DENVER | Obi Agbim provided a spectacular highlight, while his Rangeview boys basketball team methodically kept alive its chance to defend last season’s Class 5A state championship with Saturday night’s Great 8 win.
With balance, composure and chemistry, the Raiders picked up right where they left off last season when they won the program’s first state title in more than three decades with a 59-43 victory over ninth-seeded Columbine that came with an exciting twist provided by their senior point guard.
Agbim finished with a game-high 19 points, including two that came on a spectacular one-handed rebound dunk during the first half that set the Denver Coliseum buzzing more than it had during any of the four quarterfinal contests.
“I’ve done it a couple of times, but usually the ball doesn’t come my way,” said Agbim, who finished with 11 points in the opening half to help get the Raiders off to a strong start.
“When it did come my way and I had it in my hand, I was like ‘Ok, just throw it down,'” he added. “It was the perfect opportunity.”
Agbim also connected on three 3-pointers and led the way on another balanced effort by Rangeview that saw just two players in double figures — senior Christopher Speller was the other with 11 points — but was more than enough to get them back to the Final Four.
Coach Shawn Palmer’s team improved to 26-0 and has an Aurora obstacle in its way in its quest to repeat. Rangeview encounters No. 5 Grandview (20-6) — a 48-41 winner over No. 29 Regis Jesuit in an all-city Great 8 contest — at 7 p.m. March 13 back at the Coliseum in a meeting of teams that have won the last two 5A state crowns.
First, the Raiders had to deal with University of Colorado-bound star Luke O’Brien and a Columbine team that had a seven-point lead over them in the fourth quarter of a non-league meeting back in early January that they stormed back to win.
It meant throwing everything and everybody at the 6-foot-8 O’Brien, who had scored 30 or more points in three of his previous six games, including 33 in a one-point Sweet 16 win over Boulder. The Raiders were fairly successful and held him to 18.
“Luke is an amazing player, we all know him and we knew we had to give him our best defense on every possession,” said 6-foot junior Cade Palmer, who took his turns guarding the much larger Rebels’ standout, while senior Jovaughn Wright and junior Jayden Foster also spent plenty of time in the paint trying to slow him.
The focus on O’Brien allowed senior post Justin Lohrenz — who stymied Rangeview a bit in the first half by taking four charges — to up his production with 13 points, but the other four Columbine players that got in the game combined for just 12.
Meanwhile, Rangeview had more than enough offense to get the lead into double figures early in the third quarter on Christopher Speller’s three-point play and keep an advantage of at least nine points the rest of the way.
Brimming with confidence, Agbim handled the ball well and created open space for his attacking teammates, while he scored eight of the team’s 13 points in the fourth quarter as they finished with no drama.
“It’s my senior year and honestly if I wasn’t playing with my all, I would be letting my teammates down,” Agbim said. “I’m trying to give it my all every night, trying to give our team a little boost.”
Cade Palmer — who took the errant 3-point shot that turned into the putback dunk — marveled at the athleticism showed by his teammate, who came streaking in from beyond the 3-point line, cut through two Columbine defenders and put it down.
“I didn’t see him until his head was above the rim, that’s Obi,” he said. “He’s one of the only people I know in Colorado that can do that. That’s him.”
Shawn Palmer was happy to run his winning streak at the Denver Coliseum — a place the Raiders have come to love of late — to four games.
“There were definitely some things we can work on and get better at, but it’s great,” he said. “There’s never a bad playoff win, there’s never a bad trip to the Coliseum. I really wanted these guys to enjoy it and soak it in. I’m happy to keep playing.”
That next game comes against a Grandview team that gave Rangeview it’s closest game (a 38-37 on Dec. 6, 2019, during a winning streak that now stands at 45 games dating back to a loss to Overland in Las Vegas in winter break of last season.
“We’re just going to focus on Grandview this week, everything towards Grandview,” Agbim said.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
(1) RANGEVIEW 59, (9) COLUMBINE 43
Score by quarters:
Columbine 6 15 13 9 — 43
Rangeview 10 19 17 13 — 59
Luke O’Brien 7 4-4 18, Tristan Alward 0 0-0 0, Garrett Rogers 1 0-0 3, Justin Lohrenz 6 1-1 13, Jeff Potts 2 2-2 7, Luke Garrett 1 0-0 2, David Hargis 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 7-7 43.
Jayden Foster 1 0-0 2, Obi Agbim 8 0-0 19, Cade Palmer 3 1-1 9, Christopher Speller 4 2-3 11, Christian Speller 1 2-3 4, Jovaughn Wright 2 2-2 6, Ronnie Hatch 3 0-0 6, Isaiah Jamison 0 2-2 2, Isaiah Sweetwine 0 0-0 0, Tasontai Brown 0 0-0 0, Devin Phillio 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 9-11 59.
3-point field goals — Columbine (2): Jeff Potts, Garrett Rogers. Rangeview (6): Obi Agbim 3, Cade Palmer 2, Christopher Speller. Total fouls — Columbine 15, Rangeview 14. Fouled out — None. Technical fouls — None.