BASKETBALL: Rangers escape Trojans

NEW KNOXVILLE — Six of 11 free throws in the final two minutes allowed the New Knoxville Rangers to escape with a 63-59 victory Saturday evening against the Botkins Trojans in a non-league game at New Knoxville.

"I think we hit just enough free throws to win the game,” Rangers varsity coach Kort Fledderjohann said. “We had the front end of two one and the bonus opportunities and only hit one each time.”

“We just didn’t play well enough defensively to come to New Knoxville and get the job done,” Trojans varsity coach Brett Meyer said. “We allowed them to score 63 points and that is the most they have scored this year. Our defensive effort wasn’t the greatest tonight.” 

Despite the hot shooting and rebounding of Lucas Leffel the Rangers had a hard time pulling away from the Trojans. Leffel finished the game with 21 points and 12 rebounds.

“We finally shot the ball well tonight,” Fledderjohann said. “The last couple of weeks we have started shooting the ball better. In practice we have started shooting the ball more and trying to get the guys into a better rhythm.

“Lucas Leffel is our man inside,” Fledderjohann said. We rely a lot on him. Lucas was a little banged up tonight and you have to give him credit because he came out and didn’t complain at all.”

“It came to a point where we had a hand in his face and he was still knocking in shots,” Meyer said. “We knew he would give us a tough matchup and he was a little bit over his average and Jake Allen had 16 points also so that was good for them.” 

Going into the fourth quarter the Rangers only had a 45-43 lead, but it changed quickly as the fourth quarter started. Jake Allen opened with a bomb and Seth Kuck followed with a layup to give New Knoxville a 50-43 lead with seven minutes left.

“We were able to make a run,” Meyer said. “They would come back and answer and we were not able to stop their run. We trailed by two going into the fourth and we were not able to execute offensively or defensively well enough.”

The Rangers led 59-52 with a minute left before Botkins attempted their comeback. It started with a basket by Tyler Egbert with 52 seconds and after a pair of free throws by the Rangers, he hit a layup with 24 seconds and then nailed a bomb to make the score 61-59 with 13 seconds left. Leffel and Allen each hit a free throw to account for the 63-59 victory.

“Botkins is a good team,” Fledderjohann said. “I saw them play last Tuesday and they beat Houston and Friday night they had a good game against Ft. Loramie. They have good junior and senior guards and we knew it would be a close game.”

“Tyler Egbert had eight rebounds and 14 points,” Meyer said. “He played basically the second half because of foul trouble in the first half. That was a key loss for us in the first half.”

In the first quarter it was back and forth until the final minute when Botkins got a bomb and a jumper from Gabe Lawrence for a 15-11 lead after one quarter.

The Trojans got their inside game going in the second quarter, but New Knoxville hit four bombs in the quarter, but still trailed at halftime 30-29.

Both teams traded the lead in the third with the Rangers getting the ball inside to lead going into the fourth quarter 45-43.

Two players scored in double figures for the Rangers. Leffel led with 21 points and Jake Allen had 16 points. Tyler Egbert led the Trojans with 14 points and Ethan Zimpfer had 10 points.

In the JV game New Knoxville won 52-46.

The Trojans (5-4) entertain Fairlawn next Friday, while the Rangers (4-4) entertain New Bremen on Friday.