South Range seniors go out with a big win over the Indians

Sports
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The South Range Raiders are preparing for the tournament, while also honoring their seniors.  On senior night, the Raiders disposed of the Girard Indians 56-39 in a NE8 conference engagement.

“It was really special,” senior guard Jaxon Anderson said of the night.  “It’s going to be hard leaving these guys behind.  It’s not about the shoes, it’s about the footprints you leave behind.  It really means a lot to me.  I’m savoring every minute.”

“It’s a huge momentum boost for us and with it being senior night,” junior Chris Brooks said.  “Getting this one is real important for us leading into the tournament.  It’s a great win for us against a great ball club.”

“This senior class is a great group of guys and I’m really close with all of them,” Brooks added.  “Getting this win for them was real special for them and real special for us.”

The Raiders, who improve to 15-6 on the season and 9-4 in the NE8, seized the momentum early in the contest as they built a 13-point, a 20-7 advantage with just under a minute remaining in the period.  The Indians Christian Graziano knocked down two free throws to close the period with the Raiders leading 20-9.

“You can’t get off to that start on their home court especially on senior night,” Indians coach Craig Hannon explained.  “Some of it was how they shot the ball.  They really shot the ball well tonight.  Early on they punched us and I thought we played pretty well from there on out.”

The Raiders continued to hold the Indians at bay in the second quarter, holding a 26-16 lead midway through the stanza.  When Nick Matos nailed a three-pointer from the right corner with 1:29 remaining in the half, the Raiders led by 14 at 32-18.  The Raiders would hold a 32-20 lead at intermission.

The Raiders would slowly pull away further early in the third stanza before the Indians  closed the frame with the Raiders leading 41-30.  The Indians would make small runs at the Raiders throughout the second half, but the Raiders defense would never let them get any extended scoring streaks.  The Indians would get no closer than 11-points in the fourth period.

“They would make a slight little run and then we would make a basket,” Raiders coach John Cullen said of how they held the Indians from any extended scoring streaks.  “We have gotten a little more efficient offensively and that’s not easy to do against Girard because they put a lot of pressure on you.  They have three good perimeter defenders.”

The Raiders would dominate the boards on the night, spending a lot of time inside the paint as they outrebounded the Indians 31-15.  That stat also helped the Raiders get numerous second-chance points on inside layups while denying the Indians second looks.

“They’re a tough matchup for us,” Hannon said of the disparity in rebounding.  “They’re really big and physical, even they’re guards are big.  Our biggest guy is like their middle guy, so it’s just a tough matchup for us.  That’s why they are a two seed in their district.

“We don’t have a really big team, but we do have some length overall from position to position,” Cullen said.  “We have only been outrebounded maybe two times this year.  We get a lot of points in the paint.  That’s what we hang our hats on.”

The Raiders were led in scoring by Brooks with 14 points, while Dante Digaetano came off the bench to notch 12, and Jaxon Anderson added 10.  Brooks would also haul down 7 of those 31 team rebounds with Anderson, Ben Irons, and Digaetano each recording 4.

“Brooks does a really great job for us and we depend on him for a lot,” Anderson remarked.  “We try to get in(side) as much as we can.”

The Indians, who drop to 10-9 on the year and 6-7 in the league put three players in double-digits with seniors Austin Claussel scoring 11 and Matt Payich adding 10.  Junior Christian Graziano would also score 10 in the game.

Both teams return to action this Friday with the Indians playing in their NE8 season closer at Lakeview.  The Raiders close both their league and regular season slate Friday at Jefferson.

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