Three-peat for Cassopolis Rangers

Published 9:31 am Monday, March 4, 2019

MARCELLUS — Winning championships never gets old for the Cassopolis Rangers.

The Rangers captured their third consecutive Division 3 district title with a 67-55 victory over Southwest 10 Conference foe Centreville before a full house at Marcellus High School Friday night.

Cassopolis (21-1) will now play Union City at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday in the Watervliet regional. Brandywine (20-2) will face Schoolcraft (19-4) in the other semifinal at 6 p.m.

The Rangers struggled early on to make shots, which allowed Centreville, which Cassopolis had defeated twice in the regular season 76-46 and 84-62, to hang around for the entire first half.

Cassopolis, which led 14-10 after one quarter, picked up the defensive intensity in the second quarter when veteran coach Ricky Evans inserted the Hart connection, J.J. and Ashan.

“I had to get our quickness in there,” he said. “We tried to get them off their game. It changed everything in the game.”

Leading 28-22 at the half, Cassopolis continued to attach the Bulldogs at both ends of the court, which resulted in Rangers outscoring Centreville 25-17 in the third quarter to open up a 53-39 advantage heading into the final eight minutes.

The Bulldogs never mounted a serious challenge in the fourth quarter.

In the end, Cassopolis was able to force 21 turnovers.

Senior Tyrese Hunt-Thompson had another big game for the Rangers, as he was able to slash to the basket time and time again. Hunt-Thompson finished with a game-high 27 points, including 19 in the second half.

Sophomore Brayden Saxton added 18 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, while Cerious Wilson added 11 points.

Evans was proud of his team’s ability to win a third straight championship, but knows there is still work to be done if the Rangers want to advance past the regional round.

“This means the program is going in the right direction,” Evans said. “I could go on-and-on about Tyrese — he’s special. We need to clean up our turnovers and tweek a few things, but I think we’ll be fine.”

Cassopolis shot 44.7 percent from the field in a gymnasium that Evans says his teams struggles in. It was 61-percent shooting (11-of-18) in the third quarter that turned things around for the Rangers.

“There is something about this gym that we do not shoot well,” Evans said. “But we are out of it now.”

Sam Todd led Centreville (9-13) with 16 points.

He was the lone Bulldog to reach double figures.