Rangers Reach Sweet Sixteen with Historic Win
The LHS girls basketball team defeated Medina 49-41 on Thursday night in the district championship game at Valley Forge High School. A huge contingent of Ranger fans made the trip, and they were treated with the program’s biggest win since 1995. Junior center Olivia Nagy led the scoring with 23 points. Medina staged a furious third quarter rally to narrow a 12 point halftime deficit, but Lakewood’s tenacious defense carried the Rangers to victory.
The building was full of energy before the game even started. Fans were lined up outside the building to get tickets. The Ranger side was full of fans, and there was a strong turnout by LHS students. Lakewood fed off the energy, jumping out to an 8-0 lead in the first quarter. Senior Trinity Nall got things going with a three pointer, and Nagy scored three points to build a 10-2 Lakewood lead after one quarter. Medina struggled against the Rangers pressure defense, turning the ball over numerous times.
Junior Saher Hamdan scored a three pointer early in the second quarter to give Lakewood a 15-4 margin. Medina answered with five consecutive points to make it 15-9. Then the Rangers went to work on the inside, feeding the ball to Nagy. She scored on three consecutive possessions to stretch the lead back to 21-9. Junior Isabel Cintron hit a three pointer late in the half to help build a 28-16 Lakewood lead at the intermission.
Ranger fans were abuzz at halftime...they sensed a major win was coming. However, the Bees had other ideas. They held the Rangers to only three points over a span of seven minutes and 48 seconds, chipping the Lakewood lead down to 33-26 during the third quarter. Medina fans were fired up, and the final quarter was going to be a gut-check for Lakewood.
Medina opened the final period with a pair of free throws, cutting the lead to 33-28. Tension grew among the Purple Faithful, as the Bees carried strong momentum. Lakewood re-established order by going back to Nagy, who scored consecutive baskets to make it 37-28. Ranger fans were feeling better….and then they were even happier when Hamdan made a three pointer to make it 40-28 with only 5:18 to go.
The Bees then went on a 9-2 run, making the score 42-37 with 2:16 remaining. Medina again had the momentum, and Rangers fans were counting down the seconds in hopes of hanging on. Then Junior Courtney Ribar made two free throws to make it a three possession game with only 1:14 left on the clock. Courtney only had two points on the night, but they were the crucial shots that ended the Bees final rally. The game then became a free-throw contest in the final minute, as Medina fouled to stop the clock on every Ranger possession. Nagy, who had struggled from the line earlier in the second half, calmly made four consecutive free throws to keep the Bees at bay.
When the final seconds ticked off the clock, the players rejoiced with screams. Ranger fans erupted with applause, appreciating the team’s impressive tournament run. The team was very appreciative of the fan turnout. “I did not expect that many people would show up,” Nagy said after the game, “it was great.” Despite her big scoring night, Nagy deferred praise to her teammates after the game. “I just love my team so much,” she said during the postgame celebration.
Ranger coach Mike Harper was thrilled after the game, waving and saluting the fans. He was impressed with his team’s toughness, especially during Medina’s third quarter rally. “They showed incredible poise under pressure,” he said. Senior Ryann Greenfield was the team’s leader on the floor, directing the offense and playing a tough game on defense. She hit the floor many times during the game while diving for loose balls or attempting steals. “I want the season to keep going” she said postgame.
Ryann will get her wish. This is the team’s deepest tournament run since 1995, and they want to keep it going. The Rangers now advance to play Berea-Midpark on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School. The schools, both members of the Southwestern Conference, met twice during the regular season. The Titans won both matchups, but the tournament is a whole different ballgame.
Mike Deneen has extensive experience covering sports and community stories for the Lakewood Observer. Mike has been a Senior Industry Analyst for the Freedonia Group in Cleveland, Ohio, since 1998. He has appeared on CNBC’s Closing Bell, NPR’s MarketPlace and has been quoted multiple times in The Wall Street Journal. He has made multiple guest appearances on ESPN Cleveland radio. Mike also writes for Inside Northwestern, a website that covers Northwestern Wildcat Athletics. You can reach him on Twitter at @MikeDeneen1