Forest Park advances to sectional championship

Photos by Kayla Renie/The Herald
Forest Park's Kenlee Gehlausen, Macie Zink and Faith Zazzetti hug before the start of Friday's girls basketball sectional game in Ferdinand. Forest Park defeated Southridge 37-28.
For more photos from the game, click here.


FERDINAND — Forest Park never trailed Southridge on Friday night, but that doesn’t do justice as to how close of a game the Class 2A sectional semifinal was.

The Rangers (18-7) outlasted their Pocket Athletic Conference rival Raiders (9-15), 37-28, on their home floor. Forest Park grabbed offensive rebounds and hustled after loose balls, but the Rangers often struggled to finish while at the rim or complete a pass to a player inside. Forest Park drained just one 3-pointer, which came from senior Macie Zink, who had a game-high 15 points. The Rangers found themselves in a 13-13 tie with the Raiders at halftime, as neither team scored from 3:45 in the first quarter until approximately 5:01 to play in the second quarter.

Sectional jitters are a real thing, and Forest Park coach Tony Hasenour thought his players experienced them on Friday.

“We addressed that a few times in the week leading up to this game, but you can’t simulate that in practice,” Hasenour said. “You can’t really prepare all the way for it until you’re in it, and then you don’t know exactly how you’re going to react and we had some of that tonight. Luckily, we were able to work through it and come away with the win.”

Forest Park went on a 6-0 run to take a 13-6 lead in the second quarter, but back came Southridge, going on a 7-0 run to bring the game to its halftime score. Hasenour wanted his players to keep doing what they were doing while also finishing their shots. The Raiders kept clawing their way back. Forest Park went on an 8-0 run in the third, but Southridge responded with an 8-2 run. Forest Park led, 27-21, but Southridge trimmed it to 27-24 going into the final quarter when freshman Marie Tempel made one of three free throws with 33 seconds to go in the third. The Raiders got an offensive rebound, missed the put back, pulled down another offensive board and this time, junior Abigail Kerkhoff was successful in getting her put back to fall.

The Rangers outscored the Raiders, 10-4, in the fourth quarter, starting with Zink making a pair of free throws with 7:48 to play in the game. They resorted to playing keepaway by passing the ball around, successfully protecting the rock while not taking shots. Forest Park didn’t get its first double-digit lead until late in the fourth.

Southridge coach Greg Werner had some words for his players that he loves. They made it to the sectional semifinal and hung in there with a team that beat them by 20 in the regular season, all after four players went down to injury. Werner appreciates the adversity the Raiders went through, never giving up in the process.

Southridge's Kennedy Nalley dribbles the ball past Forest Park's Ali Welp during Friday's girls basketball sectional game in Ferdinand. Forest Park defeated Southridge 37-28.
For more photos from the game, click here.

“They will develop a love for the game because they see how much better they’re getting,” Werner said. “I wanted them to see how much better they got.”

Werner also talked about Anna Kappner, the lone senior to play for the team this year. He respects what Kappner had to go through and understand her role. Kappner’s minutes picked up during the course of the year. Werner appreciates the grit she showed and what she did for the program. He said Kappner is welcome back to visit the program at any time, be it in the locker room, practices or games.

He wants his players to commit this summer, as they’ll go hard for three-to-four weeks before volleyball season starts, but he’s asking them to commit more than they have so they can have a deeper run.

“Our job is to get our players bigger, faster, stronger and develop them so that we are better even than what we are now,” he said.

Forest Park is now one win away from winning a sectional championship for the first time since 2017. Hasenour thought the Rangers gave up too many offensive rebounds against the Raiders. He wants them to do a better job boxing out. Forest Park will study what Evansville Mater Dei likes to do on offense and defense, and how Forest Park will approach that.

“We’re excited,” Hasenour said after Friday’s win. “Every team in the state wants this opportunity and we’ll be one of the few that are still alive tomorrow night, and hopefully we have fun with it and can come out on top.”

For more photos from the game, click here.


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