By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
MADISON TOWNSHIP —
The North boys score points so sneaky fast that they fooled the scoreboard.
The Rangers came away with an 85-64 victory, although just before the Madison scoreboard was turned off for the night, it read 84-64. Paul Lang slipped in a foul shot that didn’t make it onto the display.
85 points? 84? Madison coach Pat Moran didn’t care, although Lang’s final made free throw was actually the 85th point to go through the Ranger’s nets. Lang, a sharpshooting senior who poured in 29 points including six 3-pointers on Friday, may want to have it, as he attempts to crack whatever milestones are in sight during the rest of his career.
Speaking of milestones, the Blue Streaks’ Stephon Ortiz hit a big one with his second 3-pointer, which came in the second quarter. That gave the senior 1,000 points in his career. He went on to tally a game-high 31 points, also including six treys, while pulling down a team-high eight rebounds.
“He’s a great scorer for us,” Moran said. “I think honestly, anyone that came to watch the game saw perhaps a couple of the best scorers in (the Premier Athletic) Conference.”
“(Lang) is one of the best shooters in Northeast Ohio,” North coach Joe Montanaro said. “He’s got the total green light.”
This one belonged to the Rangers (10-6, 9-2), though. With Anton Vrebac adding 25 points (including 4 3-pointers), 14 boards, five assists and two blocked shots, they kept their hopes for a PAC title very much alive by blowing open a close game in the second half.
“Anton has gotten a lot better throughout the year,” Montanaro said of the junior. “He’s starting to realize how good he can be.”
North shot at an outstanding 49.2 percent clip (31-of-63), which is even more impressive when one considers that that included 11 3-point field goals. Madison (10-8, 6-5; 4 straight losses) actually outdid the Rangers in the first half percentage-wise at 14-of-26, but slipped to seven-of-28 thereafter. Thus, a 40-39 disadvantage became much wider — which brings us back to the “sneaky” factor.
“They just did a good job of getting those little 6-0, 7-0, 8-0 runs,” Moran said. “And they just add up. It doesn’t feel like a 20-point loss.”
The Rangers did put together 11-consecutive points early to take a 13-6 lead. They pushed it to 24-15 before the Blue Streaks roared back to take the lead at 30-27 on the heels of an eight-point second-period stretch.
Two Lang foul shots gave North the halftime lead, and it never gave that up. It did string together 10 points to make it 52-41. Madison crept within 58-52 when John Dahlhausen (11 points) scored on a drive to open the fourth quarter. But the Rangers outscored the Streaks 26-9 over the next six-plus minutes to stretch it to 84-61.
“It was just their ability to score in those short spurts,” Moran said. “They’re just such a dangerous team. And what they did a lot better job than (Dec. 21, when they beat us 70-56) is they took care of the ball. I think their point guard (Nurik Eldosov) did a phenomenal job of not turning it over, and finding the right guys.”
Eldosov had six assists and nine points, while teammate Ben Josipovic also dished out six and added nine rebounds despite his minutes being limited because of fouls. Joe Caspio had nine points and seven rebounds for the Rangers, who led on the boards by a 46-29 count, 31-14 after the break.
Brett Monty (3 blocks) scored 11 of his 16 points in the first period for Madison.
“They’re long and they’re skilled,” Moran said. “They take care of the ball and they’re well-coached. They’re a dangerous out in the (Division I) tournament. I don’t think they’re going to go quietly, that’s for sure.”
“We’re trying to get the best seed that we can,” Montanaro, who pointed out that North’s losses have come against very good teams, said.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.