COLORADO SPRINGS - If recent history is any indication, next Tuesday's (Feb. 19) boys basketball game between Lewis-Palmer and Sand Creek should be a real whopper.
The state powerhouses met for the first time on Feb. 5, with undefeated Sand Creek holding on for a thrilling, 67-64, victory on its home court. Now it's Lewis-Palmer opportunity to return the favor.
“Sand Creek is a nice ball club,” said Lewis-Palmer coach Russ McKinstry, who saw his team's eight-game winning streak snapped by the Scorpions. “They pass the ball well. They're unselfish.”
The Rangers rebounded from the loss to defeat Cheyenne Mountain, 47-34, on Feb. 8. The Rangers scored just three points in the first quarter against the Indians.
A lot will be on the line in the rematch with Sand Creek. Sand Creek is 18-0, 10-0 in the Class 4A Pikes Peak Athletic Conference (through games of Feb. 8). Lewis-Palmer - the defending state champ - is 16-3, 9-1 (through Feb. 8).
“Lewis-Palmer stomped us in the Elite Eight two years ago,” said Sand Creek coach Joe Rausch. “They are an incredible team. They deserve all the accolades. They will be a tough team to beat again.”
Last week's meeting between the clubs had a little bit of everything. The Rangers looked flat - at best - through three quarters. They scored 11, 11 and 12 points, respectively, in each of the first three eight-minute frames. The Scorpions held a double-digit lead much of the game and seemed to be cruising to a relatively convincing victory. Then, as if someone turned on a switch, Lewis-Palmer came roaring back.
Lewis-Palmer's biggest deficit was 53-38 with 4:45 remaining in the fourth following a Tyler Peterson layup. Lewis Palmer began chipping away at the lead, but still trailed by 13 (58-45) at the 2:45 mark when Sand Creek junior guard Dylan Clark made a layup.
Rangers senior guard Jordan Scott (15 of his game-high 22 points came in the second half) started the ferocious rally eight seconds later with a layup. That was followed by a Chase Stone put back and a pair of free throws by Tyler Owens to cut the Scorpions advantage to 58-51.
Sand Creek maintained an eight-point (64-56) lead with just over a minute remaining. But 3-pointers by Scott and Kai Wade, and a 15-foot jumper by Owens, pulled the Rangers within 66-64 with 21 seconds left on the clock.
“Lewis-Palmer hit some incredible shots during that run,” Rausch said.
Josh Smith connected on one of two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to put the Scorpion up by three.
McKinstry called timeout and set up a play with Justin Smith (14 points, 10 in the second half) dropping into the corner in front of the Lewis-Palmer bench to attempt a 3-pointer. But the Idaho State-bound Smith never got the ball as Scott had his pass stolen by Tim Clemens.
“I knew Jordan was going to shoot it or he was going to pass it,” said Clemens, who signed with Ottawa University last week. “I tried to stay focused and stay calm. I just read his eyes and got lucky.”
McKinstry was pleased with the way his team came back in the final minutes.
“It's unfortunate we waited until the fourth quarter to play with energy,” he said. “We kept fighting. But we played pretty poorly in the first half.
“You have to give credit to (Clemens) for making a nice defensive play on Jordan.”
Clemens said that the rematch will be in Lewis-Palmer's favor.
“They have all the momentum,” he said. “We have to come and take care of business.”
Sand Creek plays an aggressive defense (Lewis-Palmer had 18 turnovers) and penetrates the basket well on offense with crisp passes. Josh Smith leads Scorpions in scoring with about 16 per game. He also is averaging about five rebounds and three steals per game.
The Rangers big four - Scott, Justin Smith. Tyler Owens and Chase Stone - are combining for about 51 points per game. Scott has scored at least 20 points in five of his last eight games. He also leads the team in rebounding with 9.3 per game.
“We have to get in a rhythm offensively,” McKinstry said. “Every possession is important.”