Flames fight to the end

Northgate’s Malcolm Randall drives to the hoop against Winchester Thurston on Tuesday. Although the Flames came up short, losing 52 - 50, Randall finished the night with 18 points and 17 rebounds. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

By MEL PERKINS

The Northgate Flames hosted Winchester Thurston on Tuesday night, and it was a hard-fought battle. But the Flames were just unable to hang on at the end for the victory, losing by the score of 52 – 50.

The Flames entered the game looking to rebound after losing their first conference game last Friday night against Springdale. Northgate got on the scoreboard first with a Ryan Puskar three-pointer deep from the corner, but things cooled from there. The Flames struggled from the perimeter early, but Raylan Whetsell made some headway inside the paint as he was able to get a couple of buckets slashing to the hoop. Malcom Randall hit two from the free throw line and after one quarter of play, the Flames were down 13 – 9.

Northgate opened up the second quarter with Whetsell hitting a three-pointer, and that was followed by Randall going to the charity stripe and knocking down two to give the Flames a 14 – 13 lead. The Flames were rolling and behind the scoring of Randall, Whetsell and Jacian Sustayta, Northgate found themselves with the biggest lead they would achieve all game, up 23 – 17 with 2:36 left in the half. They would go into the locker room at halftime holding a 26 – 23 lead.

The third quarter started with Winchester Thurston hitting the floor re-energized. They were challenging the Flames to meet their intensity, and Northgate struggled to adjust to the pressure defense and heightened tempo.

Randall, Whetsell and Puskar kept the game close with their scoring, but with 2:53 left in the third quarter, Winchester Thurston took the lead 37 – 35 and they tried to stretch it out from there, but with time expiring in the quarter, Benjamin Brooks nailed a three-pointer, and after three quarters of play, the Flames trailed 41 – 38.

Randall went to work when the fourth quarter started, banging inside for two, and Northgate was down 41 – 40. Then with 5:31 left in the game, Whetsell went to the line and hit two free throws to tie the game at 43. Randall followed that with a rebound and a put-back to give the Flames a 45 – 43 lead with 4:29 left on the clock.

With 3:52 left in the game, the Flames were out in front 48 – 43. Again Northgate seemed to be in solid command with a five-point lead, but when the pressure defense is effective, the tide can change quickly. With 1:21 left in the game, the lead slipped through the fingers of the Flames and the score was tied at 50. With just 19 seconds left on the clock, Winchester Thurston took a 52 – 50 lead.

The Flames had their opportunities to tie it up with and to carry it into overtime, but it just wasn’t meant to be. After the game, Coach Joe Cangilla said, “The kids are playing. They are playing hard. We are getting really good at a few things, and I think we are really coming along. We never quit and we kept on battling.” Malcolm Randall finished the night with 18 points and 17 rebounds and Raylan Whetsell followed him with 16 points.