Physical Rangers bounce back with win



FERDINAND — When Forest Park coach David Welp reflected back on the Rangers season opening loss to Crawford County, he identified one key element that his boys were missing during the game: physicality. Apparently the team agreed with their coaches sentiment as they packed in the paint on both ends of the floor during their home opener on Saturday and grinded their way to a thorough 66-37 victory against the Springs Valley Blackhawks.

“We really competed hard,” said Welp. “We competed at a high level, really pushed the basketball. We attacked the rim, we shot 41 free throws. We (have) to get better at the free throw line, but overall I felt like we competed at a high level.”

The push and aggression started early for the Rangers (1-1) as junior guard Issac Uebelhor and sophomore forward Curt Hopf combined for nine points in Forest Park’s opening salvo. The Blackhawks (1-1) had a hard time responding as they couldn’t find room to work in the paint and missed their first few three-point attempts.

Soon senior forward Garrett Betz found himself in on the action and Uebelhor added a few free throws to extend a 13-0 run for the Rangers. Springs Valley struggled to find their rhythm, but a steal from senior guard Jackson Land led to a Blackhawks fastbreak where he drew a foul and went to the line; he made 1-of-2 to put the Blackhawks on the board. Sophomore guard Wade Leonard knocked down a three with less than a minute remaining and Forest Park was able to end the first quarter with a healthy 18-1 lead.

Springs Valley finally got their first field goal about a minute into the second quarter. Hopf split his free throws and the Blackhawks were able to control the rebound when he missed the second shot. Senior guard Christian Tucker was able to find a seam to the basket in transition and layed it in at the 6:55 mark. Springs Valley went on a brief 7-3 run to take back a bit of control of the game, but sophomore guard Simon Jacob and senior center Aaron Hurst went to the rim back-to-back to stop the faucet and put the Rangers up 25-8.

The Rangers finished the second quarter with a 27-10 lead and kept up the pressure going into the third. They played tight man-to-man to keep the Blackhawks off balance and on their heels all night. Passes were deflected, shots inside were altered or blocked, and Springs Valley continued to struggle from the three-point line.

On the offensive end the boys kept going strong to the rack, drawing fouls, and attacking the glass for any second chance opportunities they could snatch up. Hurst started off Forest Park with their first shot of the second half, and senior guard Reid Steffe quickly followed up with the Ranger’s third three-pointer of the game. Hopf and Uebelhor put up another 10 points in the quarter and Jacob claimed the last two buckets of the third to stretch out the Ranger lead 49-27 going into the last quarter.

Tucker landed a three at the top of the fourth for Springs Valley and junior forward Javon Gilmore scooped a lay up to add to the run. Hopf split another pair of foul shots and Uebelhor once again found the net for the Rangers in response. It was a slow trot to get to the finish as both teams took their turn on the free throw line (both teams combined for 20 free throws in the fourth quarter), but Forest Park outscored Springs Valley 17-10 down the stretch as the Rangers took the victory in front of a stadium full of green.

Uebelhor finished with 17 points, four rebounds and two assists. Jacob had 16 points, five rebounds and two assists. Hopf had 12 points, 16 rebounds and a block. The Rangers had 38 total rebounds and shot 41 free throws during the game. Tucker led the Blackhawks with 17 points.

“We had to attack and get the ball into the paint,” said Uebelhor. “When you get it in the paint, things happen. You kick it out for three, go for a lot of layups, and we had a ton of free throws.”

Welp was happy to see his boys bounce back and use their physical tools to outmuscle Springs Valley at every turn. He wishes the guys could have made a few more free throws (they shot 56 percent from the line), but what was most important was establishing those touches inside to get the system rolling early for the Rangers.

“Attacking the rim is so important,” said Welp. “It draws the opposing team’s defense (in) and then we were able to get the ball out. Finishing with contact is important.”

Welp was happy with the physical presence his team established on Saturday night, and he wants to see the Rangers come out with that same intensity over their next few games so they can keep the momentum going in their favor.

“We've got to continue to bring that physicality,” he said. "Tell City, Loogootee, and (Evansville) Bosse are looming. Those are going to be three tough opponents, and we’re going to have to bring our physicality to each one of those games.”

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