Speller twins propel Rangeview to 1st boys state title game since 1993 — when it faced Chauncey Billups

Shawn Palmer was a sophomore in the stands at McNichols Arena the last time the Rangeview High School boys basketball team danced this far, this fast. It was the dying embers of the winter 1993, and he was rooting for, um, the other guys.

“I had no idea who Rangeview was,” Palmer, now the Raiders’ coach, chuckled after his third-seeded squad knocked off No. 2 seed Mountain Vista, 62-51, on Friday night at the CHSAA Class 5A boys final four to advance to the program’s first state title game in 26 years. “I was there to watch Chauncey (Billups).”

Future CU and NBA standout Billups and his George Washington squad took out Rangeview, 62-50, in the 1993 Class 6A final. Palmer will have a better seat for this championship tilt, thanks to 33 points from the Speller twins — Christopher (21 points) and Christian (12) — and 22 rebounds from senior forward Quincey Jewett. To say nothing of a smothering defense that limited the Golden Eagles (24-3) to just 30.6 percent shooting from the floor and 20 misfires on 24 3-point attempts.

“We were able to contest really well,” said Palmer, whose Raiders (25-2) will meet the winner of the Chapparal-ThunderRidge semifinal on Saturday night at Denver Coliseum. “And they’re a good-shooting team. But everybody’s going to have a tough time if they’re taking contest shots.”

The pesky approach — and length — helped Rangeview build a second-half lead of as many as 16 points early in the fourth quarter, as Jewett’s tip about a minute into the final period pushed the margin to 48-32.

Golden Eagles forward Simon May’s trey from the top of the arc with 2:46 left in the game capped a 10-6 run that trimmed the Raiders’ lead to single digits — 55-46 — for the first time midway through the third period. But Palmer’s squad was able to hit enough free throws down the stretch — they missed 18 of 35 from the stripe on the night to make things more interesting than the coach would’ve like — to salt away a berth in the championship.

“Hopefully we can play a little better, shoot free throws a little better (Saturday),” Palmer said of the Raiders, who last won a state crown in 1985. “And play that kind of defense again.”

From the get-go, the Golden Eagles struggled to get first shots off cleanly and were limited to precious few second opportunities. Vista was outrebounded as a team, 49-33, while being outscored, 12-6, on second-chance points for the evening.

The Speller brothers went to work early. Christian Speller’s 3-point play with 1:15 left in the first pushed the Raiders out front 15-8. Brother Christopher led all scorers in the first period with 10 points, and his driving layup with 34 seconds left in the period staked Rangeview to a 17-10 cushion.

The Golden Eagles opened the second quarter with a 9-2 run, knotting the contest at 19-all on Spencer Thomas’ jumper three minutes into the frame.

But the Spellers took the ball — and the reins — after that, netting the game’s next five points, and two free throws by Jodaun Dotson with 2:34 left until halftime extended a 7-0 Raiders run. The Spellers outscored the entire Vista squad in the first half, 22-21.

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