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Boys basketball: Longmont stunned at home in 4A Great 8

Kade Walker’s late basket sends The Classical Academy to semifinals

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    LONGMONT, CO - MARCH 7, 2020: Longmont's Austin Derksen drives between Classical Academy's Travis Kautz, left, and Kobe Katayama during the state playoff game at Longmont High School on March 7, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    Longmont's Ryan Schneider drives past Classical Academy's Travis Kaitz during the state playoff game at Longmont High School on March 7, 2020.

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    Longmont's Eddie Kurjak shoots over Classical Academy's Kade Walker during the state playoff game at Longmont High School on March 7, 2020.

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    Longmont's Dallas Dye gets around Classical Academy's Kade Walker during the state playoff game at Longmont High School on March 7, 2020.

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    Longmont's Sage Yazzie drives past Classical Academy's Travis Kaitz during the state playoff game at Longmont High School on March 7, 2020.

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    Longmont's Sage Yazzie drives past Classical Academy's Travis Kaitz during the state playoff game at Longmont High School on March 7, 2020.

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    Longmont's head coach, Jeff Kloster with Devon Nowells in the Classical Academy state playoff game at Longmont High School on March 7, 2020.

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    Longmont students cheer on the Trojans against Classical Academy during the state playoff game at Longmont High School on March 7, 2020.

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LONGMONT — This Class 4A 2019-20 prep boys basketball season is shaping up to be one of, ‘out with the old, in with the new’. The latest juggernaut to fall victim to an up-and-comer? Longmont, who for just the second time in the past six seasons will not be making an appearance at the Denver Coliseum for the semifinals.

In Saturday’s Great 8 round at LHS against The Classical Academy, the visiting Titans came to play in their bid to be the third ‘newbie’ to earn Final Four distinction, and there was simply no fear displayed in a 42-39 victory that ended Longmont’s season at 22-4. The Titans (22-5) joined Mead and Northfield in a group of programs hitting uncharted territory, thanks in large part to Kade Walker’s patient, play-it-all-the-way-through basket in the lane with 40.4 seconds left that gave TCA its final lead.

Longmont led just three times in the game, at most by just a single basket.

“They played amazing, confident, they relied on each other, and it just didn’t seem like they had any fear coming into this game,” said Sage Yazzie, a starter whose look from 3-point range with less than 30 seconds left came up just short and sealed Longmont’s surprise exit. “That’s what you’ve got to do if you’re them, three hours on the road … they came ready and you have to tip your hat to them.”

Walker was one of just three players to score for No. 11 seed TCA, yet its style of play certainly signified just as much team basketball as what Longmont has always been able to deploy. He scored 13, as did post player Tyler Trogstad. Leading the way for the Titans was Micah Lamberth, who scored 16 points.

Their motion offense wasn’t overwhelming, but it did open up the outside and TCA nailed seven 3-pointers in the contest. In this case, it was quality over quantity, as each 3 felt as though it came at a clutch time as No. 3 seed Longmont tried to close what little gap there was between the teams.

“They found the open man, and those guys elevated and hit nothing but net,” Longmont coach Jeff Kloster said of the Titans’ early shooting success.

Longmont’s Dallas Dye, a senior who played all 25 games as a freshman and helped mold more than 70 victories in his career, was a force in his final game. He scored 17 points, and it was his pair of tough-as-nails drives to the basket midway through the fourth quarter that gave Longmont a 39-37 lead with 2 minutes, 18 seconds left.

It was a long 2:18 to the buzzer, and somehow it was TCA that nailed down the final five points. With 2:01 left, Walker hit a pair of free throws to make it 39-39, while on the other end LHS’ Austin Derksen had a good look a minute later that didn’t fall. Walker then found some room inside — a rare in-the-lane two for the Titans on this afternoon — to make it 41-39. Yazzie’s 3-point attempt was followed with him fouling out while trying to gather his own rebound, and Walker eventually got back to the free throw line with 9.1 seconds left. He missed, but Trogstad fought for the rebound and made one of his two free throws to provide the final score.

The Titans led just 26-24 at the midway point, but Longmont saw some missed opportunities for points came back to haunt the Trojans. Back-to-back transition breakout passes were overthrown in the second quarter, a few in-the-clear layups weren’t finished, and the Titans created other turnovers down low that kept the edge in their favor as they rode out initial nerves.

“With a young group like (Longmont’s) … you kind of catch yourself in these moments where you’re rushing things, or you’re just doing things you wouldn’t normally do and it’s hard to calm down in these big games,” Yazzie said. “We’re not blaming anybody, and we’re here for each other and we’re family. We just didn’t execute, and we have to live with that.”

Despite all of that, Longmont still had a shot to send this senior class off with one more Coliseum caravan. It just wasn’t meant to be as Longmont posted its lowest point total of any game this season. Eddie Kurjak scored eight points, and Derksen added seven in defeat.

“The first half we threw the ball away two, three times when we had an uncontested couple of points right in front of us, and unfortunately we rushed a few things and lost some opportunities there,” Kloster said. “I can’t fault our effort, it was always there.”