He was very clear: no, he wasn’t nervous, get that straight. But the rest of the city hoops world at that time, well, maybe a bit on edge.
With two seconds left and the game tied at 40, Izaiah Rangel stepped to the free throw line with a hostile crowd doing its best to distract him with stomps and yells. But the North sophomore, true to his post-game words, was cool as an ice cream Blizzard, hitting nothing but the net on both tries to send North past Econ Tuesday afternoon.
This was a fierce, uneven contest, hot at the start, bogging down somewhat in the middle, and finishing with a rush as the Coogs (2-0, 15-9) secured a significant road victory in preparation for Friday’s showdown with EHS. Rangel, who had missed the front end of a one-and-one with 17 seconds to go, got a reprieve when he was fouled on a defensive rebound near the horn. Instead of overtime, it was game to the Coogs as the jumping jack came through in the clutch.
Rangel has done his part to keep North in the fray, collecting 11 rebounds and helping defend Econ point guard Angel Salinas, who was masterful with 22 points for the Jags (who dropped to 1-1, 15-9).
The Jags jumped out to a 17-9 lead after a quarter thanks to a pair of threes from Salinas and one from backcourt mate Johnny Barrientos. The Coogs would have been further behind had it not been for the marksmanship of Fearless Felix Aleman, who sailed in three of his own long bombs in the frenetic first.
From there it settled into physical possession basketball against the zone, and both defenses were strong Tuesday. To that end, the key might have come during halftime.
“We had to come out in man to start the third quarter, because sometimes teams can get complacent in the zone,” said North coach Rudy Garcia, whose team was down 4 at the break. “It gets your kids to be more aggressive, and that was something we told our kids at the half: be more aggressive.”
Initially though, the Jags did not blink, opening up a 31-22 margin in the third before Andrew Nunez (14 points to lead North, Aleman had a dozen) got hot on the drive. Early on, Econ’s quickness and help from its zone flummoxed the North attack a bit. But after the half, the energy edge was to the visitor and it carved into the advantage until taking a 1-point lead early in the fourth.
A trey from Aleman and a mid-range J by senior Josias Vazquez set the Coogs up at 38-34 but later Salinas canned a huge trifecta, and it came down to the wire.
Down 1 with time running out, the Jags forced a turnover with Saul Alanis and Jose Castillo trapping a Coog at the midcourt line. Econ missed but got another shot off after an offensive board from burly Saul Calzado. Again, the Orange could not convert, leading to Rangel’s foul miss. It was rebounded by Simon Pina, who worked hard for seven boards against North; then at 0:05 Salinas tied the game with a free throw and Rangel did the rest at 0:02.
Econ was top-heavy in the loss, as Salinas was the only one scoring. The Jags had gotten four kids onto double figures in the 31-6A opener against P-SJ-A but Salinas – looking to distribute more this season and eschewing many shot attempts – was the only home-sider with more than six markers. The team also misfired on seven of 10 free throws in the second half, and that hurt.
The Jags rebounded from the defeat to knock off P-SJ-A Southwest Friday.