Late free throws push Rangers past Raiders

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Forest Park's Kenlee Gehlhausen shoots a free throw during Tuesday's girls basketball game in Huntingburg. Forest Park defeated Southridge 42-32 thanks to some strong free throw shooting late — the Rangers knocked down 12 free throws in the fourth quarter and were 20-of-28 overall in the game. For more photos from the game, click here.


HUNTINGBURG — Stress can run rampant during late-game situations in any type of basketball contest, especially when the game appears to be heading for a close finish.

Tuesday night’s girls basketball battle between county and Pocket Athletic Conference rivals Forest Park and Southridge was neck-and-neck for the majority of the game but the Rangers were able to secure the victory late en route to a 42-32 victory.

The main factor? Knocking down free throws.

“Our free throws kind of helped us pull away,” said Forest Park junior Macie Zink. Zink finished with 11 points and was 9-of-10 from the free-throw line with six of them coming in the fourth quarter. “During practice, we do a lot of hard endurance drills and then we’re tired so (Forest Park head coach Tony Hasenour) throws us on the line and says ‘This is a game situation, you have to shoot when you’re tired.’ So I just thought, I do this all the time — it’s just a shot.”

Forest Park (2-4, 2-1) went to the line 14 times in the fourth quarter and made 12 of them as the Rangers outscored the Raiders 14-10 in the final period to pull away with the victory.

After taking a 36-24 lead with 2:38 to play, Southridge (0-7, 0-1) was able to trim the Forest Park lead to just six points with 1:16 left in the game. But Kenlee Gehlhausen and Ali Welp iced the game with four key free throws to end any hope of a Raider comeback.

“I think it was the difference in the ball game,” said Hasenour about the clutch shots from the line. “There were times where Southridge would make a little run and gain momentum but we were able to draw a foul. When you step up to the free-throw line and you miss those, the rim starts getting smaller and tighter but every time we were able to step up and knock down some key shots.”

While the Rangers ended the game making the most of their opportunities, the game didn’t start that way.

Southridge jumped out to an 8-0 lead almost immediately as freshman Myah Montgomery knocked down two big three-pointers and Monica Steckler got a shot to fall to force an early Forest Park timeout. Kennedy Sermersheim knocked down a pair of three-pointers for the Rangers later in the quarter to trim the lead as Southridge held on to a 14-10 advantage.

The second quarter was completely different as Forest Park outscored Southridge 10-2 thanks to key shots from Gehlhausen, Zink and Faith Zazzetti.

What was the big difference in the second quarter for Forest Park?

“I think our defense just really stepped it up after that 8-0 run (Southridge) had in the first quarter,” Zink said. “We were awake in the first quarter but not near as awake as we knew we could be. The second quarter we came alive a bit and then after that our defense came together — to me, our defense won (us) that game.”

Southridge's Anna Kappner cheers for the Raiders from the bench during Tuesday's game. Southridge started off quick as they led the Rangers 8-0 early in the first quarter but struggled to play with the same intensity and 'attacking' mindset for the full 32 minutes — something that Southridge head coach Steve Rust is still hoping to see. For more photos from the game, click here.

Southridge head coach Steve Rust was excited with the intensity his Raiders came out with to start the game but still wants to see more energy from the team.

“We wanted to come out and get off to a fast start and we did because of the attack mode,” Rust said. “But after that we just kind of relaxed a bit and our offense wasn’t executing as we were early in the game. We have to make sure that’s a part of our offense for a full 32 minutes instead of just certain situations.”

Following the halftime break, Southridge started off fast by forcing a steal which led to a fastbreak bucket by Montgomery. However, the Rangers went on an 8-0 run courtesy of shots from Sermersheim and Zink and stretched their lead back out to six points by the end of the quarter.

Southridge had some chances to make a late run in the fourth quarter as they were able to get some buckets by Montgomery and Steckler to trim the lead with under two minutes to play.

While the Raiders trap defense did force some turnovers in the fourth quarter, it wasn’t enough as Forest Park’s solid free throw shooting down the stretch sealed the deal.

Kenlee Gehlhausen led Forest Park in scoring with 12 while Macie Zink added 11 and Kennedy Sermersheim finished with nine. Myah Montgomery led Southridge with 16 while Monica Steckler and Mady Neukam both added six points each.

For Southridge, the team will continue to search for its first victory as they grow with each game played.

Rust believes the Raiders strong effort in practice and during games will eventually pay dividends for the girls.

“We told them that you just have to keep working hard and have a positive attitude. If we do that, good things will happen,” Rust said. “We just have to transfer some of the skill work and good technique to the game — that’s what’s frustrating. It hasn’t been easy — it’s not easy on me, it’s not easy on the team and it’s not easy on these coaches but we’ll just keep doing the best we can. That’s all we can do.”

For Forest Park, the Rangers have been happy with the balanced scoring they’ve had this season and it’s something they look to continue throughout the rest of the campaign.

“We’ve been constantly working in practice to hit our open shots,” Zink said. “It’s just key to know that we have confidence in our teammates.”

More on