Rangers fall in title game

Published 7:37 pm Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cassopolis’ Nate Hartline (10) goes to the basket against White Pigeon in the Class C District championship game Friday night. The Chiefs defeated the Rangers 54-39. (Vigilant/Argus photos/RON HARNER)

MARCELLUS — Cassopolis was defeated on Friday night in the Class C District championship game 54-39 by White Pigeon.

The Rangers reached the title game following a 52-44 comeback victory over Constantine a couple days earlier with seniors Nathan Hartline and Oliver Fiala giving a powerful Ranger effort in each contest.

White Pigeon (20-2) defeated Cassopolis (10-12) by nearly 30 points almost a month ago, but the Rangers played with more vigor and were only behind by seven points with eight minutes to play.

Scoring all 11 points in the first quarter the Rangers held a one point advantage with Hartline and Fiala contributing seven and four points, respectively.

The latter scored off a rebound for a layup with 1:23 left in the first stanza for the final points.

A 3-pointer from Hartline with 6:40 showing on the clock gave the Rangers a 14-10 advantage, which was the biggest lead of the game for Cassopolis. A 3-pointer and an alley-oop by Fiala about five minutes later kept the Ranger in the lead at 23-21 with 1:30 left before intermission.

The Chiefs though scored the last five points of the first half with junior Tanner Nichols hitting a trey and senior Cory Wynkoop being the beneficiary of a perfect two-pass play from the opposite end of the court to beat the buzzer.

“The momentum of that final play before the buzzer carried us into halftime and it worked perfectly on how we drew it up,” White Pigeon coach Tony Cholometes said. “Our defense in the second half played much better and is our foundation for success on offense.”

Hartline finished the first half as the overall leading scorer with 12 points, followed closely by Fiala with nine points and six rebounds.

Cassopolis had trouble with turnovers though with nine altogether and failed on 15 field goals, with most of them being close to the basket.

“The ceiling seemed to be on the hoop from our big men with a lot of close shots not falling,” stated Cassopolis coach James Moore. “The turnovers were a big factor along with the foul trouble for Quinton (6-5 O’Brie) as it limited his contribution early.”

The bottom of the net still was not kind to the Rangers in the second half, as senior Zac Miller of White Pigeon stopped the penetration of Hartline and along with Nichols gave the Chiefs a 41-34 lead after three quarters.

Wynkoop sealed the win for the Chiefs with consecutive shots from behind the arc midway through the final stanza to open the White Pigeon lead from 44-36 to 50-36 with 4:46 left in the Ranger season.

“Those threes in a row put a dagger on them and (Zac) Miller was a huge, huge lift for us defensively against Hartline,” commented Cholometes. “Coach Moore did an exceptional job bringing it for 32 minutes, which was not the same team we played earlier by crashing the boards, designing different defenses and running an up tempo offense.”

Fiala finished his Cassopolis career with a double-double as he collected 13 points and grabbed 10 missed shots.

“I am sorry we didn’t come out with a win even though I played with all my heart,” Fiala said. “I watched a lot of film on them (White Pigeon) and had some lapses on defense that hurt our team, but we all believed we could have won the game.”

The leading scorer for the game was Hartline with 18 points and classmate Austin Los had four points and five rebounds in their final Cassopolis cager performances.

Nichols, Wynkoop and Miller led the victors with 17, 15 and nine points respectively.

“I am proud of all these guys for the effort they displayed by playing so hard and (Oliver) Fiala played a terrific game that should have scored more if the lid wasn’t on the basket,” Moore said. “All my seniors did the best they could, but those 3-pointers they made stretched the game out too far.”

In the semifinals, Constantine (7-15) led after the end of the first three quarters, but a 15-6 fourth quarter propelled the Rangers to the championship encounter with White Pigeon.

The Falcons were led by star senior guard Jake Bower, who after watching Cassopolis score the first six points of the game helped bring his team to a 15-14 advantage after eight minutes. Hartline was already in double figures for the Rangers with 10 points.

The score was deadlocked at 23 points apiece with three minutes remaining before halftime after junior Tyler Gilliam of the Rangers scored five consecutive points. Constantine scored the final five points though for a 28-23 lead heading to the locker room.

“We had too many turnovers in the first half and had to do better as I like to be more patient on offense to tighten the ship without mistakes,” mentioned Moore. “We like to share the wealth with everybody getting their share of shots.”

Bower had 16 points at the midway portion of the game, but finished with 21 after a scoreless third quarter and Cassopolis matched their 14 intermission rebounds with turnovers.

Constantine seemed to be in control with two minutes left in the third quarter with a 38-29 advantage, but the inside presence of Fiala, Los and O’Brie dominated the boards and the Rangers had a deficit of one at 38-37 when the former had a tip-in at the buzzer.

“Their big guys got good positions under the board, which limited our offense quite a bit and was a tough hill to climb,” noted Constantine coach Kevin Sullivan. “Playing on Monday is no excuse, we should have been more ready to play and (Jake) Bower played well in the first half, but unfortunately the game is 32 minutes.”

The game remained tight with the Falcons holding on to the lead until Los score his first two points of the game with 2:52 left to put Cassopolis ahead for good at 45-44 with a 3-point play by O’Brie and four free throws by Hartline ending the scoring.

“We didn’t match the Rangers’ intensity so they deserved to win, as untimely turnovers and missed free throws were both costly,”  Sullivan said. “Losing so many opportunities to shoot and only making half of your free throws will usually cost you the game.”

Constantine committed 19 miscues and shot 14-28 from the charity stripe.  Hartline matched Bower with 21 points and O’Brie scored 11 points for the victors.

“We gutted this game out with a lot of factors going against us and made the key plays down the stretch, which allowed us to get the victory,” concluded Moore. “Bower played a great game, but he had nothing left toward the end after us playing man-to-man throughout.”

Fiala and Bower could possibly be teammates next campaign as each is seriously considering attending Glen Oaks Community College next fall.


Nathan Hartline 5 6-8 18; Oliver Fiala 6 0-1 13; Austin Los 1 2-2 4; Quinton O’Brie 1 0-0 2; Tyler Gilliam 1 0-0 2; Monroe Gomez 0 0-3 0. TOTALS: 14 8-14 39


Tanner Nichols 7 0-3 17; Cory Wynkoop 6 1-3 15; Zac Miller 3 2-3 9; Nate Wolf 2 3-4 8; Matt Crowl 2 1-1 5. TOTALS: 20 7-14 54

Cassopolis 11 23 34 39

White Pigeon 10 26 41 54

3-point baskets: Cassopolis 3  (Hartline 2, Fiala), White Pigeon 7  (Nichols 3, Wynkoop 2, Miller, Wolf); Total fouls: Cassopolis 16, White Pigeon 12. Fouled out: Gilliam (C).


Nathan Hartline 7 6-7 21; Quinton O’Brie 5 1-1 11; Oliver Fiala 4 0-2 8; Tyler Gilliam 2 0-0 5; Dwayne Morgan 2 0-0 4; Austin Los 1 1-5 3.   TOTALS: 21 8-15 52


Jake Bower 5 8-10 21; Payton White 3 3-6 9; Chase Niblock 2 0-2 5; Justin Bontrager 1 2-4 4; Nic Jones 1 1-4 3; Tyler Goldsmith 1 0-0 2; Jeff Steiner 0 0-2 0. TOTALS: 13 14-28 44

Cassopolis  14 23 37 52

Constantine 15 28 38 44

3-point baskets: Cassopolis 2 (Hartline, Gilliam); Constantine 4  (Bower 3, Niblock); Total fouls: Cassopolis  18, Constantine  17. Fouled out: Bower (CO). Varsity records:    Cassopolis 10-12, White Pigeon  20-2,  Constantine 7-15