Forest Park edges conference foe SouthridgeJanuary 31, 2020
By JONATHAN SAXON
HUNTINGBURG — It’s much too late to submit any bids to the Oscars, but that almost doesn’t matter in the case of Friday night’s drama between the Forest Park and Southridge boys basketball teams. The county and Pocket Athletic Conference showdown had it all: Tough defense, scrappy buckets, big leads won and lost and a final heave with a chance to win it all. In the end, the Rangers (11-5, 3-2) did just enough to escape the Raiders (8-10, 3-2) with a 48-46 win.
“It was important for our guys to pull out that game,” said Rangers coach David Welp. “To win a close game in a sectional atmosphere, I thought our guys were able to make enough plays at the end to gut one out.”
As with every great drama, the tension was at its height in the final minutes. It was tug-of-war between the Rangers and Raiders throughout the night, and they went into the third quarter all even at 28-28 before the Rangers initiated their separation. It started with sophomore forward Landon Nalley, who’s 3-pointer not only broke a 30-30 tie but also sparked an 11-0 run which included scores from sophomore guard Drew Howard, senior guard Isaac Uebehlor and junior guard Wade Leonard. Leonard’s and-one gave the Rangers a 41-30 lead, but the Raiders, who were playing without junior guard Colson Montgomery (sprained ankle) and sophomore guard Carter Whitehead (broken wrist), still had fight in their tank.
Senior forward Austin Kaeck scored the first shot to chip away at the lead. Senior forward Garrett Voegerl split a pair of free throws, but junior forward Sam Sermersheim cashed in on Voegerl’s miss with a putback bucket to cut it to eight. Voegerl then scored the Raiders’ next five points, including an and-one play, and junior guard Kaleb Wibbeler dropped a three to close the gap to 47-43. Then Voegerl converted a steal into fastbreak points to make it a one-possession game.
Sophomore guard Kaden Neukam drew a foul and made one from the free throw line to get the Raiders within one point of the Rangers, and Voegerl came up with the board to give the Raiders a chance at an inbounds play with 16.3 seconds left. The Rangers disrupted the play, created a steal and junior forward Simon Jacob drew a foul to go to the line with a chance to ice it. Jacob made one-of-two, and the resulting scramble for the rebound went in the Raiders’ favor with 3.6 seconds left. Wibbeler’s final shot missed the mark, and the Rangers survived the rally.
Howard had 16 points, Nalley finished with 12 points and nine rebounds and Jacob finished with 10. Voegerl paced all scorers with 19 points, while Sermersheim finished with 15 points and eight rebounds.
“It was a great win for us,” said Howard. “They slowed the game down for us, but we gutted it out and got the win.”
Welp was proud of his boys for how they battled through the “grinder” that was the first half and implemented the changes they made at halftime to get themselves opportunities to run the floor. However, he felt that the Rangers let up a bit when they went up by 11 in the fourth quarter and wished the boys could have ended the game clean.
“Our guys have got to understand we have to finish games,” he said. “We did make enough plays at the end, but we’d like to see ourselves finish a little better than what we did.”
Despite the final outcome not going in their favor, coach Mark Rohrer believes his team stepped up and “passed the test” as it related to coming out and playing to win despite being short handed. He reiterated that the Raiders aren’t satisfied with just being competitive. They still have designs on playing to win, even as they wrestle with their health issues.
“We needed to come out and compete,” said Rohrer. “We passed it with a B+. We’re going to keep working to where we get that A come tournament time. These guys did so much right for being undermanned. It’s hard for me to ask for a whole lot more, but we are going to keep working towards getting better.”
“We’re proving to everyone that we have multiple guys that can play,” added Sermersheim. “Other teams that think it’s just one player that does everything, we’re showing it to them.”
The Rangers play at Washington (13-3) at 8 p.m. Saturday, while the Raiders play at Gibson Southern (4-11, 1-2) at 8 p.m. on Thursday.
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