CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – The South Range Raiders have long been known for their football team’s dominance, but it is their basketball team that is now making a statement in the ITCL. Friday night they overwhelmed the Springfield Tigers 58-39 to grab sole possession of the league’s Red Tier.
The win improves the Raiders to 15-0, 4-0 in the ITCL while the Tigers drop to 10-3, 3-1 in the league. The victory also marks two wins this week over the ITCL’s top two teams following a win Tuesday night over McDonald 73-66 in overtime.
But for the Raiders this game was more important that Tuesday, “This was definitely a bigger game for us than McDonald,” Raiders junior guard Brandon Youngs said. “Coming into this game we knew they won 33 ITCL games in a row, and have beat us the last ten (meetings).”
“This is a huge game,” Raider coach John Cullen exclaimed. “Anybody who has whipped you six times in a row, and has won 48 of their last 49 games in the league, it’s pretty darn important.”
“Plus the fact that if you look up at that banner, there is barely enough ink up there for it to count,” Cullen said pointing to the league championship banners hanging from the gym rafters. “I told our guys if it gets bad during the game, look up at that banner and realize that is what we are playing for.”
“This is our main goal this year, to win the ITCL in the final year. And right now we are on track to do it,” Youngs added. “It has been brought up so many times knowing that we need to win the ITCL this year, and we’re going to do it.”
The Raiders led from the opening tip-off to the final buzzer, pushing their advantage to as much as 27-points at the 3:11 mark of the fourth quarter. They led 10-6 at the end of the first quarter in a defensive struggle, but then started to pull away in the second frame as they held the Tigers to just 1-point in the period. Conversely, the Raiders scored 19 as they held a commanding 29-7 advantage at the intermission.
“For the years that I’ve known coach Cullen, his team is always going to play good defense. And they did that tonight, they really took Jake (Ford) out of the game in the first half. And they really took us out of the game in the first half,” Tigers coach Eric Fender remarked.
The Raiders defense held the Tigers standout senior Jake Ford to just 3 points in the first half, and 13 for the game. He would also grab 7 rebounds. Frankie Centofanti would lead the Tigers on the night with 16 points.
“That was our main goal,” Youngs said of shutting down Ford. “Lock down Ford, trap him, don’t let him score.”
“We tried to trap him whenever he would get to the ball. We tried to switch every cross-action so he couldn’t get any free looks. He got a couple, but I think we wore him out a little,” Cullen explained the game plan against Ford. “I thought our kids did the best we could on trying to make it difficult for him tonight.”
The Raiders went on a 7-3 run to start the second half to push their lead to 26-points with a little over five minutes left in the quarter. They would hold a 47-22 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Tigers would go on a 5-2 run to start the fourth quarter to close the deficit to 22 at 27-49. But the Raiders responded with a 9-4 run pull out to their game-high 27-point lead at 58-31 when senior guard Mark Vennetti hit a jumper from the top of the key.
Youngs would lead the Raiders in the score book with 17 points while Dan Ritter was the only other double-digit scorer for the Raiders with 12. Dan Ritter and Taymer Graham each grabbed 6 rebounds to pace the Raiders on the boards.
“We knew South Range was going to be tough competition for us,” Fender said. “They have four experienced guys coming back, and they’re long, they’re athletic.”
“It’s one game,” Fender commented on what he told his team. “They have to come back to us. They are a good team and they made us do some things we were not comfortable with yet. But hopefully, by the time we get to them (Feb 17) in the second game at our place we’ll be ready.”
The Raiders next game is Tuesday night at Sebring while Springfield plays at Campbell.