Rangers Snap 2-Game Skid Against Unbeaten Spencerville

New Knoxville’s Erin Scott drives to the basketball and lays the ball up to the rim during the third quarter of a non-conference girls basketball game on Thursday against Spencerville.
Sports Editor

New Knoxville received probably the best Christmas gift it could have asked for before the big day approaches.

Not only did the Rangers snap their two-game losing skid with their 49-37 victory against Spencerville, but they did it against an undefeated team that was armed with a 6-foot-4 center and a number of talented perimeter shooters.

“It took us a while to get going because we haven’t seen a zone much this year, but I think they responded well,” Rangers coach Tim Hegemier said.

The turning point in a game that was mainly dominated by the Rangers (6-2) came at the 3:23 mark of the fourth quarter. 

Thursday’s contest was in a six-point stalemate, 39-33, for 2:48 until Megan Jurosic’s basket from the backside on a slick pass from Ellie Gabel broke up Spencerville’s defense as Jurosic pulled away from the Bearcats’ 6-foot-4 center Alex Carter. But unlike Tuesday’s game where the Rangers missed a number of close-range shots, Jurosic finished her’s perfectly to push New Knoxville’s lead to 41-33. From that point on, the Rangers (6-2) outscored the Bearcats (6-1) 8-4 — with Erin Scott accounting for all but two of those points down the stretch — to seal the game.

“I called that play in the huddle because they kept playing 2-3, 2-3 all of the time and finally, they went man,” Hegemier said. “I told them, ‘it will work because they are always trying to jump passes so it will be open.’ Thank God she made that layup.”

That layup galvanized the Rangers in the final 3:23 and served as a confidence booster for a team that suffered two agonizing losses by a combined seven points coming in.

“They (Spencerville) got on a hot streak there in the third quarter and I thought, ‘oh, here we go again,’” Hegemier recounted. “We just need to settle down and take care of business and we’ll be all right.”

But New Knoxville handled the undefeated Bearcats all night from the start by not allowing a basket until the 2:08 mark of the first quarter — the lone field goal in the opening quarter for the Bearcats.

The Rangers then rode an 11-0 run to open the second quarter with a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws by Jacklyn Leffel and a basket by Jurosic as she beat Carter to the hoop. Tayler Doty also drained a jumper to push the Rangers’ lead to 16-4 with 3:24 remaining in the first half.

Spencerville responded by scoring the game’s next six points on baskets by Gillian Goecke, Nelaya Burden and Carter to close the deficit to six, 16-10, with 2:05 left but the Rangers maintained their lead at the half, 21-15.

Scott led all scorers in her best game of the season with 18 points — 17 of them coming in the second half — followed by Jurosic’s 12 points as the junior post bounced back nicely after being shut out in the second half of Tuesday’s loss to Anna. 

“We also got to the foul line tonight,” Hegemier added.

New Knoxville won the game at the free throw line, making 18 trips compared to Spencerville’s 12 — a much better mark than Tuesday’s four trips. Scott accounted for nine of the Rangers 14 points off free throws.

No Bearcat score in doubled figures with Carter and Goecke leading the way with just eight points each. Spencerville came into Thursday’s game averaging 54.3 points per game, but New Knoxville held the Bearcats to 17 points below that average.