Disappointment

Lewis-Palmer knocks Steamboat out of state title race

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— Two loud crashes could be heard at the Pepsi Center last night and neither of them was good news for the Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team.

The first crash of the game came at the end of the first quarter, when guard Ryan Kiely chased a loose ball out of bounds and collided with a drink table set up at the side of the Lewis-Palmer bench.

The accident sent ice and glasses of Gatorade flying into the air and also sent Kiely to the hospital to be treated. Early reports were that the Sailors' guard apparently broke a bone in his leg.

"We didn't let it affect us," the Sailors' Rusty Eck said. "We just didn't get the job done tonight."

Not getting the job done is what led to the other crash later in the game.

While it wasn't as violent, its effects were just as devastating. It came in the fourth quarter as Lewis-Palmer outscored Steamboat 24-14 and went on to win the game 57-47.

The win means Lewis-Palmer will advance to face Sierra in today's state semifinal game at 5:10 p.m. Pueblo South upset top-ranked Mitchell and will face Adam's City in the other semifinal contest.

Steamboat Springs, Mitchell, Montezuma-Cortez and Widefield were all eliminated in last night's games.

"They won every dang loose ball and that's why they won the game," Sailors head coach Kelly Meek said after the game. "They crashed the boards hard and worked as a team. You have to give them a lot of credit."

Steamboat took an early lead in the game, but by the end of the first quarter, Lewis-Palmer had taken the lead at 14-10. The Colorado Springs team clung to a 23-20 lead at the end of the first half.

But Steamboat got into foul trouble in the second half and the Rangers' Bobby Burling made Steamboat pay. Burling led all scorers in the game with 16 points, 12 of which came at the free throw line. Will Stingley also boosted the Rangers' offense with 12 points in the contest.

Steamboat's Jeff Aragon stepped up his play to fill in for the missing Kiely, but down the stretch the Sailors' offense was unable to climb back into the game.

Ryan Sheer led Steamboat with 11 points. Andrew Johnston and Aragon both netted seven.

"Sure there was some pressure (when Kiely went down)," Aragon said. "If I played bad there was no one else to come into the game."

Still, none of the Steamboat players used Kiely's injury as an excuse following the game.

"We've been without key players before this season," Eck said. "We were without Andrew (Johnston) and Ryan (Kiely) earlier this season and we just had some other players step it up. Those guys (Lewis-Palmer) just wanted the ball more than us tonight. They just beat us."

But the key to the game was the loose ball, Meek said. And in this game it was bouncing the Rangers' way. Lewis-Palmer scored 18 points off turnovers. Steamboat got just four. The Rangers also made big strides at the foul line in the second. Meek said the Sailors' fouls were the result of not coming up with the loose ball.

Lewis-Palmer scored 21 points at the free throw line compared to Steamboat's 13. The Rangers also netted 14 second chance points.

Steamboat finished the season with a 21-4 record and advanced to the state playoffs for the first time in two years.

"This wasn't the most athletic group of players that I've ever had," Meek said. "But they worked hard, came together and may have come closer to meeting their potential than another group of players that I've ever had. They were just a great group of kids."

The state 4A playoffs will continue at the Pepsi Center through Saturday.

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