NEW KNOXVILLE — For most of the first half the New Knoxville Rangers basketball team controlled the action against the Waynesfield-Goshen Tigers Friday night as they doubled the score on the Tigers 28-13 at halftime.
In the second half the Tigers caught fire and pulled within 10 at the end of the third. They closed the gap to two points a couple times in the fourth quarter, but the Rangers hit a few free throws down the stretch to defeat the Tigers 50-44 at the Barn in New Knoxville.
“We have a lot of kids with a lot of heart,” Tigers head coach Ryan Taylor said. “They came out and played hard, but we got behind the eight ball in the first half. I give our kids a lot of credit because this is a tough place to come in and play and they battled the whole game, but sometimes you just can’t get it done but they played hard.”
“Waynesfield is a very aggressive team,” Rangers head coach Kort Fledderjohann said. “I knew in the scouting that I did that no matter what the score or what the situation they were going to battle. They have tough, quick kids who don’t quit.”
In the third quarter Waynesfield was able to get the ball inside to Lee Turner, Dylan Little and Colton Miller to cut the deficit to 10 points as they entered the fourth quarter.
New Knoxville began the fourth quarter with a layup from Jake Allen, but then the Tigers scored eight straight points, including a layup off a steal by Miller that cut the lead to 40-36 with 5:16 left.
Lucas Leffel scored off a Tiger turnover, but Turner matched that with a layup with 3:51 left. He had a chance for a three-point play but missed the free throw.
Andrew Arnett hit a pair of free throws, but Waynesfield turned a pair of Ranger turnovers into a pair of baskets to trail 44-42 with two minutes left. Following an exchange of baskets, Arnett and Allen sank free throws to account for the 40-44 final.
“Whenever you can keep the score close in the fourth quarter anything can happen,” Taylor said. “We always preach that and talk about them things and we have to compete until the end. We have to get better executing our plays down the stretch and that hurt us a little bit.”
Both big men were big for each team as they led both teams in scoring. Leffel led all scorers with 19 points and had 10 points, including 6 on the offensive end. Lee Turner led the Tigers with 14 points and also had 10 rebounds.
“It is a total team effort for us,” Taylor said. “But Lee Turner is one of the main cogs and he will battle right until the end and that is what you would like to see.”
In the first half the Rangers were able to get the ball inside to Leffel, but he was able to get the ball to the open player and that allowed New Knoxville to get some space over W-G leading 15-9 after eight minutes of play.
“Our game plan was to get the ball inside to Lucas and the other kids who can post up,” Fledderjohann said.
Each team scored a basket in the first 90 seconds of the second quarter, but then the Rangers started to break the game open with a 9-0 run to expand the lead to 26-11 with two minutes left.
Colton Miller hit a pair of free throws and Leffel scored on a layup at the buzzer to make the score 28-13 at halftime.
Waynesfield (2-1) travels to Perry next Friday, while the Rangers (2-0) will travel to Anna tonight.