The Clarendon Bulldogs did an impressive impersonation of the little boy inserting fingers into a crumbling dike on Thursday evening in the first round of the Region V Men's Basketball Championships. The Bulldogs plugged leak after leak for the first 30 minutes of their showdown with No. 4-ranked Ranger College and battled to a 55-55 deadlock.
In the last 10 minutes, they ran out of fingers.
Ranger College reeled off a decisive 18-2 run over a 5-minute span midway through the second half and cruised to an 85-70 romp in front of a loud crowd in Abilene Christian University's Moody Coliseum. Overall, RC snapped a 55-55 tie with just under 11 minutes left in the contest by pounding out an impressive 30-18 run in the final 10:29 of regulation.
With the victory, Ranger improved to 28-2 for the season and, more importantly, advanced to the regional semifinals on Friday evening. The Rangers will face off with South Plains College beginning at 7 p.m.
Clarendon, the No. 4 seed from the Western Junior College Athletic Conference, took advantage of several key fouls that forced RC to go to its bench early in the second half – and numerous untimely turnovers, to grab a lead in the second. The Bulldogs posted a 25-20 run over the first nine minutes and held a 55-52 lead.
That turned out to be Clarendon's last hurrah.
Brayan Au breathed new life into the RC offense. The sophomore guard drilled a three-pointer from the corner that tied the game at 55-55. Just 42 seconds later, Coryon Mason put back an offensive rebound that put RC on top, 57-55, with 9:47 left in regulation.
Au, who knocked down seven treys, led all RC scorers with 22 points.
After Clarendon had pulled to within one with a free throw, Jonathan Jackson and the Rangers put the game on ice. The team went on an 11-1 spree over the ensuing 3 ½ minutes and built a 13-point lead, at 70-57.
Clarendon made one final run. The Bulldogs pushed home back-to-back three-point shots with less than three minutes left and moved to within seven, at 72-65.
Ranger answered the challenge with a run of its own. The Rangers, keyed by a 5-for-6 effort from the free throw line and a clutch trey from Au, posted an 8-1 spree and built its lead to 13, at 80-67. Jackson finished the run by hammering home a dunk on an alley-oop pass from sophomore Keyshaad Dixon with 1:28 left.
Jackson, one of four RC players to reach double figures offensively, finished the game with 18 points.
English starred on both ends of the floor for the Rangers. He posted 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Caleb Asberry also scored into double-digits for RC, netting 13 points.
Clarendon battled its way to a 30-30 tie in the first half.