Last Saturday's 65-63 home loss to North Baltimore was typical of the way the season has gone for Northwood's boys’ basketball team.
The Rangers had a chance to secure a non-conference win, but a 4-for-15 performance from the free throw line in the fourth quarter sealed Northwood's fate.
"We just couldn't convert one-and-ones," Rangers coach Jim Besgrove said. "We're not a real good free throw shooting team. We've been so close. We've lost five games by two points or less. We're there. For one reason or another we lose the close ones."
The loss to North Baltimore dropped Northwood, which is 2-5 in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference, to 5-11 overall. The loss also wasted a 26-point effort by junior wing Ryan Canaday.
"That was our third game of the week," Besgrove said, "so I don't think we had any legs left."
Besgrove said a lack of confidence was a factor early in the season for a team that won just five games a year ago. The sixth-year coach — he also coached the Rangers for five seasons several years ago — added that the program is showing improvement.
"We're physically better," Besgrove said. "We are stronger than we've been. We have been hitting it hard in the weight room. We're moving in the right direction, it's just that we've been losing the close ones."
The Rangers picked up a signature win — and perhaps one of the biggest upsets in the area this season — on Jan. 20 when they defeated defending Suburban Lakes League champion Genoa 57-54 at Northwood.
Canaday had 18 points in that win, while senior post Charles Artino had 14 and Chris Keith added 13. Northwood trailed by 13 points at halftime before the Rangers, behind 12 points from Keith, scored 24 third-quarter points to take control.
"At the time, Genoa was playing pretty well," Besgrove said. "They were close to first place in the SLL. We had some things we wanted to do. One of their starters was out, but we just followed the game plan that night and the kids played really well.
"I think it definitely helped our confidence that we could play with bigger schools and schools with a good basketball program."
Canaday is the Rangers' leading scorer, at 17.6 points, followed by the 6-5 Artino at 11.2. Keith, a 6-0 senior wing, averages 10.7 points. A week ago, Canaday scored 28 as the Rangers defeated Monclova Christian, 79-56.
Artino is the team's top rebounder at 7.5 per game, followed by 6-3 sophomore Jake Pressley at 6.7 and Canaday at 6.1. Ronnie Koch, a 5-9 junior, leads Northwood in assists with 4.2 per game.
Northwood might not have much of a chance to win the TAAC this season, but Besgrove admitted his team can play the spoiler role.
The Rangers lost to Cardinal Stritch (9-7, 6-4) 78-62 on Tuesday and finish with conference leaders Ottawa Hills and Toledo Christian the final week of the regular season, in addition to playing Maumee Valley twice.
"I'd like to finish .500 in the league," Besgrove said. "We still have a shot at that, and that's still a goal we're working for. We play North Baltimore in the sectionals (March 3) and we're looking forward to having another shot at them."