Sophomore sensation Grant Johnson provides 29 points and late game heroics, but it’s Concordia that stuns the Rangers in an 86-81 overtime upset.
In their season opener, UW-Parkside hosted non-conference foe Concordia University (WI) at DeSimone Gymnasium in Kenosha.
With just 1.3 seconds remaining in regulation, Johnson rose up and buried a 23-footer to send the Rangers into overtime. Unable to sustain the momentum, Parkside came up short in disheartening fashion.
“Concordia is a veteran team that you have to give plenty of credit” said Parkside head coach Luke Reigel. “They ran their offensive sets successfully and exposed our weaknesses.”
The Falcons stroked three-point shots early and often as senior forward Kyle Barth splashed down from three twice to account for Concordia’s first six points.
Barth’s offensive efficiency was paramount for Concordia as he lit up the Parkside defense for 19 points on a staggering 7 of 9 shooting for the game.
Crashing the offensive boards with conviction, the Rangers made such an effort futile by blowing easy buckets. In addition, their inconsistent defense was characterized by a lack of communication which Concordia capitalized on by adding points to the scoreboard.
“We need to improve on closing the gaps defensively and fronting the post,” assured junior forward Zack Blesich.
Despite the slow start, UWP finished off a 7-0 run with a Johnson three-point play which propelled his squad to their first lead of the afternoon.
Shooting a dismal 0 of 7 from behind the arc, the Rangers still managed to cling onto a 37-36 lead to close out the first half.
“Being short-handed we had to give a bunch of guys more minutes than we would normally,” cited Reigel. “The fatigue showed and we missed a lot of jump shots because of it.”
Active defense was certainly not an issue for Parkside as they forced the Falcons into eight turnovers in as many minutes to start the second half. Out of their 27 low-lights for the game, 11 of those were traveling violations.
Junior forward Tyler Granrath contributed a double-double for Concordia but was responsible for seven of those turnovers.
Playing with a sense of urgency, the Falcons made up for costly miscues by shooting a potent 56 percent (28 of 50) from the field and posting an 80 percent (24 of 30) clip from the charity stripe.
With just 3:55 left, Johnson knocked down his first triple of the game in a pivotal moment as the Rangers seized a 68-67 lead.
Following an errant free throw by senior Devon Irven, Concordia’s John Ulrich penetrated the lane finishing with a bucket and a generous foul call to reclaim the lead.
Parkside shot a putrid 63 percent (17-27) from the line including 55 percent in the final 25 minutes of action.
Down three with seconds remaining, it was none other than the confident Johnson who stepped up and delivered from downtown. The trey salvaged overtime for Parkside and was knocked down from the same left wing he had hit his previous three.
UWP reverted back to it’s offensive woes in overtime as Johnson’s dish to sophomore Dwayne Edwards culminated in a turnover and points on the other end to increase their deficit.
“There was a span of time where we just forced shots and struggled defensively,” said Johnson. “We battled to the end but we just didn’t come out with the win.”
A couple of free throws by Granrath iced the 86-81 victory as the forward completed his performance chipping in 23 points and 10 rebounds including 17 made free throws.
Blesich exemplified stellar post work totaling 16 points, five rebounds, two steals, and two blocks for the home side.
In addition to 29 points, Johnson also led all players with four assists and added five boards.
Freshman point guard Ryan Callozo facilitated Parkside’s offense scoring 11 points to go along with two assists and two steals.
The Rangers return to action at DeSimone Gymnasium Tuesday, November 17 as they get set to host Northland Bible Baptist for a 7:00 pm tip-off. Engaging in their second straight non-conference bout, Parkside won’t match up against a Great Lakes Valley Conference rival until December.
“We want to balance out the offensive production where at least five guys are reaching double figures on a consistent basis,” said Reigel. “As we get healthy and the younger guys get more experience, our results will improve.”