Pirates stun OC men

OC’s Duntae Jones (right) wraps a pass around a Peninsula defender during the Rangers’ 76-75 loss at the Bremer Center Wednesday. - Jesse Beals/staff photo
OC’s Duntae Jones (right) wraps a pass around a Peninsula defender during the Rangers’ 76-75 loss at the Bremer Center Wednesday.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/staff photo

After roaring to a 15-1 record to begin the season, the Olympic College men’s basketball team is suddenly in a tailspin.

The Rangers lost for the third time in five games Wednesday, crumbling at home in the waning moments of a 76-75 loss against the Peninsula Pirates, a team OC beat earlier this season and expected to beat again.

But Peninsula’s Dion Serras, who played just 11 minutes, curled off a screen to hit a game-winning 18-foot jumper with 3.8 seconds remaining, lifting the Pirates to a huge upset.

Duntae Jones’ 35-foot heave at the buzzer fell short, leaving the Rangers (17-4 overall, 9-3 league) with their first home loss of the season. They are now 11-1 at the Bremer Center.

“It’s tough to lose by one point, especially at home,” said Jones, who scored a game-high 26 points to go with five rebounds and five assists. “Losing games like this is tough, it could set us back when it comes down (to the end of the season).”

Serras, a left-hander who finished with seven points on 3 of 5 shooting, was not the guy OC — or anybody, for that matter — expected to take the game-winning shot. Typically a perimeter player, the 6-foot-8-inch swingman used his height to create space off the final screen.

“They were coming off a lot of picks and screens and we did a good job. It ended up being a 6-foot-8 guy who shoots 3’s — tough to guard,” OC coach Billy Landram said. “He came off a pick and hit an 18-footer with (less than) five seconds to go. He made a great play.”

The Rangers elected not to call timeout, instead putting the ball in Jones’ hands after a quick inbounds pass. After crossing midcourt, Jones was forced to pull the trigger from long range.

“With three seconds left, there’s not much we really could have done,” Jones said. “I tried to get the best look I could and shoot it, it just didn’t fall.”

“I thought we could have gotten a little closer, but I have confidence in Duntae making that decision,” Landram added. “It’s a long shot to hit.”

About midway through the second half it looked like the Rangers, who attempted 72 field goals to Peninsula’s 54, would pull away, holding a 61-52 lead with 9:35 remaining.

But Peninsula (9-13, 6-5) hit two quick 3-pointers — the Pirates were 9 of 21 from 3-point range — and the teams seesawed to a 68-68 tie at the 3:30 mark. L.P. Neloms put OC ahead 75-72 on a coast-to-coast steal and layup with 1:30 to play, but that was OC’s final basket.

Cody Smithson banked in a turnaround 8-foot jumper to cut the lead to 75-74 and OC failed to score on the ensuing possession, paving the way for Serras’ heroics.

“It hurts,” Landram said of the loss, dropping OC into a second-place tie with Skagit Valley in the NWAACC North Division. “But we don’t have time to feel bad. We need to regroup and come at it.”

The Rangers are a game behind Bellevue (21-4, 10-2) for first place in the NWAACC North, but the teams are slated to play Feb. 18 at Bellevue. The Rangers won the first meeting between the teams 69-62.

“We want to get No. 1 in the North Division,” Jones said. “A lot of us are sophomores and we just want to represent OC in our last year.”

With four games remaining before postseason play — including the season finale against Skagit Valley Feb. 28, a home game — the Rangers must bounce back immediately.

“We need to win games, obviously, but we’ve got to be more consistent,” Landram said. “It’s been a good season so far. We are just focused on finishing it the best we can.”

OC visits Shoreline tomorrow, Bellevue Feb. 18 and North Seattle Feb. 25 before closing the season at home against Skagit Valley.

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