Five days removed from their win over Clarke College, the men’s team had all the right answers tonight in a decisive 98-74 win at DeSimone Gymnasium.
“It’s a nice way to go into Christmas that’s for sure,” laughed head coach Luke Reigel.
The UW-Parkside Rangers (6-4) were playing against the Judson University Eagles (2-11). The Eagles, like the Rangers’ previous opponents, are an NAIA school. The Eagles are from the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference. While the opposing record isn’t great, Judson was coming off of a road win, and came out strongly against the Rangers.
“Despite the record they scared me because I know they could score points,” said Reigel. “(Judson) came out early and relaxed. They were playing loose and hitting shots from all over the place. For us, it was kind of important to weather that early storm, and then wear them down.”
The two teams locked horns for the first half, and the emphasis for both teams were different. The Rangers lead a controlled shooting display in the first, shooting nearly 70 percent from the field, and accumulating twenty-six points from inside the paint. The visiting Eagles were much more erratic, going 3-11 from behind the arch, shooting for under 40 percent from the field, and only scoring eighteen from the paint.
“What we talked about today was, ‘when you get it inside finish’,” said Reigel. “We just went strong. We knew they didn’t have any shot blockers like we normally play against, so we finished a lot of plays.”
Grant Johnson had the team off and rolling in the first half with a stat line that saw eleven points, three assists, three rebounds, and a steal for good measure. Also into the mix on the scoring sheet was junior forward Zach Blesich, who scored eight in the first half, followed by sophomore Sam Katula and freshman Jeremy Saffold who both scored seven in the first.
About the lone low spot for the Rangers first half effort was the rebounding game. Judson won the battle for boards 21-16 in the first. Alarmingly, eleven of Judson’s twenty-one rebounds came while they were on offense, which contributed to ten second chance points to zero for Parkside. It was a rebounding battle, as well as timely three point shooting by Judson, that stretched their lead up to six points in the first half. However, this lead didn’t last for long. A Parkside run lead by Johnson and Saffold pushed a lead up to ten, as they entered the half at 49-39.
The second half saw further control from Parkside in the paint, as well as an incredible twenty-two points from turnovers in the second half. The Rangers continually distanced their lead, and the score eventually ballooned to their highest scoring total of the season after Sam Katula knocked down his second three pointer of the game. The game would end with the final score of 98-74, and there are three notes to take into account.
Parkside’s freshman forward Kevin Senechalle, who has had ankle troubles in his first year, was able to play fifteen minutes tonight. He scored eight points and picked up four rebounds.
“He’s a big part of us moving forward, said Reigel. “(Kevin) plays good defense in the post, he rebounds the ball, he does a lot of dirty work that you don’t see. We had him at practice the last two days, and he tweaked his ankle again yesterday. It was good that he could play tonight, because he needs reps. He’s a freshman, and he needs to be out there.”
Also making a return to the team was freshman Jamere Dismukes, who had been away from the team due to personal matters. His performance tonight was one of Parkside’s highlights, scoring seventeen points in eighteen minutes of court time, while picking up two steals and a rebound. Dismukes was part of a very well balanced scoring attack tonight by the Rangers, as four players scored in double digits.
“I think we have maybe six other guys who can get double figures on a different night, noted Reigel after the game. “It doesn’t always have to be one guy every time, or two guys. That’s why I think we’ll just keep getting better as the season goes on.”
Continuing with returns to Parkside, former Parkside basketball standout LaVontay Fenderson was in attendance for tonight’s game. LaVontay has spent the few months playing professional basketball in the Czech Republic for BK Decin. With a few minutes off the board in the second half, and during a media stoppage, an announcement was made to look to the video board. LaVontay, before his family and fellow alumni, proposed to his girlfriend. The answer was yes, and, all in all, a perfect moment within a great game.
Next up for the Rangers is a long break before playing against Upper Iowa University (4-7), and then starting up the conference season. The Rangers are currently 1-1 within the Great Lakes Valley Conference, losing to Rockhurst and then giving Missouri-St.Louis their only defeat of the season thus far. They’ll be playing Upper Iowa on Tuesday December 29th, and won’t be playing conference games at home until the calendar changes over when it’s Drury University on January 14th.
We play fairly poised, but you have to remember we’re so young that we’re going to make mistakes,” coach Reigel said after the game, “but I thought we moved forward tonight.”