It’s been more than two decades since the Rangeview boys basketball team has won a state championship, but the Raiders put themselves in position to end the drought.
With a 49-39 Great 8 playoff victory over Grandview — last season’s Class 5A state champions — Rangeview kept alive its dreams of adding another hoops title to a trophy case that hasn’t had many additions since they won the last one in the 1984-85 season.
By numbers, coach Shawn Palmer’s team is the hottest of the four remaining going into the March 8-9 Final Four at the Denver Coliseum with a 17-game winning streak and hope to continue that all the way to the end.
“We’re a team here for the first time and Grandview had the experience and is a really talented team, but I think what we went through against Fountain-Fort Carson (in the Sweet 16) really prepared us for this,” said Palmer, whose team is back in the Final Four for the first time since 2016 and will meet second-seeded Mountain Vista at 7 p.m. March 8.
“Even though it was the first time in the Coliseum, it was still basketball,” he added. “It was definitely a big team win.”
Rangeview survived a test from Fountain-Fort Carson and turned around three days later to face a Grandview team that had the majority of its lineup back from last season’s title-winning team.
The Wolves were missing injured junior big man Caleb McGill, however, and it helped the Raiders get more comfortable going into the paint and building an early lead.
The starters earned Rangeview an early lead — which included a pair of 3-pointers from sophomore Cade Palmer and five first-half points from junior Christian Speller —but it was the reserves that finished it off.
Junior guard Isaiah Hayes — who had played in only seven games this season — scored all nine of his season-high nine points in the fourth quarter.
The Raiders had just a two-point lead going into the final quarter, but Hayes made back-to-back layups — the second coming after a steal — to help push the lead to eight points just two minutes into the period.
“I just knew what they were going to do,” Hayes said. “I followed the game plan and knew what plays they were running, so I just played the passing lanes and tried to get my hand on the ball.”
Senior Kamren Stroter scored his only bucket of the night in the final period as well, but it came at a key time when the lead had been whittled down to four with just over three minutes remaining.
“We have faith in each other, so we knew that we could do it,” senior Jodaun Dotson said.
“When our numbers are called, everyone’s ready. Bench players or starters, everyone is ready and we believe each other. We can all step up when we need to.”
Mountain Vista’s 77-72 win over Smoky Hill in the Great 8 prevented an all-Aurora matchup in the Final Four, leaving Rangeview as the city’s lone hope to keep alive a recent streak of title winning.
The Rangeview-Mountain Vista winner moves into the state championship game, scheduled for 7 p.m. March 9 at the Denver Coliusem, against either No. 1 Chaparral or No. 5 ThunderRidge.
The Raiders have a chance to deliver the school’s second state basketball championship, with the first coming way back in the 1984-85 when they won Class 3A. Palmer’s predecessor on the bench — Terry Taylor Sr. — coached that team, which also included his son, Terry Taylor Jr.
Rangeview also made the 4A state championship game in 1989 (where they lost) and in 1993, when they were denied the title in the now-defunct 6A classification by Colorado hoops legend Chauncey Billups and George Washington.
Overall, Rangeview hasn’t won a state championship in any team sport since 1994 when the girls soccer program won 6A.
Senior Quincey Jewett — who had a team-high 10 points in the Great 8 win — was a freshman who wasn’t on the varsity team when the Raiders last appeared in the Final Four.
That season, Rangeview lost to playoff nemesis Eaglecrest in the semifinals and watched the Raptors eventually fall to Overland in an all-Aurora state championship game in Boulder.
“Coach Palmer has been working with us on just looking at the next game and we need to keep going like that until we’re in the state championship,” Jewett said. “Our coaches doe a great job of giving us what we need to use to our advantage to make it happen.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Sentinel Prep Sports
2019 CLASS 5A BOYS BASKETBALL SEMIFINAL MATCHUP
NO. 3 RANGEVIEW (24-2) VS. NO. 2 MOUNTAIN VISTA (24-2)
7 p.m. March 8 at Denver Coliseum
BREAKDOWN: Mountain Vista and Rangeview meet in the playoffs for the first time and they share a court for the first time since both used to be members of the Continental League a decade ago. The Raiders and Golden Eagles went 2-2 against each other between 2005-2009 in league play, with Mountain Vista winning the last meeting 80-68 back on Feb. 6, 2009. ...RANGEVIEW (24-2): Coach Shawn Palmer’s Raiders come into the semifinals on a 17-game winning streak dating back to a pre-Christmas break loss to Overland at the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas. Rangeview’s only loss in a game played in Colorado came in a two-point defeat Dec. 13 at the hands of Grandview, a team it just beat in the Great 8. The Raiders’ winning streak includes postseason victories over Windsor (70-34), Fountain-Fort Carson (72-54) and Grandview (49-39) following a first round bye. …Senior C Quincey Jewett has averaged 13.7 points and 11.3 rebounds per game in the three postseason contests to pace Rangeview, while senior G Jodaun Dotson has tallied 14.3 ppg (including a 28-point effort against Fountain-Fort Carson) and the Raiders have gotten balance from junior G Christopher Speller (8.7 ppg), junior G Christian Speller (7.6 ppg) and sophomore G Cade Palmer (7.3 ppg, including multiple 3-pointers in each game). …MOUNTAIN VISTA (24-2): Coach Bob Wood’s Golden Eagles are on a five-game winning streak since a Continental League loss to Regis Jesuit on Feb. 8, which includes postseason wins over Rocky Mountain (48-45 in OT), Fruita Monument (71-65) and Smoky Hill (77-72), to reach the Final Four for the first time since the 2013-14 season. Senior G Ben Grusing scored 20 points in the win over Smoky Hill and has averaged 15 points per postseason contest, while the Golden Eagles have had plenty of balance with other regular playoff scoring coming from senior F Simon May (11.6 ppg), junior F Rhys Pulling and senior G Corbin Gamble (9.0 ppg each) and senior G Luke Boeyink (8.3 ppg).
WINNER GETS: The Mountain Vista-Rangeview winner moves into the 8:30 p.m. March 9 5A state championship game at Denver Coliseum against the winner of the other semifinal between No. 1 Chaparral and No. 5 ThunderRidge.