Grant Johnson Shines, Rangers Win 73-63

Coming off their huge win over the then undefeated Missouri St. Louis Tritons, the men’s basketball team battled out a 73-63 victory against out of conference Clarke College Thursday night at DeSimone Gymnasium.

The UW-Parkside Rangers (5-4) were playing against the Clarke College Crusaders (1-11). The Crusaders are an NAIA school playing out of the Midwest Collegiate Conference, and, on paper, you might have expected this game to be a simple contest. However, the Crusaders put up an incredible fight against the Rangers tonight. Fortunately, Parkside was able to establish itself before it all got out of hand.

Just as I found myself feeling this could be a simple one, the Crusaders grabbed their first of ten steals of the evening, and turned it into three. The Rangers first half was frankly all about mistakes. They turned the ball over ten times, and were in foul trouble early with eight personal fouls, four of which happened in the opening five minutes. The visiting Crusaders didn’t get fouled until eight minutes into the game, and picked up ten points off of Parkside turnovers.

“You know it’s going to happen,” said head coach Luke Reigel after the game. “You know that the biggest thing you see with young players is they have a tough time being consistent. That’s what happened to us today.”

While it felt as though Clarke may have been playing a stronger defense, their shooting was poor, and they didn’t have many answers for freshman forward Jeremy Saffold, who scored eleven points in the first half. Also making an impact in various departments for the Rangers was sophomore Grant Johnson, who was a perfect 3-3 from the field while getting five rebounds, two assists, and a steal. The Rangers walked into the half with a 35-31 lead.

As the second half began, both teams were looking to pick up their strengths from the first half. Saffold was walking the court with a certain swagger, but the Crusaders were still getting steals. This led to two significant points in the game.

The first point happened when Coach Reigel called a timeout to settle his team, who found themselves losing by one at the time. Off of the timeout, the Rangers turned it over again, and would foul on the ensuing drive down the court. Shortly after that play, the Crusaders launched a three, picked up another Rangers turnover, and sinked another deep three.

“We really got away from what we like to do,” said Reigel. “We’ll get better, we’ll learn from this just as we have with the losses, and hopefully make some big strides over the next few weeks. I’m not going to lie, but I expect this to happen, to have big peaks and high valleys when you’re playing as many young guys as we are.”

The Rangers would find themselves down by four points after that three, enter another timeout, and enter Grant Johnson to the scoring fray. Grant Johnson had an electric second half on-route to a team high twenty-three point performance. Johnson’s seventeen point second half, as well as Parkside setting up in the paint for twenty second half points, led to a lead that expanded out of the Crusaders reach.

“We probably scored a lot when we didn’t turn it over,” laughed Reigel, “but we turned it over so many times that my guess is we’re going to see a lot of presses from here on out.”

Head coach Luke Reigel also gave praise to the visiting Crusaders, saying, “Give Clarke College some credit. As soon as the team gets off to a good start, they think they can hang in there. I give Clarke a lot of credit. We tried to hand it to them. So, we have a ways to go.”

The UW-Parkside Rangers play this coming Tuesday against the Judson University Eagles. The Eagles (2-10) are also an NAIA school, and hail from the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference. While their record suggests a poor team, they’re coming off of a double overtime win, and a game like the Rangers had tonight can suggest any game can be down to the final stages of the second half. The game will be held in DeSimone Gymnasium, and it starts at 7:00pm.

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