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    North opens season with win at Madison

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    Sean Register scored a team-high 30 points and North’s defense stuck to its game plan in knocking off host Madison on Friday, 74-68, to kick off the 2023-2024 season.

    The Rangers entered the game against their former Western Reserve Conference rival hoping to slow down Madison standout J.P. Dragas enough to allow the Rangers to sneak out of town with a win.

    “I’m going to be honest, that was the game plan,” said North coach Clint Nicholson. “At halftime, J.P. had (28) points and at that point, I had to make an adjustment. We went to a box-and-one, and I just said if Madison has anybody else that can beat us, now is the time. We were going to do what we could do to slow J.P. down and we focused on him in the second half.”

    Dragas couldn’t miss in the first quarter as he scored 12 points to help Madison build an early 20-17 lead.

    He scored 16 of Madison’s 20 in the second quarter as the Blue Streaks took a 40-35 lead into the break.

    “Mike Tyson has a good saying, that everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face,” Nicholson said. “Dragas came out and definitely gave us a few jabs, but the good thing about basketball is it’s a team sport. He’s a great player, but we had to prove we were the better team.”

    Nicholson’s halftime adjustments paid off as the Rangers outscored the Blue Streaks in the second half, 39-28, and limited Dragas to just 11 points, all in the fourth quarter.

    Senior guard DeMoni Hunt was tasked with sticking to Dragas like glue, with a little help from his teammates.

    “I threw a box-and-one at them, and I zoned up everybody else and kept DeMoni on (Dragas) and just forced him to have to see DeMoni and another defender at all times,” Nicholson said. “If he wanted to continue to shoot or try to make plays around that, then I’d live with those results. I really liked Demoni’s defensive effort.”

    Register scored 14 points in the first half, with five of those points coming from the charity stripe, and then he added 16 more in the second half to lead the Rangers to victory.

    Hunt and Nate Tadiello also scored in double figures for the Rangers with 17 and 16 points, respectively. Anthony Belasic contributed to the win with six points and Steve Siekaniec added five.

    “I’ve got Sean to lead the way but I’m really excited about the help that I have around him this year,” Nicholson said. “Guys can really play and we stepped up to get a really nice team win to start the season.”

    North hasn’t had a lot of success against the Blue Streaks over the years when the two competed in the WRC.

    Madison joined the Chagrin Valley Conference at the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year, thus this game was a non-conference affair.

    Regardless, the Rangers will take it considering their last regular season win against the Blue Streaks likely came on Jan. 17, 2014.

    The Rangers are 3-14 against the Blue Streaks dating back to that 2013-2014 season when North swept Madison. No scores were available for two years—2014-2015 and 2017-2018. The Rangers did beat the Blue Streaks in the 2022 postseason.

    Factoring in North’s lack of success against Madison and the Rangers’ ability to adjust on the fly to come from behind to win, Nicholson was pleased with what he saw out of his squad in its opener.

    “I learned that we are really good,” he said. “When we execute and do the things we set out to do, we’re actually really good. The guys are starting believe and trust in each other and they made plays for each other. The chemistry we’ve been building over the last few weeks is actually for real, and hopefully, we’ll see that continue throughout the rest of the season.”

    Madison’s Landon Tomco added 10 points, Mac Steel added eight, Bryant Perkins finished with six, and Seth Negin scored five.

    North travels to University School on Dec. 9 while Madison looks to bounce back against St. Martin de Porres on Dec. 7.

     

    Steve Hare
    Steve Harehttps://www.ohiovarsity.com
    The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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