NORTH RIDGEVILLE — For most of Tuesday’s game against Westlake, North Ridgeville definitely didn’t look like a team on a winning streak.
But that’s exactly what the Rangers looked like when the game mattered the most.
North Ridgeville outscored the Demons by 16 points over the final 10 minutes to pull out a 73-64 win in Southwestern Conference play.
“In past years, a North Ridgeville team might have lost this game, so finding a way to get the win is big for us,” North Ridgeville coach Bryan Morgan said. “In our conference anyone can beat anybody so you have to be ready to step on the floor and play as hard as you can every night.”
The Rangers (8-4, 6-2 SWC) have won six games in a row. Westlake (3-9, 3-5) has lost five of its last six.
Jeremy Sanchez led the Rangers’ second-half comeback, taking control of the game on both sides of the ball.
After Westlake went up 43-35 midway through the third quarter, Sanchez responded with a layup plus the foul, then had a steal and a jumper. A few minutes later, Sanchez converted another and-one to give North Ridgeville its first lead (48-47) since early in the first quarter.
Sanchez followed that up with a layup, then knocked down a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter as North Ridgeville extended its lead to 55-49.
“I started really attacking the basket instead of just shooting a three,” Sanchez said. “It wasn’t pretty but we won and that’s a big momentum builder for us.”
Zach Perkins helped the Rangers put the game away in the fourth quarter, scoring six straight points with the game still in the balance.
He also came through with what may have been the play of the game when he got a rebound and layup off of his own missed free throw.
That play gave the Rangers a 59-50 lead with under six minutes remaining.
Westlake continued to battle, getting within a possession at 67-64 with a minute remaining but North Ridgeville made enough free throws to preserve the victory.
“I was just thinking that we had to get after it and make some plays,” Perkins said. “No one boxed me out on the free throw so I just had to grab it and finish.”
Sanchez led the Rangers in scoring with 19 points while Perkins had 14 points and nine rebounds.
Westlake’s isside duo of Anthony Rego and Joey Geagea gave North Ridgeville fits all night and nearly led the Demons to the upset.
Rego set the tone early, scoring eight points in the first quarter as Westlake raced out to a surprising 18-8 lead. In the second quarter, Geagea took over, scoring eight straight points to help Westlake preserve its lead.
Rego finished with 21 points and eight rebounds while Geagea scored 16 off the bench.
“The kids played very well, I just should have made some adjustments,” Westlake coach Freeman Blade said. “We never stopped playing hard and we are getting better.”
Westlake had seven turnovers that led to 12 points in the third quarter to help fuel the Rangers’ comeback.
Sanchez had two steals, anchoring a Rangers press that consistently got its hands on the ball and caused chaos.
“We stopped trapping and started pressing in the second half and it worked well for us,” Sanchez said. “It also helped us get some easy baskets on the other end.”
North Ridgeville 73, Westlake 64
WESTLAKE (64): Caleb Schubert 2-0-5, Jacob May 3-2-10, Anthony Rego 10-1-21, Jake Collins 0-0-0, Joey Geagea 7-2-16, Justin Garcia 2-0-4, Dylan Bednar 4-0-8. Totals 28-5-64.
NORTH RIDGEVILLE (73): Cole Payne 5-5-15, Desean Fitzpatrick 1-0-2, Jeremy Sanchez 7-2-19, Zach Perkins 6-2-14, Jason Vrba 4-1-12, Noah Bayer 2-5-9, Tyler Cadle 1-0-2. Totals 26-15-73.
Westlake 20 12 15 17 — 64
North Ridgevile 15 12 25 21 — 73
Three point goals: Westlake 3-11 (Schubert, May 2), North Ridgeville 6-19 (Sanchez 3, Vrba 3). Free throws: Westlake 5-9 (55 percent), North Ridgeville 15-22 (68 percent). Total fouls: Westlake 15, North Ridgeville 11. Turnovers: Westlake 16, North Ridgeville 10.
Junior varsity: North Ridgeville, 54-35