copyright the Chronicle March 7, 2014
by Richard Creaser
BARRE — The Lake Region Rangers (18-4) battled through 20 regular season and two playoff games to earn a berth in Thursday night’s semifinal at the Barre Auditorium. Squaring off against the second-seeded Randolph Galloping Ghosts (20-2), there were no illusions about how tough a game this would be. The DIII semifinal marked the first sell-out crowd of the Barre tournament, tournament officials told the Chronicle.
Both teams had fought hard to make it to Barre but only one would emerge to compete for the DIII crown. On this night, with a 70-59 win, it would be the Ghosts.
“They play good ball pressure,” Ranger Clint Provoncha said of the Ghosts. “They were really aggressive on defense and they never give up.”
Tenacity was the name of the game for both of these squads. Though falling behind by a basket in the early goings, Lake Region managed a 7-2 lead until foul troubles upended the Ranger attack. Halfway through the opening quarter, the Rangers had accrued five fouls.
“Fouls were a big problem for us early in the game,” Coach James Ingalls acknowledged after the contest. “Foul trouble all around kept us from getting our wheels rolling.”
The twin-towers of Randolph’s offense and defense were Levi West and Ross Caswell. Their control of the paint highlighted the Ghosts’ real strength. Though the Randolph pair dominated vertical space, the Rangers athleticism and their own giants Dennis Newland and Matt Messier helped to balance the ledgers.
Going into the half, the Rangers were down 33-27. But as gritty teams are capable of doing, they would not stay down for long.
“I told them that this could be the end of our season,” Coach Ingalls said of the talk he had with his players during the intermission. “I knew we could play better than we had. And we did.”
The Rangers rattled off a quick seven points to grab the lead for only the second time in the game. Instrumental in that surge was the strong play of Provoncha and Dakota McAlister. The two guards effected steals and turnovers, giving the Rangers the kind of forward momentum they struggled to establish beyond the first few minutes of the game.
“Dakota’s a big part of our offense,” Provoncha, a senior, said of his junior teammate. “He makes the motor run. He’s going to play a big part in next year’s team.”
Provoncha would lead all scorers on the night with a 24-point performance. Randolph’s West (23) and Caswell (20) had big nights for the Ghosts. Rangers Newland and McAlister would also finish in double digits, recording ten points apiece.
By the end of the third quarter, Lake Region managed to not only erase its deficit but go into the final frame with a three-point lead. Provoncha nailed his fifth and sixth three-pointers of the game in the third quarter, while Alex Beauregard contributed his second as the Rangers exploded for 25 points to open the second half.
What followed was the antithesis of the kind of play that propelled Lake Region into the lead. A few rounds of missed shots and untimely turnovers would quickly undo what the Rangers had built.
‘”I think we kind of let it get in our heads,” Provoncha said. “We didn’t run through our offense the way we needed to.”
The two sides battled for control of the game through the early half of the fourth quarter with the lead exchanging hands often, much to the delight of the crowd. Once again, foul troubles plagued the Rangers as the Ghosts began to pull away. Down 70-57 with the clock wearing down to its final seconds, Newland completed the Rangers season with one last basket.
Newland’s basket may not have made a difference in the final tally of the night but it did speak volumes to the fact that the 2014 Rangers did not go down without a fight.
“We had a phenomenal season and they played very, very well,” Coach Ingalls said. “I’m extremely proud of my team.”
contact Richard Creaser at [email protected]
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