HANFORD — The Bullpups gave the Rangers everything they could on Wednesday, but it wasn’t enough. A couple of key mistakes in the final three minutes led to an 18-14 loss and sent Hanford to its third straight defeat.
Despite the loss, Hanford coach Anthony Souza was still proud of his team’s effort.
“I can’t be more happy of where we’re playing right now,” Souza said. “I’d like of course the outcome be in our favor instead of the losing side. We have a really good program, it’s a balanced team, a lot of guys step up, we don’t have that one key player.”
Hanford (9-7, 0-3 WYL) may be winless in WYL so far, but they’ve shown they can hang with the best of them. Losses to El Diamante and Mt. Whitney both came in the final minutes. The team hasn’t been able to get over the hump yet, but it’s something Souza sees is continuing to improve.
“Avoid the mental mistakes,” Souza said about late-game execution. “We’ve got a lot of talent and when we’re on, we’re on. It’s just a matter of thinking through. Our boys sometimes get caught in the moment and they’re not thinking clearly, but they are overcoming. We’ve come a long way since we first started.”
Leading 12-11 entering the fourth quarter, the Bullpups were able to successfully defend their lead in the third after Redwood tied it twice. The Rangers knotted the score again in the fourth, but Hanford’s Marcos Leon gave the Bullpups a 13-12 lead with a right-wing shot in a man-up situation.
But like in games past, the Bullpups faltered when it mattered most.
Redwood took the lead for good on back-to-back scores and then extended the lead with a quick shot after a foul. All three goals came after Hanford turnovers.
“Normally we drive through every three quarters and we kind of struggle throughout the fourth, so it was just another one of those games where we just lost communication, lost driving the ball, we just couldn’t pull through,” Hanford’s Camden Hampshire said.
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Hanford’s Cayden Smith, who finished with three goals, scored on a turnaround shot with 1:01 to go, but Redwood ended the match with three straight goals and a 6-1 run over the final 4:16 to claim the victory. The Rangers outscored the Bullpups 7-2 in the final quarter and 12-5 in the second half.
The beginning of the game seemed promising for the Bullpups. An early 1-0 deficit turned into a 4-1 first-quarter lead after a 4-0 run with Leon’s lob into the corner, Hampshire’s counter and Logan Reeser’s one-timer in the hole.
“We kind of read their plays and we knew where they were going to drive to, who was going to shoot what and who their shooters were,” Hampshire said. “We just clicked on defense and we would just draw the foul and shoot up. Our man-ups were great, we were passing around, burning the clock on our man-ups and we just read their defense and we came up with offense on the other side.”
The Rangers cut the deficit to one with two quick goals to start the second quarter. Smith’s five-meter penalty and Hampshire’s 6-on-5 goal settled the team as they took a 9-6 lead at halftime.
The Bullpups lost Logan Reeser, a key defender, in the third quarter after two exclusions and a major forced him to be gamed. Hanford never recovered defensively, but managed to cling to a one-goal lead behind three third-quarter goals by Hampshire.
“Just kind of spreading my team out a little bit just getting the ball trying to do the best I can to draw the foul and shoot over,” Hampshire, who finished with a team-high six goals, said. “Just try to stay open on man-ups, pass around as much as I can and if I have the open shot I’ll take it.”
Leon and Reeser scored two goals apiece, while Jon Avila finished with one.
Hanford will look to end its losing streak as they continues the season with a WYL home match against Golden West next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.