MONUMENT - The Lewis-Palmer High School boys basketball team has a chip on its shoulder and opposing teams are paying a mighty price.
The latest victim, Cheyenne Mountain, rolled into Monument on Jan. 18 with a sparkling 10-1 record. The Indians headed back to their home in southwest Colorado Springs a little humbled after a 49-33 loss.
It was the fourth consecutive victory for Lewis-Palmer since returning from the Christmas break. The Rangers ended December with consecutive losses for the first time in four seasons.
“We learned a lot losing those last two games before break,” said Lewis-Palmer senior swingman Justin Smith, who scored a game-high 16 points against Cheyenne Mountain. “We had a great week practice after Christmas. We wanted to come out in the second half of the season with a lot of energy and passion.”
The Idaho State-bound Smith is second on the team in scoring15.4 points per game this season.
He had 19 in the Rangers’ first game back from break when Lewis-Palmer dismantled Discovery Canyon by 29 points. Discovery Canyon entered that game undefeated - and has not lost since.
“We learned what we were doing wrong,” said Lewis-Palmer senior guard Jordan Scott, who is averaging a team-leading 16.3 points per game. “The key for us is defense, and we got away from that. It all starts with defense. That leads to our offense being successful.”
The Rangers are 11-2 overall, 4-0 in the Class 4A Pikes Peak Athletic Conference. Their losses are to D’Evelyn (73-68) and Chaparral (68-60). In Lewis-Palmer’s four games since the break, it is allowing an average of just 36 points per game, while scoring 62 per contest.
“We’ve played a lot better at the defensive end since Christmas break,” said Lewis-Palmer coach Russ McKinstry. “Better ball pressure. More enthusiasm.
“We still haven’t clicked offensively, but that night’s coming. We can shoot better (from the field). We can shoot better from the free throw line. We’ve had a few too many unforced errors.”
McKinstry and crew seem to be on the right track to defending their state title.
“We’re in Phase 2 of our season,” he said. “Hopefully we can put ourselves in a position to host a regional tournament. In order to do that you gotta make sure you hold home court and get as many as you can on the road.”
For the record, Phase 3 is the postseason.
The Rangers have games this week against Air Academy (6-7) and Vista Ridge (3-9). Two huge games are not far down the road - a home game against Discovery Canyon (12-1, 3-1) on Jan. 29 and an away matchup at Sand Creek (11-0, 4-0) on Feb. 5. On Feb. 1, the Rangers travel to Palmer Ridge for a cross town rivalry game with the Bears. Lewis-Palmer is 5-0 lifetime against palmer Ridge.