Rangers pull out a close one - finally

"It was an ugly game - Barry Janusch readily copped to that.Even the shot that won it, Casey Reynolds' 14-foot prayer over a triple-team with five seconds left, was far from pretty.But for an Olympic College men's basketball team struggling to get back into the thick of the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) North Division playoff race, the shot and the game will endure as things of beauty.At this point, any win is a nice win, Janusch said after Reynolds' late shot and a last-second miss by the Helmsmen lifted the Rangers to a 53-51 victory Wednesday night at Bremer Center. We're back to 2-3 (in division play) and we have a couple games at home where we could get to above .500.We've won a couple close games now, which gives us confidence for down the stretch, Janusch added.With both teams desperately needing to win to stay in playoff contention, the game was a buzzer-to-buzzer struggle. Defense dominated, momentum was harder to come by than nice things to say about John Ashcroft, and both teams clanked more than they made from the free throw line.After both leading and trailing by as much as seven points, though, the Rangers found themselves with the ball, 39 seconds and a chance to win. After calling two time outs - their last two - they got the ball to their sophomore leader, Reynolds, on the left wing, and things broke down.I think (the shot clock) was running out, the 6-foot-6 North Mason product said. The ball came back to me, and there was no one to pass to, so I just shot it and followed through, and it went in. That's all that counts.The fall-away 14-footer, over what seemed like a sea of outstretched Bellevue arms, gave the Rangers the lead. But it also gave the Helmsmen five seconds to try for the equalizer, and they nearly took advantage.Having to go the length of the court, Bellevue inbounded to guard Tygan Billow, who raced past several Olympic players and down the left side of the lane for a shockingly open look from close range. His layup was too hard, however, and the ball and Billow both hit the floor as the horn sounded.That's the layup the other team's have been making against us, said Janusch, referring to the Rangers' frustrating penchant for losing the close ones this season. That could've gone and we'd still be playing. But we finally caught a break.In the inartistically played game, both teams shot less than 35 percent from the floor. Olympic, in fact, was even worse from the free throw line, hitting just 4 of 13 (a tragicomic 30.8 percent). Bellevue wasn't much better, converting just 7 of its 16 free tosses, 46.7 percent.Both teams worked really hard, Janusch said, shaking his head over the low point totals and chilly shooting percentages. Neither team really executed very well. We were having trouble finishing, and Bellevue was having trouble even getting the ball inside.Janusch said it's appropriate that the durable Reynolds, who was one of the Rangers' few freshmen in 1999-2000 and their elder statesman this season, would emerge as the hero.Last year he did a lot of the dirty work, and he's been asked to do a lot more this year, Janusch said of Reynolds, who finished Wednesday's game with 18 points and eight rebounds. He's the guy you expect to get the last shot, and make it.Reynolds said the timing of the win couldn't be better for the young Rangers if they expect to advance to the NWAACC playoffs.Hopefully now we can get some momentum, he said. We've lost some close ones, and they were heartbreakers, so this was a big one for us. We've got a couple more home games coming up, and then we'll see where we're at.The Rangers have a bye in tonight's round, then take on Skagit Valley on Wednesday, Jan. 24 and Whatcom on Saturday, Jan. 27, both at 8 p.m. at Bremer Center. "

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