Short-Handed Rangers Rise To The Occasion

New Knoxville’s Megan Jurosic (30) goes in for a layup in the third quarter of a non-conference girls basketball game on Monday against Anna.
Sports Editor

New Knoxville was without its best perimeter shooter, had its leading scorer in foul trouble at one point and had their second-leading scorer out of the first half because of injury.

But defense and free throws can still win a game as another solid defensive effort and clutch fourth-quarter free throws led the Rangers to a 33-28 non-conference victory against Anna on Monday.

The Rangers (5-4) were without their two seniors Jacklyn Leffel and Carly Fledderjohann — both out because of flu-like symptoms and Leffel is the team’s leading 3-pointer shooter for a squad who has been struggling with perimeter shooting all season. 

Morgan Leffel then went down when she was fouled and slammed her knee into the hardwood — missing the rest of the first half and gutting out the rest of the second half, and Rangers’ leading scorer Megan Jurosic ran into foul trouble midway through the third quarter and struggled against Anna’s post players.

But the Rangers gutted it out with defense against back-to-back teams who score more than 45 points per game and was clutch down the stretch when needed most. 

“Pretty proud of my girls,” Rangers coach Tim Hegemier said. “We had 10 girls total for JV and varsity and we were limited in varsity so I am pretty proud of them. They worked their butts off.”

“We could have folded and let them win the game, but we fought back and got the win.”

After trailing 12-6 at the half, Anna outscored New Knoxville 14-5 in the third quarter to grab momentum and the lead up 20-17. 

“They wanted the game more than we did in the start of that third quarter,” Hegemier said. “Their step was a hell of a lot faster than ours and they were going after it.”

Anna (5-2) kept the lead until Jurosic converted on a jumper from the elbow and eventually tied the game at 26-26 on one of two free throws with 2:07 left. 

Defense limited the Rockets to just two points in the final 2:15 of the game as the Rangers forced three turnovers in the next 2:15 — converting those miscues with free throws to eventually grab a 31-26 lead with 26.1 seconds left — as New Knoxville ended the game on with a 8-2 run.

“We are starting to get the hang of our defense,” Hegemier said. “We just have to be able to shoot the ball better and we are struggling right now.”

Leffel finished 5-of-6 from the free-throw line and Jurosic and Ellie Gabel both knocked down three free throws as the team finished 12-of-14 from the charity stripe in the final quarter.

“It’s always big in every close game,” Hegemier said. “When the game is close, you’ve got to put them in,”

After jumping out to eight points in the first 9:26 of the game, the Rangers senior post Jurosic was shut out until her first of three-fourth quarter free throws 38 seconds into the final quarter and made her first bucket since the 6:34 mark of the second quarter with 2:36 left to go in the game as Anna’s Kiplyn Rowland and Lauren Barhorst doubled teamed Jurosic. Jurosic also drew two fouls in a span of seconds midway through the third quarter to pick up her third of the game, but the senior still found a way to be productive in the fourth quarter.

Leffel was fouled while driving across the paint with 6:53 left in the second quarter and did not return for the rest of the half as she struggled to put weight on her left knee. But the junior finished 5-of-6 from the free throw line — including a pair to break a 26-26 tie with 56.5 seconds remaining. 

For the full story, see Tuesday's print edition of The Evening Leader.