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Rangers Give State Power A Battle

Knocked Off By Top Ranked NEW Lutheran In Division 5 Sectional Semifinals 63-58

Heading into the Division 5 sectional semifinal against top ranked NEW Lutheran as a huge underdog Thursday at BayPort, the Wausaukee Rangers battled the state power to the end before coming up short 63-58.

Facing that tough post-season challenge, the Rangers rallied from deficits the entire game...16-6 in the first quarter, 29-19 period two and 37-30 in the third frame before closing within 42-41 score on a three point shot by senior guard Beau DeLaet.

“I really thought if we can get the lead, we would win the game. But NEW settled down, hit some big shots and gradually pulled away,” Wausaukee coach John Ranallo said. “ I am really proud of all the boys and their efforts on and off the court. We are trying to get the Wausaukee basketball tradition back where it use to be and these players took a huge step in getting us going. We are going to lose 5 seniors, but should still be able to make a couple of more runs.”

Making their first sectional appearance since 2000, Ranallo and company have nothing to be ashamed of as the 22-4 Rangers gave NEW Lutheran (26-1) all it could handle and then some. NEW was coming into the sectional clash with lopsided wins over two M-O Conference teams, Lena 73-39 and STAA 78-38. The third battle against M-O competition proved to be the toughest.

“NEW outsized us at every position by at least two or three inches. We knew we had to get back on defense because NEW likes to get out and go with the ball. We had to slow the game down and then fight and scratch for everything,” Ranallo added.

The Rangers were paced by 6’3 junior forward Aaron Schlies with 25 points on 11-16 shooting from two point land, 9 rebounds and 3 assists. Beau DeLaet, the lone senior starter, capped a brilliant high school career with 13 points on 4-6 shots from inside the arc and 4 assists.

“Aaron and Beau played very good games and kept us close throughout. I wish we could have got Zach Orlando some more shots, but their defense made things difficult,” Ranallo said.

A trio of players scored 13 points for NEW in Noah Gosse, Dakota Zinser and 6’7 Nathan Toenjes. Gosse was at his best in the fourth quarter with 6 points, including a pair of jumpers to keep NEW in control.

Wausaukee held the lead only once in the 32 minute contest as Schlies slipped through for a runner at the 7:05 mark. The Blazers answered in a big way with 9 straight points, including a three pointer and jumper by Kristian Zimmerman. Add in a steal and dunk by Samuel Brock and the Blazers were up 9-2 at the 4:16 mark.

After the opening basket by Schlies, the Rangers went scoreless until the 3:53 mark when Schlies beat Toenjes on a drive. DeLaet got into the scoring act hitting a layup for an 11-6 deficit before tacking on a buzzer beating shot for a 16-8 deficit.

“At the end of the first quarter, I told the guys don’t worry about being behind by 8, get it to 4 and we’ll go from there,”Ranallo said.

Orlando finally found an opening and connected on a three pointer to begin the second quarter as Wausaukee trailed 16-11 (7:47). But once again NEW fired back and went on an 8-2 surge to pry open a 24-13 edge. Tanner Viegut drilled a three pointer while Toenjes and Zinser canned buckets to key the surge.

Showing plenty of patience, Wausaukee used back-to-back baskets by Schlies to get within 26-17 followed by two buckets from DeLaet along with a buzzer-beater by 5’5 Conner Kempinski for a 32-28 deficit at intermission.

The Ranger comeback continued in the third frame as Schlies weaved through for a trio of buckets and a 39-34 score. Orlando canned a 10-footer and Schlies struck again as Wausaukee was down 42-38 at the 3:19 mark. Things were about to get better when a rebounding foul on Zimmerman gave Wausaukee the ball back. The Rangers knew what to do with the ball, setting up DeLaet, who drilled a trey for a 42-41 deficit (2:32).

Not bothered by the rally, NEW Lutheran answered again!

Working the ball inside to Toenjes, the 6’7 pivot ace scored to put the Blazers up 44-41, Gosse followed with a three pointer (1:15) and Zimmerman a free throw to key a 6-0 closing run.

The Blazers added the opening 6 points of the final frame to extend the upper hand to 54-41 (6:06). Zimmerman got things started with a jumper then watched Gosse and Toenjes added baskets.

Down by 13 points, the Rangers put together one last rally. Schlies worked his way along the baseline for two buckets while DeLaet tacked on a pair of free throws to trail 56-47 with 4:27 remaining. A 6-footer by Russell Smith kept Wausaukee within striking distance 56-49 (2:52) before Gosse dropped in a pair of jump shots for a 60-49 edge.

The Rangers didn’t quit. Kempinski (1:21) and Orlando (0:40) tallied three pointers for a 62-55 deficit. Missed free throws by NEW kept Wausaukee’s hopes alive as Zinser came up short on the front end of a bonus (0:36) while Samuel Brock went 1-2 with 20 ticks left.

With the clocking winding down to 4 seconds, Schlies canned a three pointer for that 63-58 final score.

“Looking back we were really close to being a one loss team this year. It is tough to see the season end as our kids have played so well together and are extremely unselfish. The fan support we have received this year was fantastic and seeing that huge crowd Thursday was unbelievable. A lot of familiar faces showed up to support the kids. The future looks bright and we expect some more success down the road,” said Ranallo, who just completed his second year as the Ranger head coach.


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