Jeff Kearney / For BoCoPreps.com
Jeff Kearney / For BoCoPreps.com
FALCON — Yeah, they get it.
Perhaps it should have been a home game for the Longmont boys basketball team in the Great 8 of the Class 4A state tournament.
But after Saturday’s events, there’s a little bit of pride in the fact the Trojans took their show on the road and managed to quiet whatever nay-sayers may have said they were done after falling to Skyline at home to end the regular season.
“We knew we probably should have been at home for this one, but we also knew that was all on us, so we just wanted to prove ourselves and redeem ourselves here today,” said Brady Renck, a junior starter for the hoops team. “Us coming down here and getting this big win, it’s huge for us.
“We’re always going to trust whatever adjustments coach (Jeff Kloster) puts us through, and we made a great adjustment to be able to handle them a bit more and grow our lead.”
Prove themselves they did. Behind 27 points from Luke Johnson and a scrappy defensive effort that kept LHS from taking a complete beating in the paint, fifth-seeded Longmont ousted No. 4 Falcon 62-54 at FHS to punch its ticket to the Final Four for the third time in four years.
Being fundamentally sound took a front seat to balance out a Falcon team that did work best inside the arc, and after a few unnecessary turnovers early helped Falcon jump out to as much as an 18-11 lead, Longmont stormed back with a nice balance of transition play, 3-point makes and the driving capability of its most talented scoring threat, that being Johnson.
Making 14 of 17 free throws, including 10 of 12 in the fourth quarter, helped secure what will be the first Final Four berth for most of the players on the current roster.
“We really tried to stress just not doing stuff you’re not capable of doing, and when you do that you give yourself a chance to win,” Longmont coach Jeff Kloster said after the team moved to 24-2 and into a game against No. 1 Pueblo South Friday at the Denver Coliseum. “We get another chance to play basketball in our gym for another practice, and whoever we play it’s going to be an honor to represent Longmont High School and the Northern Conference.
“Every game a different person steps up to make plays. It’s a tribute to how much they want to play for each other.”
Falcon (20-6) boasted some athleticism along with height, and the Falcons did a good job of exposing the inside advantage early with Mitchel Ballage and 6-foot-9 Brendan LaRose showing soft hands and finishes. By the second quarter, Longmont started to force them a little more outside — helped along with the fact Ballage got into foul trouble and had to sit for quite a bit of time.
A Renck and-1 with 54.6 seconds left in the first half gave Longmont a 23-22 advantage, and Oakley Dehning hit his second 3-pointer of the second quarter with about six seconds left to make it 26-24 at half.
Johnson — who didn’t score his first points until late in the first quarter — was can’t-miss electric in the third, accounting for 10 points in the first 4:07 of the frame. Longmont led 40-32, and the teams only combined for two points over the final 3:53 of the third.
Ballage was able to get back in the game with Longmont ahead 43-37 and his impact was instantaneous as he scored Falcon’s next seven points. But another Dehning 3-pointer and consecutive finishes from Renck made it 50-42, and Falcon was on the outside looking in the rest of the way.
LaRose finished with 17 for Falcon, but leading scorer Reece Warren was held to just six points in the loss.
“We knew we had our hands full because of their height, but bottom line is you have to scramble and be as active defensively as you can,” Kloster added. “I thought we did that for the most part.”
“It was just a game of runs, and we just needed to slow their’s down a little more,” Renck said. “I’ve never been to the Final Four and I am excited and hope it’s a blast, whoever we play. We trust our guys.”
Longmont 62, Falcon 54
At Falcon HS
Johnson 8 8-8 27, Renck 4 3-3 11, Elkins 1 1-2 3, Dye 1 2-2 4, Dehning 3 0-0 9, Page 1 0-2 3, Seamons 2 0-0 5. Totals 20 14-17 62.
Brown 4 0-0 8, Warren 2 1-3 6, Royx 1 2-2 4, Ballage 5 1-2 11, Martinez 3 1-2 8, LaRose 7 2-3 17. Totals 22 7-11.
Score by quarters:
3-point field goals — Longmont (8): Dehning 3, Johnson 3, Seamons, Page; Falcon (3): Warren, Martinez, LaRose.