Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Daily Camera
FORT MORGAN — The halftime message was short and sweet.
Longmont Christian went to the break of their Class 1A Region 2 playoff game against Hi-Plains down 28-19 and frankly had the look of a defeated team.
“We had nothing else to say, we knew what we had to do,” junior Luke Puchino said. “Little was said, much was done at the end.”
Puchino, who struggled to find his shot in the opening half, kept firing and the shots started to drop in the second; and along with it the confidence of the entire Warriors squad.
Longmont Christian (14-9), behind 21 from Puchino and 19 from Croatian sensation Antun Maricevic, rallied to beat the Patriots 59-42 and moved one step closer to punching their ticket to the state tournament.
The Warriors draw the regions top-seeded Fleming Wildcats (20-2) on Saturday morning at 11:30 at Fort Morgan High School.
“Luke is a shooter and he had a tough first half, he played well, he just didn’t shoot well,” Longmont Christian coach Myron Huey said. “Shooters have to shoot and you never hit a shot you don’t take.”
The turning point in the game came early in the second half. With Hi-Plains up 31-24, the Warriors cut into the lead with a huge five point possession. Puchino hit the first of his four second half 3-pointers and the Patriots were called for a foul in the paint after the shot allowing the Warriors to keep possession.
A Maricevic lay-up completed the trip down the court, and it was the beginning of a 10-0 run for the Warriors who went up 34-31 and never relinquished the lead.
The key on the defensive end for Longmont Christian, and the big adjustment at halftime, was putting Maricevic on Hi-Plains standout guard Landon McCaffrey. The junior couldn’t miss in the first half, scoring 13 of his 19 with plenty of open looks.
“We thought about that to start the game and it is not often you put your 5 on somebody’s 1 or 2, but we thought that was a good match-up,” said Huey, who left a lot of the X’s and O’s of the game to his son and assistant Alex Huey. “Your take away a scorer from somebody else and it can only help you.”
Longmont Christian got contributions from everyone in their huge 22-9 third quarter, including Blake Azar. The sophomore hustled his way to four big points at the end of the quarter, something not missed by his longtime coach.
“One thing about Blake, it doesn’t matter what you ask him to do, he tries to do it,” Huey said. “The other night, he didn’t play hardly at all in the second half and he was the most excited guy I’ve seen about winning and that is what it is all about.”
Longmont Christian held the Patriots to just 14 second half points and they know it will take a similar effort on Saturday against Fleming. But the Warriors, who feel they were a little short-changed in the draw, have nothing to lose and all the confidence in the world.
“It’s going to be a heckuva match-up,” Puchino said. “They’ve got some shooters, we’ve got some shooters and we’ve got the best big-man in the state in Antun Maricevic.”
Jon Yunt: firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/JonEYunt
Longmont Christian 59, Hi-Plains 42
At Fort Morgan
Landon McCaffrey 7 2-5 19, Grason Miller 1 0-0 2, Benjamin Richie 0 0-0 0, Aaron Johnson 0 0-0 0, Garrett Sayles 6 2-5 14, Nathan Sayles 1 0-0 2, Riley Marzolf 2 0-3 5. Totals 17 4-13 42.
LONGMONT CHRISTIAN (14-9)
Jackson Solem 2 0-0 4, Cameron Jauregui 4 0-1 9, Kenneth Hannan 0 0-0 0, Zach Schaefer 0 0-0 0, Blake Azar 3 0-2 6, Luke Puchino 5 6-8 21, Antun Maricevic 8 2-2 19. Totals 22 8-13 59.
Score by quarters:
3-point field goals — Hi-Plains (4): McCaffrey 3, Marzolf; Longmont Christian (7): Puchino 5, Jauregui, Maricevic. Total fouls — Hi-Plains 13; Longmont Christian 16. Fouled out — Solem..