MONTPELIER – The Lake Region Rangers took to the road Wednesday night for the first round of the Division 2 playoffs against the #7 seeded Montpelier Solons. The Rangers were without sophomore Alex Beauregard for the contest who suffered a high ankle sprain during the closing moments of the last game against Richford. After a contest that went down to the wire, the blue and white ultimately fell 62-55.
While the intensity was there for the Rangers, the Solons out-matched it in the opening frame. Costly turnovers in their own defensive zone, combined with the 3-point shooting ability of the Solons, the Rangers found themselves trailing 13-4 midway through the first before Tony Stuart sliced into the lead with a long 3 from the top of the arch.
Using the pick and roll to perfection, Darik Messier laid it in, making it 13-9, but the Solons countered with a pair of baskets from Matt Dowling and Patterson to take an 18-9 lead into the second stanza.
The Solons defense held the blue and white to only 2 points over the course of the first 6 minutes of the second quarter. But, a pair of lay-ins inside from Marquel Webster and James Margolla, and a 1 of 2 showing from the stripe by Stuart, brought the score to 26-14 with 20 seconds to go. Jesse Smith however converted on the buzzer beater from the baseline, sending Montpelier to the intermission on top 28-14.
While the Solons used the 2nd to pull away, the Rangers used the 3rd to claw their way back into the contest. A bomb from downtown by Shaquille Urie, a put back from Seth Lawson, and a Messier lay-up had the Rangers back to within seven before most fans had settled back in. Gallup trimmed the lead to 30-24 after cleaning up the glass and putting it back for 2.
The game stretched back to double-digits for Montpelier at 40-28 with 90 seconds to go in the 3rd when T.J Dellipriscoli connected on a long 3 pointer from the top of the arc. Patterson would add a 2 just before the buzzer to put the Solons on top 15 entering the 4th.
These Rangers have been battle-tested all season long, so the fans that made the trip to the capital knew that they were not going to be disappointed with the effort in the 4th quarter.
Lawson opened the quarter with an and-1, and after missing the free throw, he collected his open offensive board and kicked it out to Caleb Royer, who promptly delivered a 3-ball, cutting the lead to 10.
As Lawson and Messier kept connecting inside, Patterson and co. kept connecting from the outside and with 4 minutes to go, as the lead at 53-39 continued to hover in double digits.
Webster, Messier, and Stuart each connected inside, sending LR on a 6-0 run, cutting the score to 53-47 with 2 minutes on the clock. The Rangers were not done there, as they would close to within four, 55-51, as the clocked ticked down to zero. But that was as close as they would get as the Solons iced the contest from the line and advanced the quarterfinals by a score of 62-55.
“We had our chances, they are a great shooting team,” said coach James Ingalls after the game. “They hit key shots when we were just about ready to break it open.”
“I am so proud of the way this team turned things around after the 1-8 start, we rallied to go 9-2 and we took the #7 seed right to the buzzer,” he would go on to add.
Montpelier was paced by Arlo Patterson would had a game high 18 points, they also got contributions from Jordan Mureta with 9 and Matt Dowling with 6.
Lake Region had 2 players with double-doubles as Darik Messier and Drew Gallup each had 13 points and 10 rebounds. Tony Stuart also reached double-digits with 10 points.
As the season closes, the Ranger faithful will bid farewell to their 5 seniors, but they will re-tool, improve, and come back next December, looking to make another run at the title.