Rangers comeback falls short against top-ranked Hardin

Ryan Peerboom — Enterprise Staff Writer
Monday, January 27, 2020
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Enteprise Photo by Ryan Peerboom

Park’s Nick Battrick (15) dribbles down court past a Hardin defender on Saturday night at Park High School.

The Park Rangers fell just short in a high scoring game against the undefeated and top-ranked Hardin Bulldogs at Park High School on Saturday night. 

The Bulldogs beat the Rangers 70-60.

Both teams came out fast, with high-tempo offenses resulting in plenty of scoring for both teams. Park’s Rylee Watt helped fuel the Rangers offense as he traded two 3-pointers with Hardin’s Famous Lefthand in the quarter. It was either team’s game after the first, but Hardin had a four point advantage, 21-17.

It was the Rangers’ goal to come out with intensity, according to Brendon Johnson. 

“Just playing one of the best teams in the state we just know we have to come out with our A-game,” Johnson said. “That’s what we did, we came out with effort, that was our goal.”

Rangers head coach Layne Glaus said the senior leadership of the Rangers helped them stay focused in the first. 

“I think we got some seniors that played with poise that first quarter,” Glaus said. “Our guys played with poise to start the game and made the simple play.”

After the high offensive output of the first quarter, defense stepped up for both teams in the second. Neither team scored for nearly four minutes to start the quarter. A driving layup from Johnson near the four minute mark finally broke the scoreless streak. 

The Rangers briefly took a 24-23 lead in the quarter on a deep 3-pointer from Johnson. Hardin answered with a 3 of their own from Lefthand which sparked a 7-0 run for the Bulldogs to finish the half with a 30-24 lead at halftime. The Rangers slowed things down and focused on draining the clock to help them out of foul trouble. 

After trading buckets to start the second half, Hardin ran off on another long, 12-0 run to give them a 46-27 lead. Park was able to claw back a little, but still trailed 51-34 as they entered the fourth. 

The Bulldogs extended their lead to 20, 56-36, early in the fourth, but the Rangers weren’t ready to give in. Park slowly started to climb out of the deficit. The Rangers brought the Hardin lead down to 16 before scoring seven straight points, capped by a Watt 3, to cut the lead to single digits, 66-58, with just under two minutes remaining. 

After a Hardin timeout, the Bulldogs sunk four free throws to put the game to bed and beat the Rangers by 10, 70-60.

Johnson sparked the Rangers on offense with 27 points. Watt added 11 and Jack Gauthier and Sage McMinn each scored six. 

Watt said the Rangers can compete with the Bulldogs, they just have to focus on defense. 

“We all knew that we could give (Hardin) a game,” he said. “I just don’t think we played our best game all-around, me included. It just all starts with defense for us and that’s where all of our minds are.”

The Rangers feel like underdogs, and that drives their resiliency, even when the game feels out of reach in the fourth quarter, Watt added.

“We don’t give up,” he said. “Our thing is, we’re all dogs on the court, we’re never out of a game, it doesn’t matter. “We’re under-looked this year, we’re trying to prove ourselves, we want it, we want it more than anybody.”

Johnson said their relentless nature comes from trying to make the community proud. 

“We want to show all these people from Livingston and we want to show them how much we care about them and that’s why we actually play, it’s just because of them,” he said.

Glaus said Watt’s leadership provided a spark for the Rangers down the stretch as they were trying to mount their comeback. 

“I think they have heart and they have a couple leaders and all of them play with passion,” he said. “A guy like Rylee Watt, he’s a real vocal leader for us in those late-game situations and kind of keeps us together.”


Up next

The Rangers play at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Fergus.