South Range ignites for final-quarter rally
By Greg Gulas
Jaxon Anderson’s bucket with 1.4 seconds remaining lifted South Range to Tuesday’s 53-51 come-from-behind victory over Valley Christian.
After suffering their first loss of the season in overtime last Friday to LaBrae, the Raiders found themselves playing catch-up once again and trailing by as many as eight points with time winding down in the third quarter.
That’s when the Raiders mounted their comeback.
A 15-4 run helped South Range (13-1) reclaim a 46-43 lead midway through the final period.
Back-to-back buckets by the Eagles’ Milan Square put Valley Christian (7-5) back on top, 51-50, with 18 seconds left.
Enter Anderson, whose game-winning bucket actually came off of a broken play that was initially designed to first go to Mike Cunningham.
“The ball was supposed to go to me first and then Jaxon, but the ball got loose, Brady White retrieved it, got it to Jaxon and he was able to put it in and give us the lead,” Cunningham said.
Anderson noted the Raiders refused to quit, using each possession to cut into the Eagles’ lead. He said Coach John Cullen told him to use the Raiders’ maturity.
“Valley Christian came out and hit a lot of shots in the opening half, which forced us to have to play catch-up,” Anderson said. “ We took the LaBrae loss to heart.
“Our goal this year is to be the team that brings the first district championship to South Range High School,” he said. “We had the opportunity to do it last year but it didn’t work out.
“We want to prove that we can do so this season.”
Five points by Jamynk Jackson helped the Eagles open a 7-6 lead mid-way through the opening frame, but buckets by Anderson and Chris Brooks offset an Emmanuel Armour hoop to give South Range a 10-9 lead.
Triples by the Eagles’ Melvin Neail and Jackson, and a charity toss by Square helped Valley Christian on a 7-0 run as the Eagles opened a 16-10 lead.
Two more triples by Neail, and four points each from Jackson and Jordan Trowers enabled the Eagles to open a 30-23 halftime advantage.
“Basketball is a game of runs, especially when there are two good teams playing,” Valley Christian head coach Dolph Carroll said. “You witnessed that tonight by both teams.
“If you are a true basketball fan then you had to love this game and the effort from both teams,” Carroll said. ”We never lack effort, can defend and always play hard.
“We had our chances, but missed some crucial opportunities. We’re a good team, we just need to make that next step.”
Carroll said it’s always fun to play against a John Cullen coached team “because you know they will be prepared and ready to go at both ends of the court.”
Buckets by Brandon Youngs and Anderson, and two free throws by White keyed a 6-0 run for South Range as the Raiders opened a 46-43 lead, setting the stage for the final 3:43 and a stretch that included a tie and four lead changes.
“This was a big win for us because we needed to bounce back after Friday’s loss to LaBrae,” Cullen said, “Valley Christian outplayed us and got to the rim on us more than anyone this season.”
Anderson finished with 16 points and Cunningham 15 to pace the Raiders.
Jackson made 16 points to lead Valley Christian while Sqaure was the only other Eagles player in double figures with 10.