PUEBLO — If there is one word that can describe Valor Christian's 80-75 win over Pueblo Central, "emotional" would have to be it.
The Eagles and Wildcats scrapped and battled for almost 32 hard minutes before an offensive foul on Mike Ranson resulted in frustration setting in for the Wildcats, allowing the Eagles (6-0 overall) to leave Pueblo with the win. But it didn't come easy as Ranson continued to put up insane scoring numbers.
On his home floor, Ranson knew that he would have to shine if the Wildcats (5-5) were going to have a chance to take down the state's second-ranked team. He shot the ball early and often and despite his team being down most of the quarter, he was able to even the score at 22-22 after the first quarter.
"I felt like we hung in there pretty well," Ranson said. "They were beasts on the boards and I felt like we hung with them."
Ranson scored 10 of his game-high 44 points in the first eight minutes. And the trend would continue.
It was clear that if Valor was going to come away with a big win on the road, they would have to weather Hurricane Ranson.
"We knew he was going to hit some shots," Valor guard Jeremy Randle said. "We knew we couldn't let him make four or five shots in a row to get the momentum of the crowd."
But it wasn't a shot that would really get Ranson going. He got tangled up with Valor forward Dylan McCaffrey for a rebound and both players fell to the floor. An extra shove from Ranson earned him a technical foul, but that's when the scoring came alive.
"He's a football player first, he goes after the ball," Wildcats coach Brad Ranson said. "You have to reward him for that. That's maybe a hard foul, not a technical."
At the end of the first half, not a single Eagle had scored in double figures but they were balanced enough that being down 43-41 at the break wasn't too big a concern. The Eagles came out in the second with a 7-0 run to take a 48-43 lead.
But once again, Ranson put the Wildcats on his shoulders. He scored another 11 points to keep the game close going into the fourth quarter.
With just over three minutes remaining, the Eagles had built a 74-67 lead thanks in part to a couple of big baskets from Randle, who finished with 14 points.
Overall, the Eagles had six players in double figures with Jalen Sanders leading the charge with 17.
The Wildcats were able to take advantage of an 8-3 run to cut the Valor lead to 77-75 with 15 seconds remaining. Pueblo Central had the ball. There was no doubt that Ranson would get the ball in his hands.
He made a move to the right side of the court, but a slight extension of his arm prompted an offensive foul call. Rangoon's shot went down, but it wouldn't count.
Mayhem ensued and a Central coach was ejected, giving the Eagles four free throws, the ball and the win.
"We were playing with so much emotion and it was fun," Brad Ranson said. "It was unfortunate that it had to come to (an offensive foul call), because that was no push. That was a step-back three in his eye."
Nonetheless, the Wildcats showed that even without Kobi Betts, who was lost for the year to a torn ACL, they are still capable of playing at a high level.
"Kobi was a huge loss and you can't replace a guy like that," Mike Ranson said. "But we're going to keep fighting."