The Ranger College men's basketball dodged an upset bid by the McLennan Highlanders on Wednesday in front of a loud and raucous crowd in the Ron Butler Gym. The Rangers, who had trailed by as much as 13 points in the contest, pieced together a 41-32 run in the final 20 minutes of play and escaped with a 71-67 victory.
"That was a great college basketball game," said Ranger College head coach Billy Gillispie, who saw his team improve to 22-2 for the season. "They (McLennan) played us tough."
The victory was Ranger's ninth consecutive victory and pushed the team to 8-1 in Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference play.
McLennan came out swinging early against the sixth-ranked Rangers. The Highlanders took advantage of several turnovers by RC and built a stunning 13-point lead late in the first half. Brayan Au and Keyshaad Dixon helped Ranger rally back in the final minutes.
Ranger trailed at the half by a 35-30 margin.
The Rangers came alive in the second half.
After fighting back to regain the lead, Coryon Mason put RC in control with 24.2 seconds left. He staked the team to a three-point lead, at 67-64, by hitting the back end of a two-shot free throw opportunity.
Less that 10 seconds later, Jonathan Jackson stretched the lead to four with a pair of free throws that put RC I 69-65 with 14.4 left in regulation.
Au powered the Rangers' offensive efforts against the Highlanders by throwing in 19 points – 15 coming via five clutch three-point shots. Jaren English, who buried a pair of free throws with 3.4 seconds left in regulation to seal the win and send the crowd into a chant of "Go start the bus!" chalked up 16 points.
Mason and Jackson also reached double figures, netting 13 and 12, respectively. Jackson also finished with a team-high eight rebounds.
Ranger will return to action on Wednesday (Feb. 13) when the close out their recent four-game homestand with a game against Southwestern Christian.