Ranger men face must-win games

Olympic College coach Reece Gliko only cares about one thing heading into the Rangers’ final two regular-season games — tonight at home against Everett and Saturday, March 2 at Edmonds.

“I want to be able to say we gave it our best effort,” Gliko said. “If we do that and don’t make the tournament, that’s fine. I’d rather make our best effort and not get in than play tentatively, squeak by and get in.”

The Rangers have been tentative, especially at the beginning of games during a four-game losing streak that’s dropped Olympic from first to fifth in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges’ Northern Division. OC (7-7 NWAACC, 13-13 overall) is tied with Whatcom, which beat the Rangers 98-85 on Saturday, Feb. 23, and a game back of fourth-place Skagit Valley (8-6) going into the final week of the regular season.

Skagit closes against Edmonds (today) and Whatcom (Saturday, Feb. 23). Whatcom plays at Seattle tonight. OC must beat Everett to stay in contention for the fourth and final spot in the March 8-11 NWAACC Tournament at the Tri-Cities Coliseum in Kennewick.

Against Whatcom, the Rangers trailed 50-30 at halftime before making it interesting in the final eight minutes.

If there’s been a pattern during OC’s four-game losing streak, it’s been falling behind early against hot-shooting opponents.

“I think that’s been the biggest thing,” Gliko said. “In every one of (those losses), from the 15-minute mark to halftime, we’ve played poorly. Take out those 15 minutes and we play pretty well.”

As for the opponents’ shooting — Whatcom hit 59 percent of its 3-pointers and shot 46 percent overall from the floor — Gliko said, “A lot of that is they’re getting too many open shots. They get a little confidence early and then they start hitting shots with hands in their faces later in the game,” Gliko refuses to believe that his depth-shy Rangers are wearing down.

“We’ve backed off on the length of time we practice,” Gliko said. “I think our legs are there ... how can we play our best and have our best energy in the last eight minutes of the game if our legs are gone.

“I think it’s a mindset. Maybe we started playing the standings and felt a little pressure. We’ve always talked about ‘It’s not winning and losing,’ but maybe our guys started to look at that, and they got tentative. We get down by 20, then they let things fly like they always have.”

Freshman Fred Grupe, who averages better than 20 points and 11 rebounds a game, was in foul trouble and didn’t reach double figures in points or rebounds against Whatcom or Seattle.

“Fred fouled out when we were making our comeback (against Whatcom),” Gliko said. “He’s such a big part of what we’re doing. That’s some adversity when he goes out of the game.”

Ken Waldo, coming off a 41-point outing against Seattle, had a solid 20-point game against Whatcom. Greg Caldwell heated up in the second half, and finished with seven 3-pointers and a team-high 25.

“Ken has played well. He’s stepped up and carries us at times,” Gliko said. “But one time it’s him and Greg. One time, it’s him and Fred or Robbie (Bybee). We need all the guys to step up and play to their potential. It’s not enough to have just a couple doing it.”

Gliko remains optimistic.

“I expect to play really well (today),” he said.

OC women show ‘heart’

If nothing else, Olympic College’s women earned some respect during an 81-46 loss to first-place Whatcom at Bremer Center Gym on Saturday, Feb. 23.

Trailing 46-11 at halftime, the Rangers (4-10 NWAACC, 7-18) could have quit, but they came out and played the tough Orcas (13-1, 23-2) even in the second half.

Coach Rick Peters hopes it carries over to OC’s final two games, tonight at home against Everett and Saturday, March 2 at Edmonds.

“I want to see the intensity and the heart we played with in the second half,” Peters said. “They didn’t like walking off the court like we did in the first half. They decided enough is enough.”

Leana Abille (11 points) and Melody Green (8 points, 8 rebounds) had the top numbers for OC, which was out-rebounded 61-39.

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