Bayer breaks slump, leads Rangers to victory


FERDINAND — Whenever Taylor Bayer touched the ball for Forest Park in Tuesday night’s win over Tecumseh, good things seemed to happen.

Whether it was one of her three three-pointers or scoring the last five points of the first half to put the Rangers up by three going into the break, her career night came when she felt she needed it most.

“I’ve been struggling all season,” said Bayer, who finished with a career-high 27 points in the 58-45 victory over the Braves. “My dad has pushed me to get better every single day, especially after games. But honestly, I didn’t even realize I had that many points so that feels really good to know that it’s clicking now — I don’t know what it is but I’m just glad it’s here.”

The Rangers (6-2) struggled in the first half as the Braves led after the first quarter and led by as many as four points in the second quarter.

Trailing by two with 18 seconds left in the first half, Bayer got a three to go down to give the Rangers the lead.

Then as time expired, she got a mid-ranger jumper to sink through the bottom of the net to give the Rangers a three-point lead at halftime which gave Forest Park momentum for the second half.

“(Bayer) has always been important to us but she’s almost been more of a background figure this year,” Ranger coach Tony Hasenour said. “I was talking to Coach Lusk yesterday about how it would be nice to get her a big game and she certainly answered the bell tonight, she played a heck of a ball game.”

Even though the Rangers held a slight advantage after the first half, Forest Park knew they could’ve had an even larger lead.

“We realized we were only up by three and we knew it should’ve been much more than that but we weren’t playing too well at first,” said senior Lanette Blume who finished with nine points. “Coach Hasenour was telling us we needed to talk more on defense and I don’t know if we did, but we sure tried.”

Whatever Hasenour talked about at halftime seemed to work as the Rangers outscored the Braves 13-6 in the third quarter and kept the ball rolling in the fourth quarter by drawing fouls and getting to the line to stretch the lead.

At the 4:06 mark in the fourth quarter, Ranger senior center Avie Gould made a free throw to put the Rangers up 50-36 — the first time Forest Park cracked 50 points this season.

“50 is usually a low scoring game for most teams but we hadn’t had that yet this year so we were happy to put some points on the board,” Hasenour said with a laugh. “We feel we have the potential to score so it was nice to see us execute that tonight.”

The Rangers also shot the ball well from the three-point line knocking down a total of five three-point shots with Bayer making three of them.

Blume, who knocked down one of the threes, said the three-point shots are a key part in dragging town an opposing team’s momentum.

“Even though it’s just one more point then a regular shot, it makes a big difference (to an opponents) ego,” Blume said.

“If someone makes a three, they’re going to hang their head and be upset about it so I feel like that started to get in their heads tonight and that helped.”

After dropping their first conference game of the season last Friday in a 63-37 loss to Gibson Southern, Hasenour said it was important for the Rangers to bounce back in a major fashion against the Braves (5-4).

“Gibson really took us to the wood shed last Friday so we were kind of wanting to show ourselves what we can do,” Hasenour said.

Bayer added, “Last Friday, we weren’t too happy about our first half but our second half was better so we learned from that and it was big to be able to win against a PAC team and a future sectional opponent.”

The Rangers will wrap up a stretch of four straight conference opponents when Abby Wahl and Heritage Hills (7-1) come to Ferdinand on Thursday at 8 p.m.

Blume expects today’s practice to be full of drills that focus on both communication and drills that involve protecting the post to not let Wahl and Patriot freshman forward Rebekah Gordon dominate on both the offensive end and defensive end.

“I know we’re going to do a lot of the shuttle drill and practice talking on defense,” Blume said. “I also know we’re going to be working on help defense and getting the ball around to get those open shots so we don’t have to worry about getting stuffed in the post.”

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