Close games providing lessons for Rangers



FERDINAND — Forest Park boys basketball head coach David Welp knows his team is close.

They nearly upset then-ranked Evansville Bosse at the Ford Center, lost a heartbreaker to Class 2A No. 10 Crawford County in their opener and played right alongside Class 1A No. 4 Barr-Reeve for the majority of Friday night’s game.

While the Vikings hung on late to defeat the Rangers 52-44, Welp sees a lot of his own team when watching Barr-Reeve play — at least, that’s what the first-year head coach is trying to accomplish.

“We’re trying to be like Barr-Reeve with how they have guys who can shoot from the outside but also have guys who can dominate a basketball game in the post,” Welp said. “We’re right there — we have the defense but we just have to make sure to be physical, take care of the basketball and maximize our possessions.”

The Rangers (5-6) started out almost as well as you possibly can as they knocked down their first few shots to jump out to a 7-0 lead over the Vikings (10-2). However, Barr-Reeve answered right back with a 10-0 run of their own to take a 10-7 lead and force a Forest Park timeout. Barr-Reeve had a 12-9 lead but Ranger guard Elliott Rothgerber knocked down a three-pointer in his first game of the season to tie things at 12-12 at the end of one.

Forest Park took back the lead at the 5:59 mark in the second quarter on a post play from Aaron Hurst but the Vikings once again wouldn’t go away as they scored the next six points to take a 20-16 lead. Barr-Reeve held a 22-18 advantage at the break.

The first half was very physical with neither team willing to give up an extra inch for rebounds and loose balls.

After last year’s thrilling 52-50 battle that ended in Barr-Reeve’s favor, Ranger senior guard Reid Steffe knew they’d be in for another tough, grueling battle.

“That’s always what you can expect when playing Barr-Reeve,” Steffe said. “They’re a very disciplined and experienced team.”

While Forest Park big man Curt Hopf scored eight points in the first half, the Viking defenders started to lock down on him harder after the break as he often found himself double-teamed.

This meant that other Rangers started to get more and more scoring opportunities. First, it was Steffe knocking down a three-pointer at the 5:26 mark that trimmed the Barr-Reeve lead to 24-21 and then senior forward Garrett Betz made a nice play under the basket with a post move to make it just a one-point Viking lead. Barr-Reeve’s Isaac Wagler quickly made it 26-23 but once again, it was a Steffe three-point bomb that tied the game up at 26-26.

“Our guys have to understand that if Curt (Hopf) is getting double-teamed then we have to move without the basketball,” Welp said. “Cutters have to have their hands ready and be ready to shoot — we have to hit some shots from outside to open up our offense. We did that late in the second half but we have to be more consistent.”

Steffe added: “We try to get it into (Curt) and once we read that they’re double-teaming then we try to move on the outside. He’s pretty good at noticing that and kicking it out to us.”

Shorty after the Rangers tied the game, things started to go the opposite way. Barr-Reeve ended the third quarter on a 9-0 run as Gabe Gladish continued to get shot after shot to fall. Barr-Reeve led 35-26 at the end of the third quarter.

Forest Park was able to trim it to as little as four points with 3:06 to go thanks to another three-pointer from Steffe and some big plays by freshman Drew Howard but as they did so many times in the game, Barr-Reeve answered back. The Vikings went on a 6-0 run to make it 50-39 with one minute remaining and hung on late for the 52-44 victory.

Curt Hopf led Forest Park with 10 points and six rebounds while Reid Steffe finished with nine points and Drew Howard added nine points and five assists. Gabe Gladish led Barr-Reeve with 23 points while Keegan O’Neill grabbed 11 rebounds.

For the Rangers, some of the same issues that have plagued them in the past ending up hurting them again on Friday including 19 turnovers and being out-rebounded 32-16.

“We’re playing against experienced teams, (Barr-Reeve) gave us some fits on the defensive end by just keeping us from getting to the rim,” Welp said. “We were also undisciplined on offense and we didn’t execute or do the little things to get us over that hump. 19 turnovers is also going to kill you every time.”

Steffe agreed that Forest Park needs to just fine tune a few things and get back to work for tonight’s game against Perry Central (3-6).

“We feel like we just have to do a few little things still,” Steffe said. “That will show up each game and make us better down the road.”

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