GRAND RAPIDS -- Since the start of the boys' basketball tournaments a week ago, the odds have been stacked against the Crosby-Ironton Rangers.
The Rangers have played without head coach Dave Galovich and his 27 years of coaching experience, as well as longtime assistant Neil Tesdahl. Both have been on strike for 31 days.
C-I has also been without the outside shooting of starting guard Bryce Tesdahl, who chose not to play out of respect to his parents, who are C-I teachers.
The Rangers played with emotion and passion in beating Blackduck and Aitkin in their first two playoff games. But the odds caught up with C-I as it lost 65-37 to the Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels in the Section 7, Class 2A semifinals Thursday.
ML/WR 65, C-I 37
The key: The Rebels outscored C-I 37-18 in the second half and limited the Rangers to 35 percent shooting from the field.
Overall: C-I finishes 17-12.
C-I shot out of the first quarter and built an 11-6 lead and was led by six Mitch Wood points. But the Rebels stormed back to score the next six points and take a one-point lead at the end of the first quarter.
"We wanted to get out to a quick start and we came out decent," C-I guard Brett Dickie said. "But we got cold in the second quarter and (Moose Lake) hit some shots and got up by 12. That's kind of how the game went."
The Rebels continued their scoring run and extended their lead to 17-11 on a Joe Bednar putback and a Geoff Probst 3-pointer. Probst did the most damage to the Rangers, scoring eight of his 10 first-half points in the second quarter as the Rebels went into the locker room with a 28-19 lead.
Adding to C-I's first-half frustration was the pressure ML/WR applied to Ranger guards, not allowing them to get into an offense, leading to just 7 of 19 shooting in the first half. A Dickie 3-pointer with less than 10 seconds left cut the Rebels' lead to single digits.
The Rangers came back at the start of the third to cut ML/WR's lead to 30-24 on a Wayne Ward 3-pointer and a Mitch Wood layin. Wood led C-I with 17 points while Dickie scored 14.
"When we got within six I thought to myself, 'Here we go again,' because we did the same thing against Aitkin," Dickie said. "But Moose Lake answered us. I'll be rooting for them to go to state."
The Rebels closed the door on C-I when Joe Bednar scored 13 of his 15 points in the quarter and helped spark an 11-0 run to give them a 41-24 lead. Bednar put an exclamation mark on the period with a 3-pointer with three seconds left.
The Rangers were without their coaches. They were without one of their top players. And, Rebels coach Scott Hendricks couldn't have been more impressed with the C-I players.
"The Crosby players are very courageous," Hendricks said, "I give them a lot of credit for what they did and how they performed. They were in a very difficult situation. There are great people in Crosby-Ironton and hopefully the situation will heal."
It's a hope that's shared by many.
Moose Lake/Willow River 12 16 19 18 -- 65
Crosby-Ironton 11 8 12 6 -- 37
MOOSE LAKE/WILLOW RIVER
Geoff Probst 15, Sam Gay 4, Matt Moretto 12, Darrin Coil 9, Brady Skog 3, Caleb Jensen 7, Joe Bednar 15. Team totals: FG 26-58 (45 percent), FT 6-18 (33 percent). 3-point baskets: 4 (Probst 2, Bednar, Skog).
Brett Dickie 14, Mitch Wood 17, Wayne Ward 3, Ryan Taggart 2, Ben Hoge 1. Team totals: FG 15-43 (35 percent), FT 4-13 (31 percent). 3-point baskets: 3 (Dickie 2, Ward).
TROY GUNDERSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5865
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