Olympic College Rangers forked by Red Devils

Jim Bryant/ Staff Photo OC's L.J. Johnson stabs at a loose ball with OC's Ryan Ninnis (left) and LC's Tyler Baker (right) in the background.

“BREMERTON – Olympic College men’s basketball coach Barry Janusch has waited nine games for a breakthrough, hoping someone will step up and turn the tide of a 2-7 season. Friday night in the Bremer Student Center, Janusch witnessed just such a breakout performance. Unfortunately, it came from someone in an opposite-colored jersey. Tyler Baker’s 20 second-half points sparked the Lower Columbia Red Devils to an 84-77 victory over the Rangers. Baker sank three 3-pointers in the frame to help steal the 8-2 Red Devils’ first road win, including a backbreaker with 1 minute, 19 seconds left that gave Lower Columbia all the lead it would need. They pressured us at the end, found their hot hand and we missed shots, Janusch said. Janusch, settling in after the game to watch a video of the contest’s final minutes, must have felt like he was watching a replay of the Rangers’ entire year. After forcing Lower Columbia’s 6-8 center Jay VanHook into foul trouble, the Rangers successfully worked the ball inside against the Red Devils’ zone. OC held a nine-point 71-62 lead with just over seven minutes to play and was ahead 75-74 with just 2:30 to go. Casey Reynolds took out a lease on the blocks, scoring 22 points and snaring 11 boards for the sophomore from North Mason’s fourth double-double of the year. Then, just as OC seemed ready to slam it into overdrive, the wheels came off. Baker scored on a putback to make it 76-75. The Rangers then missed four shots on their next possession, setting up Baker’s dagger through the Rangers’ heart from outside the 3-point line. Far from being frustrated with the continued growing pains of a squad that boasts 10 freshmen on its roster, Reynolds said he sees good things coming for his team. We’re making strides, Reynolds said. We just have to be strong with the ball. It’s been like that all year. We’ve been in the game just about every game … but we don’t pull out the win. Tonight was better. Not alone in his optimism, Reynolds wasn’t the only Ranger in double figures, either. Jason Young racked up 11 points on the strength of a trio of 3-pointers and L.J. Johnson knocked down 12 points. Casey Gribble scored 10 in his new role as off-guard. Johnson also pulled down eight boards. Those efforts were offset, however, by a quartet of Red Devils in double digits. Baker’s 20 led the way, but VanHook was close behind with 18 points and eight boards. Point guard Lance Pitts also poured in 18, while forward Justin Cutrone contributed 16 points and a team-high 11 boards. That all added up to another painful lesson for a still-jelling young Ranger squad. Janusch hopes it’s the last. We’ve just gotta get a breakthrough, Janusch said. We’ve proven we can play with anyone but we need to beat somebody. These young guys gotta grow up sometime. Sooner or later you’re not young guys anymore. “

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