STAPLES -- In recent history, a trip to the Staples-Motley gymnasium has been comparable to a trip to Alcatraz for the Crosby-Ironton Rangers boys' basketball team.
The Rangers have not won at the daunting home of the Cardinals in 18 years; the last time the Rangers won in Staples was in 1983.
Friday they once again made the one-hour trip west to face the Mid-State Conference nemesis. And the year 2001 didn't bring an escape from Alcatraz as the Cardinals built an early 16-2 first quarter lead and went on to win 54-34.
The Rangers shot just 1-9 in the first quarter while the Cardinals received seven points from Brad Moore to build the early cushion.
Both teams played relentless defense but it was the Cardinals ability to hit the boards that enabled them to get second chance opportunities which made the difference.
"You can't give up the easy baskets and we gave up too many because we didn't get many ourselves," said Ranger head coach Dave Galovich. "They're active on the offensive boards and every time a shot goes up, if you don't put a body on a man you're going to give up an easy one. We did that a number of times."
Ranger Ben Baratto came into the game in the second quarter and quickly delivered six points. Besides a Tom Mount 3-pointer and Baratto's six points, Gideon Avelsgard looked like the only offense early for the Rangers.
Despite the low offensive production the Rangers were able to cut the Cardinal lead to 12 at halftime.
"It's always important in any game to get an early lead because, for one thing, you have a cushion," said Cardinal head coach Lynn Peterson. "In a case like tonight we got the cushion and they came back on us; but you look up at the scoreboard, we're up by 15 they make a run we're still up by 10.
"Then we make a basket here and there and they have to battle back again."
In the second quarter the Cardinals were led by the floor general Jeff Brever who scored five of his nine in the frame.
"One thing that we have this year that we haven't had in a lot of years is our depth," said Peterson. "Consequently, when you have a lot of depth like we do, take nothing away from our kids, but it means that we probably don't have many stars.
"But when you're able to go eight or nine deep it means that you have a lot of good kids."
Both teams traded baskets early in the third quarter until the Cardinals made a four-point run building the lead to 35-20. Joel Anderson then got hot for C-I scoring all nine of his points in the third.
Ahead by 13 points the Cardinals were able to outlast the Rangers and built their lead to 20 points thanks to Bobby Burton's six points in the fourth quarter.
"We needed to find a rhythm," said junior Adam Barnett. "When we were in Rochester (for the Christmas tournament) we weren't consistent. We would come out good but then we would back off. We were really looking for some consistency throughout a game.
"Down in Rochester we were really struggling with boxing out and getting rebounds. That was one of our big goals -- to get everyone busting to the boards and hustling for the rebounds."
Barnett led the Cardinals with 14 points while Anderson and Mount led the Rangers with nine. Both teams shot poorly from the field with S-M shooting 42 percent while the Rangers shot just 33.
"When you face good pressure, all of a sudden your decision-making process has to speed up," said Galovich. "Whether you're going to feed the post, reverse the ball or penetrate to the basket you have to make the decision quickly.
"We were taking too long. We would keep the ball on one side of the floor too long and all of a sudden that solidifies their help side defense."
Crosby-Ironton 2 13 11 8 -- 34
Staples-Motley 16 11 12 15 -- 54
Tom Mount 9, Joel Anderson 9, Gideon Avelsgard 7, Ben Baratto 6, Steve Perpich 2, Aaron Johnson 1. Team totals: FG 13-40 (33 percent), FT 7-10 (70 percent). Conference -- 0-2. Overall -- 4-3. Next game: at Bemidji 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Dan Lund 1, Jeff Brever 9, Adam Barnett 14, Bobby Burton 10, Brad Moore 9, Josh Winter 4, Gabe Anderson 3, Jace Thompson 4. Team totals: FG 22-52 (42 percent), FT 8-11 (73 percent). Conference -- 3-0. Overall -- 7-2. Next game: at Brainerd 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
3-point baskets -- CI 1 (Mount), SM 2 (Brever, Anderson). Rebounds -- CI 19, SM 26. Turnovers -- CI 23, SM 12. Total fouls -- CI 10, SM 12. Assists -- CI 1, SM 12. Steals -- CI 6, SM 6. Blocks -- CI 3, SM 1.
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