Rangers hold off late Centreville rally to improve to 17-0

CASSOPOLIS — When you’re a 17-0 team, playing like an undefeated team all 32 minutes of a basketball game is crucial.

Although the Rangers walked off the court with a 71-59 win, their performance lacked in the fourth, and a team that was almost unreachable during most of the contest found themselves in trouble in the final minutes of Southwest 10 Conference boys basketball game.

“We became very lethargic and the guys thought the game was over before it was,” said sixth-year head coach Ricky Evans.

The Rangers had a comforting 62-38 lead entering the fourth, but just as quick as they lost momentum, the Bulldogs picked up the pace. Shot after shot fell in favor of Centreville and a tired Cass team struggled to gain points.

The Bulldogs outscored the Rangers 21-9 in the last eight minutes.

“We came out in the second half with some goals and achieved them,” said Centreville coach Mike Hunter. “Extremely proud of the effort my team gave tonight. They battled, didn’t give up and continued to play until the end.”

“You can’t stop playing,” Evans said. “You still have to play regardless of the score. You have to give it your all until that buzzer stops and we didn’t do that today.”

Being the only team in their conference — and in the entire area — with an undefeated record, Evans said his team has to give it their all until the final buzzer sounds.

“You can’t stop playing no matter what that scoreboard says,” he said.

Cass has three games left in regular season play and all of them are conference match-ups.

They face Mendon Thursday, Bangor Friday and round out the post-tournament schedule at Decatur on Feb. 27.

“We didn’t have easy games against any of those teams before, so our goal starting tomorrow is to focus on the near future and win conference,” Evans said. “These teams will come at us strong and we need to be ready for them.”

Even with the undefeated record, the Rangers are not ranked in the most recent Associated Press Polls. But that’s something Evans doesn’t mind because he knows rankings can “go straight to the player’s heads.”

“I much prefer flying under the radar,” he said, “Our guys stay more focused without the weight of a ranking of their shoulders.”

Tyrese Hunt-Thompson led all scorers with 20 points and Kiambu Gary had 19 for Cassopolis. Centreville’s Hayden Stauffer had 16 for his team.

The Rangers were able to get every player on the roster into the game.

“Some of these guys don’t see a lot of court-action, so it was nice to get them into this game for several minutes,” Evans said.

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