (11-8, 5-5)
Justin Lee 9 6-7 24, Charlie Mitelhaus 1 0-0 3, Walker Bounds 1 0-0 6, Jonny Drake 0 0-0 0, Michael Aado 1 0-0 3, Ryan Kannegeiter 5 2-2 16, Brendan Gray 1 2-2 5, Jason Seper 2 3-3 7, Jared Hart 2 2-2 8. Totals 22 15-16 72.
Score by quarters:
Longmont 25 15 21 22 — 83
Niwot 4 27 23 18 — 72
3-point field goals — Longmont (6): Jessup 4, Rothe 2; Niwot (8): Kannegeiter 4, Hart 2, Gray, Mitelhaus. Total fouls — Longmont 20, Niwot 26. Fouled out — Lee, Kannegeiter.