LONGMONT — The speck of dust in the eye of the Mead basketball program in its rise to 4A significance has always been beating Longmont on the Trojans’ home floor.
Great players, and great teams of the past six years or so, have not been able to get over that hump. But on Saturday, the senior group led by Nick Jacobs, Trey Ward and Will Maher finally picked out that dust and are seeing clearly as they close in on the end of the calendar year of 2019.
Mead hit 13 3-pointers, including six in the third quarter from four different players, and the Mavericks were able to hold off always feisty Longmont 51-43 at LHS. The confidence shooting the ball from the perimeter was constant from start to finish, and the Mavericks needed every one of those outside baskets as the Trojans never let the lead get too insurmountable.
In fact, despite the big third quarter where it seemed Mead (3-1) could not miss, it was a 41-39 game early in the fourth quarter. But a Ward steal and dunk with 6 minutes to go got the MHS bench up on their feet, a Maher 3-ball with 5:15 left made it 46-39, and Maher struck again with his left hand of a key offensive rebound with 2:50 left to make it 48-39. Longmont (3-2) played through to the end but could not cut into the lead, giving Mead just its second win ever against them.
“We just had to keep it cool and stick to our tempo, stick to our game,” said Jacobs, who hit two 3-pointers in the third quarter and finished with nine points. “We like to go, go, go — we were able to stick to that and came out with a W.”
Mead’s “Charge Wall” gained a few ticks on it, too, as the Mavericks drew several offensive fouls on the Longmont end throughout the game. Ward said it was important to take those few moments where players on the receiving end of the call are down, and take advantage with quick feet and ball movement. They seemed to do that well in spacing out the floor, getting cross-court passes to corners and then draining shots.
The Mavericks made some defensive adjustments to make sure Longmont’s backdoor cuts were no longer as effective as they were in the first half, but the Trojans had a few adjustments, too, as they kept battling from behind. Ryan Schneider had some precision drives from the top of the key to score eight of his 15 points in the third quarter, and the Trojans continued to drive at the basket in spite of the calls against them mounting.
But Longmont scored just seven points in the fourth quarter as Mead tied up more shots on one end while whittling down the game clock on the other.
“It boosts out confidence like crazy when we start hitting our shots,” Ward said after securing 10 points and nearly equaling that in steals. “We just got that charge wall put up, and we know that when we get those they can be big momentum-changers. You get boosted up there, and you see the other team down, you just go.”
Longmont, which dropped its opener to Erie 58-56, had won three straight games over some good teams. There’s no doubt the Trojans will still be in contention for the Northern League title by February.
But Saturday belonged to Mead, whose only other win against LHS came back in January 2017. Elijah Knudsen, a sophomore, scored 16 points and Maher added 10 for the Mavericks, who will next host Thompson Valley on Friday.
“It’s the biggest opportunity you could ask for and I wouldn’t have wanted to do that with any other group of guys,” Ward said. “We knew they were going to be tough but we came out ready to go. It just felt like Longmont was playing slower today.”
Longmont will host three games next weekend during its Trojan Classic tournament.