North trailed South by eight points with under two minutes before halftime in a pivotal WRC matchup Feb. 9. Sean Register and Nate Tadiello scored on three trips down the floor to make it a one-point deficit going to the half.
The Rangers surged ahead in the third, but the Rebels hung within striking distance. The Rebels took a one-point lead late in the fourth, but Stevie Siekaniec hit a 3-pointer that gave the lead back to North.
A tip-in by South’s Rio Glandon made it a one-point deficit. Out of a North timeout, Siekaniec inbounded to an open Bryce Frasure in the corner, and Frasure sunk a 3-pointer that made it a four-point lead.
North held on to win, 65-61, and improved to 13-6. South fell to 9-9 and is now two games behind the Rangers in the WRC standings.
Mayfield jumps to second in the conference at 5-2 after its win over Kenston. The Rangers will host the Wildcats on Feb. 13 with the top spot in the conference on the line.
The game was tied at 11-11 midway through the first. Out of a South timeout, the Rebels went on an 8-0 run for a 19-11 lead.
But the Rangers rallied and trailed by four at the end of the first. They did it again before the half, and Coach Clint Nicholson reminded them to take a step back.
“They know how to play, it’s more of a mentality thing for the guys,” Nicholson said. “I just let them know to take a step back and think of the moment now compared to the future. If you go at 100% and give it everything, I am fine with the result. Things happen, it was an intense game and an intense atmosphere and we did what we had to do to get the job done.”
Register was a big contributor to the Rangers keeping the game in reach, as he had 21 points in the first half. His work down low continued into the second as well.
He finished with a game-high 37 points and 21 rebounds.
Register highlighted the Rangers’ defense against South’s evolving attack.
“We started out slow but knew we had to fix it through the game,” Register said. “We switched through a lot of defenses tonight, man, box and one, zone, everything possible. This was a big rivalry game, conference game and the atmosphere was huge but we had to take things one by one.”
While South couldn’t match North inside, it moved beyond the arc to lead the contest early. The Rebels went 6 of 10 in the first half from beyond the arc.
The Rangers forced them inside in the second half and the Rebels created lanes to stay in the contest.
But North limited them to one look on the drives with the combination of Register and Tadiello in the paint. Tadiello added 11 rebounds for the Rangers and found his shot in the second half.
He had 10 of his 14 points after the half. He knew that being able to alleviate some of the pressure on Register down low was going to help in the long run.
“I knew the first half wasn’t my best, I wasn’t attacking a lot,” Tadiello said. “Coming out of the half, I was able to refocus and started attacking more. That’s where I got a lot of rebounds and started to help the team a lot more. We have a lot of chemistry and have been playing together a lot better.”
But South continued to answer the Rangers. The Rebels forced turnovers and went to Glanton and Quintin Wilson down low for quick buckets.
The Rebels took their first lead since halftime on a Delond Moss tap-in with just over two minutes left.
But North responded with the Siekaniec 3-pointer that pushed the lead to the Rangers’ favor. Glanton cut the lead back to one before Frasure slammed the door with his 3-pointer.
Siekaniec and Frasure didn’t have their best games, combining for 10 points, but knew they were ready if called on for the big moments.
“We knew they needed help from the jump,” Frasure said. “The rest of us needed to be able to step up and make some plays. We can get a big play out of anyone and tonight happened to be Stevie and me. We just needed it to transition to the other end.”
That is something that Nicholson emphasized all season. When his players have a look, take the shot and don’t second guess it.
“The two biggest shots were Bryce and Stevie tonight,” Nicholson said. “I hype all the guys up, we shoot a lot of shots. For us to win, it has to happen that way. Obviously, Sean is going to be Sean but for us to be at our best as a team, I need players to step up around him for moments like that.”
South was led by Wilson with 13 points, all in the second half, and Moss with 11.
The Rebels continue WRC play when they host Riverside on Feb. 13. North makes a quick pit stop outside of WRC play to take on Lakewood on Feb. 10.
North 65, South 61