OC comeback falls just short

"BREMERTON - Saturday's consolation game of the Olympic College Shootout was a mismatch, with Pierce College pounding Malespina 119-36. It looked for a while like the championship game was going to be more of the same. But the host Rangers pulled out of a first-half nose-dive, wiping out a 21-point deficit and actually taking a short-lived lead late in the second half before falling 79-76 to Clackamas.The Cougars, from Salem, Ore., won the four-team tournament title for the third straight year.But it wasn't as easy as the first 15 minutes or so made it look like it was going to be. Unlike Malespina, which was kicked all the way back to its Nanaimo, B.C. campus, the Rangers reversed the early momentum and turned what could've been a laugher into a pretty decent game.I thought we did a good job of scrambling back into it, said OC coach Barry Janusch, whose team (1-2) now is idle until it hosts Highline Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. in a rematch of a six-point season-opening loss (the T-bird and Ranger women open with a 5 p.m. game). By halftime, we were back in reach. Cutting it down to a 10-point deficit was a real moral victory.Mike Fisher's 3-pointer staked Clackamas to a 36-15 lead with 5 minutes, 25 seconds left in the first half. But Olympic outscored the Cougs 14-3 for the rest of the half, and started the second period with a 12-3 run. Suddenly Clackamas' runaway had turned into a two-point game, which see-sawed back and forth the rest of the way.It took a lot of energy for us to get back in it, and then things just sort of went their way at the end, Janusch said.The Rangers grabbed the lead several times in the second half, the last time at 71-68 with 3:23 to play on back-to-back baskets by Barson Collins (who sat out the first half as punishment for missing a team meeting) and Julius Marshall.But Clackamas reeled off the next eight points, including a 3-point stab in the heart from sophomore Michael Kuebler that put the Cougs ahead 75-71 with 1:53 showing. Casey Reynolds scored twice for OC, including a 35-footer at the final buzzer, but Clackamas was able to produce enough at the free throw line to preserve its lead.Janusch and the Rangers' players said they didn't know how they managed to fall into that 21-point hole in the first half. But they knew where the energy to climb out of it had come from, pointing to back-to-back 3-point darts by freshman Jason Young that fueled their move at the end of the first half.Him hitting both those threes really picked us up, said freshman Ken Waldo, an Olympic High School product who joined Reynolds as OC's contingent on the all-tournament team. Until then, the intensity just wasn't there, especially on defense.Janusch said the early defensive intensity all belonged to Clackamas, and it took his young team most of the first half to warm to the challenge.They're defense is really good; they're strong and quick, Janusch said of the Cougars (5-0). It really slowed us down and confused us. Most of our guys are freshmen, and they're not used to this level of intensity. But we did a nice job getting ourselves back together.Young's two bombs, both on assists from Bremerton's Mike Crozier, really loosened us up, Janusch said. We hadn't been shooting well from outside, in fact we haven't shot real well all season. But when he hit those, it made them come out of their zone.That opened things up inside for Reynolds, the only returning starter from the Rangers' 1999-2000 team. The hard-working North Mason product scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to sweeten up his all-tournament credentials after a 16-point, 10-board performance in Friday's 81-65 win over Malespina.He and Waldo also put the clamps on Clackamas' 6-foot-7 post, Nate Block, who had 30 points and 16 boards the previous night against Pierce. Against OC, Block had a much more modest five points and seven rebounds.We did a nice job on block - that was one of our keys, to slow him down, Janusch said. I thought Casey just had a huge game.With Block leading the way Clackamas had beaten Pierce 95-85 in Friday's opening game. "

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