ORLEANS â€“ The Lake Region Rangers kicked off their 2011-2012 campaign Tuesday night, with a match-up against the rival Hazen Wildcats. The Rangers started off strong, building a commanding halftime lead, before finally putting away the Wildcats after a furious comeback.
Before the contest Lake Region held a moment of silence in honor of Kaylanne Matten, who tragically lost her life last week. Her parents Justin and Nichole Matten attended Lake Region.
Hazen started off hot as they hit 2 quick 3-pointers, to put themselves up 6-0, but that would be the last time they had the lead in the game. A Drew Gallup jumper from one step inside the 3-point line tied the game at 6 and from that point on Lake Region never looked back. James Margolla, hit a tough lay-up inside, with defenders draped all over him to put the Rangers out in front 8-6, with just over 2 minutes left in the first quarter. After Alex Beauregard and Marquel Webster each connected on lay-ups, the Lake Region squad entered the 2nd quarter on top by a score of 13-8. The Rangers had their chance to blow the game wide open in the first, but missed free throws and costly turnovers kept the Wildcats in a game that looked like it shouldnâ€™t even be a contest.
The hot streak continued for the Rangers, as they went on a 6-0 run early in the 2nd thanks to baskets by Margolla and Seth Lawson, stretching the lead to 19-8. Hazen Union looked as if they were becoming frustrated out on the court, throwing the ball away and costing them possessions. After a Caleb Royer 3, they found themselves trailing 26-12, with 2 minutes left in the half. Matthew Messier would add a 2 of his own just before the buzzer to put the Rangers on top 31-14 entering the break.
Lake Region looked purely dominate in the first half. Their passes were crisp, they didnâ€™t throw the ball away, and they took the easy shot. The Blue and White continually worked the ball to the big guys inside and got rewarded by earning trips to the free-throw line.
But, the calm, cool, and collected Rangers team, was know where to be found in the 2nd half. Hazen opened up the 3rd by deploying a full-court man-to-man press that stymied the Lake Region attack.
The Wildcats would cut the lead down to 9, thanks to baskets from Jake Drown, Murphy Simmons, and Andrew Laggis before Drew Gallup would finally get the Blue and White back on the board with 4 minutes to go in the 3rd. After being stymied all of the 3rd, Lake Region was only able to score 7 points, while allowing Hazen to get back into the game. The Blue and White committed 9 team fouls in the quarter, allowing the Wildcats to knock down 7 free throws en route to the furious comeback. The score heading into the 4th would be Lake Region 38 Hazen 32.
But, while the lead continued to shrink, LR was able to dig down deep and keep the keep the Wildcatâ€™s at bay. With Drown trying to single-handedly pull Hazen closer to a lead, Lake Regionâ€™s Margolla and Darik Messier were dominating on the boards while scoring clutch points down the stretch. After Hazen closed the lead to within 5 at 40-35, they could not get any closer. Gallup, Royer, Darik Messier, and Margolla would all connect on clutch free throws down the stretch and Tony Stuart would add a lay-up late to put Lake Region on top 49-40, with just over a minute left in regulation. The scoring would be completed when Shaquille Urie would connect on an up-and-under to put the game at its final score of 53-40.
After the contest Coach James Ingalls said, â€śIt was a good way to start the season and the game played out the way I expected it would.â€ť
He would later add, â€śThat these kids are still getting used to playing with each other. Later on I think we will see good things, but for right now it is still a learning curve and we are going to have some ups and downs just like any other team.â€ť
After it looked like Lake Region was going to run away with an easy victory, they struggled mightily in the second half to break the Hazen press. Coach Ingalls gave credit to the Hazen team for have a strong full-court attack and added that, â€śdown the stretch, we handled it decent enough to get the win, but we still need to work on it.â€ť
Jake Drown led the Hazen scoring attack with 14 points, while Andrew Demers chipped in with 9 and Andrew Laggis and Murphy Simmons each had 7.
Lake Region's offense used a balanced attack with all but one player getting on to the scorers sheet. James Margolla led the way with a team high 10 points, Caleb Royer added 9 of his own, and Drew Gallup pumped in 8. The also got help from Darik Messier with 6, Seth Lawson with 5, Alex Beauregard, Marquel Webster and Shaquille Urie with 4, and Tony Stuart with 2.
The Rangers will take to the road for their next contest, when they travel down I-91 to Lyndonville, to face off against the L.I. Vikings, tonight, with tip-off scheduled for 7:00.