Hustle and heart carry Rangers to victory



FERDINAND — Energy. Effort. Hustle.

Healthy doses of those three elements can propel teams beyond the perceived limits of their natural abilities, and help them overcome when the execution, for whatever reason, isn’t going the way they want it to.

The Forest Park girls basketball team was reminded of why it takes pride in those three things, as the Rangers used energy, hustle and effort to crash the boards and get to the free throw line, as the Rangers defeated the Corydon Central Panthers 45-37 on Tuesday night.

Ranger head coach Tony Hasenour called it a big win for the team, as the Rangers were looking to recover from back-to-back losses to Jasper and Pike Central and reclaim some of the positive momentum they had built as 2018 drew to a close.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the girls,” he said. “I thought they gave every ounce of energy and effort that they had. That’s what we needed to see from our team.”

The effort and commitment was there, but the execution lagged in the early frames, as both the Rangers and Panthers (9-10) struggled to finish baskets and maintain possession of the ball. Corydon was the first on the scoreboard, thanks to a pair of inside drives from the guard tandem of Lillian Wolfe and Madison Engleman. Forest Park (9-11) had a hard time trying to get the ball inside early, but guards Kenlee Gehlhausen and Ali Welp were able to grit their teeth, as they fought their way to the rim and free throw line to issue a response for the Rangers.  

However, the back and forth eventually favored the Panthers, who connected on consecutive threes from Wolfe and senior forward Cami Schmitt to take a 13-10 lead. Junior forward Amber Theising was able to knock down a trey of her own, but a steal from Wolfe turned into a fastbreak layup to give Corydon the 15-13 edge at the end of the first quarter.

Junior forward Katie Fessel started the second quarter with an and-1 play to keep the Panthers in control of the game. The Rangers continued to have a hard time working the ball inside and getting into a rhythm, as the Panthers mounted a 7-0 run to build themselves a 23-13 midway through the second stanza. Forest Park tried to adjust its offense by creating quicker passes to counter Corydon’s defenses, but instead the Rangers found more turnovers instead of shot opportunities.

Still, they kept their heads in the game and drew contact, which kept them at the line, where the Rangers went 5-for-7 in the second quarter. Corydon was also able to get the benefit of the officials' whistle multiple times during the second, but the Panthers' inability to convert (6-of-13) kept the game in reach for Forest Park, as the Rangers finished the first half down only 27-22.

Fortunes finally shifted for the Rangers in the third quarter, as a 6-0 surge allowed them to reclaim the lead. Welp had an especially remarkable effect, scoring eight of Forest Park’s 11 points to help the team take back control of the game. The defense also leveled out in the third quarter, with the Rangers only surrendering two points after giving up 15 and 12, respectively, in the game’s first two quarters.

The Panthers tried to get back to the free throw line in an attempt to reignite their offense, but they were only able to hit two of their six free throw attempts, and failed to seize the game from the Rangers. Meanwhile, Forest Park made seven of nine shots from the charity stripe, and also reaped field goals from Gehlhausen and junior forward Macie Zink to collect the final 12 points necessary to seal Corydon's fate and take the Rangers' third win in the last five games.

Welp led all scorers with 14 points, and Zazzetti had another 10 in addition to eight rebounds in the win. Schmitt had 13 for the Panthers, and Wolfe finished with nine points.

“It felt really good because we had a couple rough weeks,” Zazzetti said. “Tonight we came out with the mentality that we were just gonna play good, work together and have the mindset to come out and win.”

Forest Park finished the game shooting 15-of-22 from the line, and also reaped the benefits of tough rebounding throughout the game. The Rangers collected 30 rebounds for the game, and they used every one to either limit the Panthers' shot opportunities or give themselves second chances to score or get to the line.

“Rebounding and free throws aren’t really the sexy stats,” Hasenour said. “Nobody gets excited about those, nobody gets on the highlight reel for a rebound. But those are stats that win basketball games, and our girls did a great job of both of those tonight. That kept us in the game and helped us win in the fourth quarter.”

Hasenour thinks the biggest thing his team lacked in the games against Jasper and Pike Central were effort and intensity, and he believes Forest Park needs to bring both of those elements each night if the Rangers are going to give themselves a shot to win. He hopes the team remembers that lesson as it works its way to the end of the season and into the sectional tournament.

“We pride ourselves on trying to outhustle other teams,” he said. “For the last couple of games, it really wasn’t there. Jasper and Pike Central both outworked us, and our girls have a lot of pride. They didn’t like hearing that and seeing it. That’s something we’re going to have to do, we’re going to have to bring the intensity every night, especially as we get into sectional. The energy and effort we had tonight, we have to bottle that up and bring it every night.”

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