Aggressiveness sends Rangers to title gameMarch 3, 2018
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
NEWBURGH — When Forest Park senior boys basketball player Sam Englert starts to inch toward the baseline, his eyes begin to light up like a kid on Christmas morning.
For a 6-foot-5 post player like Englert, dominating the baseline is just the icing on the cake of a good game.
“I mean it’s my favorite place to be, it’s the best spot on the floor,” said Englert with a laugh following the Rangers 51-43 victory over Tell City in the Class 2A Sectional semifinal at Castle High School. With the victory, the Rangers advance to the championship where they’ll face North Posey tonight at 7:30 p.m.
After picking up early fouls in Wednesday night’s sectional game against South Spencer and in the season finale against Northeast Dubois, Englert felt that he had started to play a little more conservative and not get after it on the offensive end as much.
However on Friday night the Forest Park faithful were greeted with a wonderful sight — the aggressive Englert that has been known to dominate so many times throughout his four-year, 1,200-point career.
“I’ve just been getting a lot of fouls called on me and I started to let that in my head so I wasn’t aggressive enough,” said Englert who finished with a game-high 21 points. “Tonight, I just went out and played my game and I didn’t worry about the fouls.”
Englert got his night started quickly with an and-one bucket with just two minutes into the first quarter but then struggled from the free-throw line in the first half as he shot just 1-of-4 from the charity stripe.
With the Rangers (21-4) leading by a narrow margin of 8 to 4 after the first quarter, Forest Park’s defensive pressure picked up in the second quarter. The Marksmen scored the first two points of the quarter on a Trent Arnold basket but wouldn’t score again in the quarter as Forest Park outscored them 11-2 in the second period to take a 19-6 lead into the halftime break.
“We thought we could throw Tell City off with a 1-2-2 half-court trap and we were much more active with our hands, I think we had 17 or 18 deflections in the first half and we didn’t even have that many in the entire game on Wednesday,” Ranger head coach Jeff Litherland said. “We took a gamble because we knew they had a couple shooters but our guys were more active running that defense.”
One of the most active players on the court for the Rangers on Friday was sophomore Isaac Uebelhor. Uebelhor finished with seven points, nine rebounds, three steals and a plethora of pass deflections.
In his first go around with the sectional, Uebelhor was a little nervous at first but as he grows more and more comfortable with his starting role on the big stage things are starting to come together for the sophomore.
“I’m not as nervous now as I was at first,” Uebelhor said. “That first game (on Wednesday) my hands were shaking a lot but tonight I was a lot more relaxed. I think tomorrow I should be fine since I have these games under my belt now.”
Forest Park’s Braydon Voegerl and Isaac Uebelhor battled Tell City’s Dustin Hunt and Tretter Lyons for the rebound as the Rangers defensive pressure kept the Marksmen from making a comeback.Uebelhor had a lot of his hustle plays in the second half including an and-one early in the fourth quarter and a play late in the third quarter where he put a Tell City defender on skates with some slicing and dicing moves to cut to the basket.
While Forest Park continued to make some nice plays throughout the third quarter including an Englert and-one and some nice passes from Daniel Lusk, who left the game for about due to a slight tweak of his wrist, the Marksmen weren’t going to lie down easily.
After leading by 12 points at the end of the third quarter, Tell City (16-9) cut the Ranger lead to just four points with a three-point bucket by Tretter Lyons with 6:18 left in the fourth quarter but the Marksmen would never get any closer than that.
Collin Hochgesang and Curt Hopf made some big shots in the final stretch of the game to seal the deal for the Rangers who will be playing in their fourth consecutive sectional championship game tonight.
Englert led the Rangers in scoring with 21 points while Hochgesang finished with eight and Uebelhor and Lusk both added seven apiece.
Tell City was led offensively by Lyons who finished with 11 points while Trent Arnold added 10 and Braeden Beard finished with nine.
The Rangers knew they received a second chance when Hochgesang’s buzzer-beating shot sank through the net on Wednesday night against South Spencer to avoid a first round upset. Englert said the game basically acted as an alarm clock that told the Rangers to get moving and get back to playing the style of “Ranger Basketball” that they’re accustomed to playing.
“(Wednesday) was a wake up call, that’s what it was,” Englert said. “Us seniors were like, ‘Oh my gosh I can’t believe we just went through that.’ We weren’t expecting anything like that.”
Litherland added, “We were fortunate to be here, let’s clear that up real quick. (In Friday’s game) we had a chance to end it early but we missed a lot of free throws and shots that we had made throughout the year but hopefully we’ll be able to make enough to survive one more.”
Survive and advance — that’s the gameplan for the Rangers as they search for their second straight sectional championship title as they prepare for the North Posey Vikings tonight at 7:30 p.m., a team they defeated 70-55 just two weeks ago but as the Rangers know, anything is possible in the postseason.
The Rangers are hoping to bank on the thing that’s carried them throughout the season and that’s their defense. The Vikings (13-12) average around 60 points a game while the Rangers give up an average of just 47 points per game so something will have to give on Saturday night.
“North Posey scores a lot of points and we have to make sure we play team defense and compete for every possession,” Litherland said. “It’s a sectional championship, our fourth straight and these guys know how it feels to lose and how it feels to win so hopefully they’ll refocus tomorrow and we can put together 32 more minutes.”
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