Wednesday, January 04, 2017 - Updated: 8:59 AMJoppa’s Rangers brought home the first trophy the basketball team has seen in a while as they took first place in the Dongola Holiday Tournament.
The win was not without controversy, however; as the Rangers, Pope County and Elverado all went 3-1 in the round robin format.
The Rangers beat host school Dongola 72-37, lost a heart breaker to Pope County 47-46 and then beat Elverado, who already had wins over Dongola and Pope, in a crazy 57-44 slugfest.
In the blowout win over Dongola, 11 players scored. After leading practically the entire game against Pope County, the Rangers experienced a fourth quarter meltdown and were outscored 17-8 in the final frame losing 47-46.
Pope’s Sebastian Fasolo led all scorers with 23 points. Hunter Johnson and Kaleb Cox led the Rangers with 14 and 13 respectively. The final game of the round robin pitted Joppa against Elverado and things got wild.
The game marked the third time the two teams have played this year and all have been wild ones. This one especially so.
Elverado broke on top and led 12-4 at the first horn. Aquantez Penn led the Falcons’ quick start with a pair of threes and more importantly, Johnson had two quick fouls whistled on him and was banished to the Joppa bench for most of the first half.
A couple of big plays by ‘Grif Greer keyed a second quarter comeback by Joppa and when Cox made one of two free throws just before the horn, things were knotted up at 20.
Johnson wasted no time in making his presence felt in the third quarter as he and Thomas Kendall accounted for Joppa’s scoring in the third quarter as Joppa tightened up their 3-2 zone on the Falcons holding them to just 4 points in the frame. Joppa led 29-24 at the third horn.
As Cox and Johnson went to work for Joppa in the final frame, things were getting really heated in the Elverado cheering section.
Johnson took a charge on Elverado and scored seconds later on an offensive rebound, while Cox had a stickback of his own on an offensive rebound and a few of the Elverado faithful had had enough. A fan ejection followed and things were at a fever pitch.
As Joppa eased out to a 7-9 point lead and time dwindled down for Elverado, things boiled over.
Penn tackled Griffin Greer after a defensive rebound and Elverado’s coach was restrained by a couple of his players thankfully as he protested the ensuing technical fouls. Correction ... fouls plural. Joppa’s Thomas Kendall shot six free throws in the final minute to push the lead out of the Falcons’ reach.
When the smoke cleared, the Rangers had a 57-44 win.
Now for the ultimate irony — with three teams going 3-1 for the tourney, the championship was decided by — of all things — free throw percentage.
With Kendall canning 6 of 6 in the final minute and 9 of 9 for the game, the Rangers edged Pope and Elverado for the title.
In the title game the Rangers were led by Kendall’s 23 points. Cox tallied 15 and Johnson and Greer had 8 and 7 respectively.
Small schools, small gym and BIG excitement.