"This One For Tim," Rangers Grab Sectional Title

Members of the New Knoxville Rangers girls basketball team celebrate after the buzzer sounded in Saturday's Division IV sectional final against New Bremen.
Sports Editor

The last time Erin Scott was in a situation where she had to shoot pressure-packed free throws was against St. Henry earlier this season, but said she shot 1-of-9 from the charity stripe in that game.

On Saturday, the New Knoxville senior experienced that situation again.

“Oh my goodness,” Scott said when asked to describe it.

All those missed free throws against the Redskins were in the back of Scott’s mind, but No. 22 didn’t let it bother her. Scott made the last two free throws to turn a two-point game into a two-score game with 3.6 seconds left to help give the Rangers girls basketball team their first sectional crown since the 2014-15 season with a 47-43 Division IV sectional final win against rival New Bremen.

“It was like, ‘ah, good,’ the first one went in and I got a feel of what it feels like now,” the University of Northwest Ohio commit said with a smile.

After enduring a 7-17 season last year that saw the Rangers (17-7) finish winless in the Midwest Athletic Conference, New Knoxville is moving on to its first district tournament in four years where they will play in another rematch — against Marion Local (13-11) on Thursday at Wapakoneta High School.

“Knoxville is a small school and if we can get there once every three or four years, that is a pretty good job,” Rangers coach Tim Hegemier said. “It feels good. We were close twice before, but the girls hung in there and fought hard.”

Unlike their December matchup where both teams had six lead changes, New Knoxville led the entire game, with its largest lead at 37-31 in the opening seconds of the third quarter.

But New Bremen hung around, putting itself in position to steal the game away from the Rangers and win their third straight sectional crown.

“You have two teams battling all night and both team wanted to cut down the nets. It came down to who made the most plays at the end and New Knoxville did,” Cardinals coach Chris Burden said.

Trailing 39-34 with 5:16 remaining in regulation, the Cardinals (14-9) kept the Rangers from scoring the next four possessions, with a bucket from Kelly Naylor and a pair of free throws by Madison Cordonnier pulling New Bremen to 39-38 and a Megan Jurosic’s bucket and free throw was answered by Cordonnier’s floater to make it 42-40 with 2:08 left.

Clearly looking to shoot for a game-winning 3-pointer by Naylor, the Rangers’ zone defense wrecked New Bremen’s entire possession with the Cardinals forced to having Kayla Bergman settle for the long jump shot that was missed and eventually turned over to New Knoxville.

Morgan Leffel connected on a pair of one-and-ones to go up 44-40 with 43.4 seconds left. The Cardinals missed on their next possession, allowing Scott to  try a one-and-one, but she missed as Cordonnier connected on a 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds left to pull to 45-43 until Scott drained her final two free throws.

The Cardinals trailed by as much as six a couple of times throughout the game, but managed to stay with New Knoxville.

The Rangers took a 22-16 lead with 1:37 remaining after Jacklyn Leffel’s drive to the basket and bucket prompted Burden to call timeout and rally his team. After Naylor missed a pair of free throws, Kaylee Freund connected on a pair from the line for a 22-18 score at the half.

After Jurosic’s opening-quarter bucket to start the third, Hanna Tenkman connected on a triple to make it 24-21 and scores in three straight possessions by New Bremen eventually pulled the game to 26-25, Rangers, with 4:25 left.

The Cardinals fell down five after Tayler Doty drained a 3-pointer with 1:54 left, but buckets by Ferund and Bergman pulled the game back within one, 32-31 before Ellie Gabel’s desperation 3-pointer as time expired gave the Rangers a 35-31 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Cardinals, however, could not get over the hump on Saturday and Burden credited the Rangers defense for shutting down their 3-point shooting, which was 4-of-18 for the game.

Scott finished with just five points, but her three free throws at the end were the biggest of her high school career and while getting the only sectional title was an accomplishment, Scott said that Saturday’s win for her and her fellow seniors met a lot more for one reason.

Their coach.

“We really wanted to get this one for Tim, I love that guy,” she said. “We don’t know if he is going to retire soon or not, but we really wanted to get it for Tim because last year we felt like we owed it to him.”