BASKETBALL: Rangers rein in the Falcons

Four crucial free throws led the Redwood Rangers to a 46-43 victory over the Independence Falcons

VISALIA – The Redwood Rangers defeated the Independence Falcons with seconds remaining after the Falcons committed two costly penalties that awarded the Rangers four points in free throws.

The Rangers pulled off a victory over the Falcons in a close matchup game before league play begins. The game was basket for basket the entire game. Costly mistakes were made on both sides, but in the end, the Falcons fell and the Rangers remained triumphant. In a close finale, the Falcons committed two penalties that allowed Redwood to seal the victory for themselves with a score of 46-43.

“Every time we got a lead we kind of gave it back so we just had to keep battling and battling,” Redwood head coach Jason Black said.

The first quarter was low-scoring, ending with the two teams tied 8-8. Redwood junior point guard Mat Moza showed impressive ball-handling skills to lead the offense. On the other side, Independence senior Prince Ellis made several steals right out of the Rangers’ hands. Unfortunately, both teams had trouble executing plays on offense, which led to the low scores on both sides. 

In the second quarter, Redwood pulled ahead and remained ahead despite struggling to hang onto the ball on offense. Ellis kept up his stealing scheme, but the Rangers were solid on defense. Redwood sophomore Moses Saulsbury was essential to the Rangers defense both as a forward and a center throughout the game. 

Redwood’s usual center, sophomore Cole Gilchrist has been out for six weeks and missed the game. At 6’9, he’s difficult for other teams to reckon with on the court and Redwood has had to fill the spot. Saulsbury, who is only 6’4 in comparison, traded off playing center with senior Zeke Kears. Both were strong in the paint, blocking shots from the Falcons and putting up baskets when they could, even when they were double-covered.

“[Independence] was a good athletic team and made it hard for our ball handlers,” Black said. “Our bigs stepped up and really sealed the game down on defense.”

Independence and Redwood were point for point in the second half. The Falcons led by one going into the fourth quarter, but the Rangers quickly took back the lead. With eleven seconds left in the game, the Falcons made it 42-41 and scrambled to score again, but got ahead of themselves. A penalty two seconds later awarded Redwood two free throws. Two seconds after those, another penalty, and Redwood got two more free throws.

Moza and Evan Galley made all four free throws, putting Redwood up 46-41. The Falcons threw one final basket as the buzzer went off but it was no use, the penalties had cost them the game and the Rangers took home the victory. The final score was 46-43.

The Rangers are 9-8 so far in non-league play. They have one final non-league game against Sierra on Jan. 7 before they begin league play in the new East Yosemite League made up of the four Visalia public schools along with Porterville and Monache.

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