In boys basketball: Rangers edged out by Vikings in OT thriller

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Austin Roberge (left) watches helplessly as Jay Cobb flies toward the hoop in the Rangers overtime loss to the Vikings Friday. Cobb led all scorers with 27 points.  Photos by David Dudley
Austin Roberge (left) watches helplessly as Jay Cobb flies toward the hoop in the Rangers overtime loss to the Vikings Friday. Cobb led all scorers with 27 points. Photos by David Dudley

copyright the the Chronicle December 17, 2014

by David Dudley

LYNDON CENTER — The Lake Region Union High School Rangers were edged out on the road by the Lyndon Institute Vikings, 62-60, in an overtime thriller Friday. While Vikings senior Jay Cobb led all scorers with 27 points, it was Hunter Murray who stunned the crowd at Lyndon Center with a buzzer beater from beyond the arc to force overtime.

But in the beginning of the game, overtime wasn’t on anyone’s mind.

The Vikings came out of the gate strong. Carried by their formidable front court, the Vikings made it difficult for the Rangers to get into any kind of rhythm in the first half. The Vikings sticky defense shut down passing lanes. They scarcely let the Rangers put up an uncontested shot. They snatched nearly every board within reach. They dominated the paint on both ends.   They controlled the tempo. In short, the Vikings flustered the Rangers throughout the opening half.

Cobb was unstoppable. The Rangers tried to clamp down on him, but they just didn’t have the height or the quickness to really stop Cobb down low. When the Rangers crowded the paint, Cobb switched it up, popping shots from mid-range. When he couldn’t get open there, Cobb took to the post to keep wracking up points. He even stepped behind the arc for two three-pointers before the game was through.

And he wasn’t alone.

Jacky Lau, who finished the night with 14 points, knocked down a three-pointer to end the first quarter. And Logan LaRose pitched in another eight points on the night to round out the Vikings offensive effort.

The Vikings looked strong heading into halftime.   They had a nine-point lead, 28-19, after holding the jittery Rangers to only seven points in the second quarter.

But Rangers Coach James Ingalls had words for his team during the break. Whatever he said in that locker room had a powerful effect on his team — they came out of halftime on a mission.

After sending Cobb to the foul line, where he went 1-2, to give the Vikings a 29-19 lead, the Rangers turned the intensity way up.

Trent Bathalon willed in a second chance bucket.   Then Dakota McAlister hit a three-pointer to bring the Rangers within five.

That’s when Austin Roberge, who scored 24 points for the game, came alive. He drove the ball toward the right baseline, thinking layup all along. He kissed the ball off the glass for two points, and was fouled hard. After hitting the free throw, he cut the Vikings lead to just two points.

The Rangers unleashed a full court press that had the Vikings throwing long, hasty passes that were begging to be picked off.

Moments later Roberge swiped the ball from the Vikings. Before the defense could get back, Roberge pulled up to hit another three-pointer, giving the Rangers a one-point lead, 30-29.

Talk about a shift in momentum.

With 5:39 left in the third quarter, the Rangers had wiped away the Vikings lead.

Danny Epinette, who had been hustling quietly throughout the game, made his presence known as he blocked Cobb down low.

Roberge swiped the ball yet again, pushing it down the court for a sweet finger roll.

Rangers fans went wild as Nate Charland hit a buzzer beater from beyond the arc to close out the third quarter.

After struggling in the first half, the Rangers put 25 points on the board in one quarter. And, what’s more, they had effectively shut down Cobb.

Epinette opened up the fourth quarter with a jumper from the baseline, with the foul. He hit the free throw to give the Rangers a 47-41 lead.

On the next possession, Roberge stole the ball yet again. As he pushed the ball down court, Cobb was right behind him. Roberge fearlessly leaped toward the basket, with Cobb reaching for the ball. Roberge flipped the ball up a little higher than on previous attempts, when Cobb wasn’t using every bit of his lengthy frame to pursue the ball. The ball kissed off the glass and went down.

Austin Roberge exacts some high flying revenge as he takes the ball to the hoop against Logan LaRose. Roberge finished the game with 24 points.
Austin Roberge exacts some high flying revenge as he takes the ball to the hoop against Logan LaRose. Roberge finished the game with 24 points.

Again, Rangers fans erupted in cheers. Vikings fans, in contrast, fell silent.

The tables had indeed turned for the Rangers.   Roberge shouted, “Come on!” as he returned to the defensive end.

After McAlister hit another layup on the next possession, to give the Rangers a ten-point advantage, Vikings Coach Phil Joyal had seen enough. He called a timeout.

The air in Lyndon Center’s gym was electric.

With a little under five minutes in regulation, the Vikings had their work cut out for them. Not only had they blown their early lead, but also the momentum was clearly in the Rangers favor.

But the Vikings weren’t ready to quit just yet.

Cobb inhaled an offensive rebound, put the ball in, and got fouled. He hit the ensuing foul shot, cutting the Rangers lead to eight.

With 1:44 in regulation, Lau hit another three-pointer for the Vikings, bringing them within three points, 53-50.

McAlister hit two consecutive free throws to give the Rangers a five-point cushion.

Lau answered with a jumper of his own, bringing the Vikings within three points, 55-52.

With 19.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter, McAlister was fouled again. After missing both foul shots, the Vikings pulled in the rebound. Coach Joyal called timeout.

The Rangers clung to a three-point lead with 11.9 seconds remaining in regulation, when an unlikely hero stepped up for the Vikings. With time running out, Murray caught the ball in the corner. He put up a buzzer beater from beyond the arc, and nailed it.

The crowd went absolutely bananas as the ball splashed the net. Murray was overrun with excited teammates.

Though the Rangers were the first to get on the board in overtime, it was the Vikings who would have the last word.

On the wings of Cobb’s final push, the Vikings took a 62-59 lead. Roberge went to the line for two foul shots, but sunk only one.

After an unfruitful exchange, the Rangers found themselves trailing, 62-60, with the final possession of overtime.

The Rangers passed the ball around, looking for the right opening. Finally, the ball landed in McAlister’s hands. He was on the left wing with an open look from three. He squared up, shot. But it was off.

“We played a strong game,” Coach Ingalls said. “We worked hard on defense, and on the boards. We got into a couple of tough situations in overtime. Still, it’s early in the season. We’re just getting started.”

contact David Dudley at [email protected]

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