Raiders overcome slow start, defeat Rangers

Photos by Daniel Vasta/The Herald
Forest Park's Isaac Uebelhor, right, attempts to block Southridge's Colson Montgomery during Friday's boys basketball game at Forest Park. Southridge defeated Forest Park 56-51 in a physical battle after falling behind 11-0 in the first few minutes of play. Montgomery led Southridge with 23 points while senior Jaden Hayes added 17 points. For more photos from the game, click here.


FERDINAND — Jaden Hayes doesn’t mind getting physical. In fact, the Southridge senior boys basketball player wouldn’t expect anything less than to be physical in a game against county rival Forest Park.

So after taking a hard fall in the first half, the versatile forward shrugged it off and did what he does best — start knocking down shots.

“Every year it’s physical, the refs let us just go out there and play,” said Hayes, who finished with 17 points in the Raiders 56-51 victory over the Rangers in Buechler Arena on Friday. “We were able to come out, get adjusted and come away with a W — that’s all you can ask for.”

Southridge head coach Mark Rohrer has been impressed by how much Hayes has continued to work on his game and loves the effort the big man brings to the floor on a nightly basis.

“He’s a nightmare matchup for teams, but he made some huge threes for us tonight and he’s gotten so much better defensively over the course of the season,” Rohrer said. “He’s also a great leader for us but the thing is, we don’t have one single leader. These guys all lead each other so well and they pick each other up in some tough situations.”

The Raiders (11-5, 5-1) began the game facing a tough situation right out of the gate. Forest Park (9-7, 2-2) jumped out to a 9-0 lead after Drew Howard knocked down two three-pointers and Simon Jacob made a triple of his own which forced a Southridge timeout. The Rangers then jumped out to an 11-0 lead shortly after the timeout on another bucket from Howard but the Rangers trimmed the lead to 15-8 to end the quarter as Colson Montgomery scored five first quarter points.

Forest Park jumped back out to a double-digit lead early in the quarter as Curt Hopf started to get some shots to fall but then the Raiders began to go on a huge run. They outscored Forest Park 15-2 the rest of the quarter as Montgomery and Hayes continuously exchanged buckets as they were the only two Raiders to score in the first half. Southridge led 26-23 at the break.

Earlier this season, the Rangers and Raiders met in the championship game of the Access Storage Holiday Tournament in Ferdinand. Southridge was victorious 53-37 after a huge third quarter and forcing several Rangers into foul trouble — as it turned out, those themes would resurface on Friday evening.

After Forest Park regained a 32-29 lead early in the third quarter courtesy of an Elliott Rothgerber three-pointer, the Raiders went on an 8-1 run courtesy of an and-one from Hayes and buckets from Montgomery and Joe LaGrange. The Raiders also once again forced Hopf into foul trouble for the Rangers as he had to sit a little more than head coach David Welp was hoping.

“It was very similar to that (first) game,” Welp said. “Except tonight, we didn’t let it get out of control. We showed our maturity as we battled and continued to fight.”

Down 42-35 to start the fourth quarter, the Rangers weren’t going to go away without a battle. They kept the point differential at about five or six points for the majority of the quarter but did close it to as much as three points with 35 seconds left after a Reid Steffe three-pointer. However, Southridge’s Matt Price and LaGrange knocked down some key free throws late to seal the victory for the Raiders.

Forest Park junior Abby Eckert, left, senior Zach Lueken and junior Rachel Thomas participate in the roller coaster cheer during halftime of Friday's boys basketball game at Forest Park. Fans were encouraged to wear pink as it was a "Coaches vs. Cancer" game — there was a total of $1,437 dollars raised for the charity at Friday night's game. For more photos from the game, click here.

Colson Montgomery led Southridge with 23 points and eight rebounds, Jaden Hayes added 17 points and eight rebounds and Joe LaGrange finished with 10 points.

Drew Howard led Forest Park with 19 points while Curt Hopf added 15 points.

For Welp, the biggest positive was the explosiveness of Howard. After losing Isaac Uebelhor to injury for the second time this season, Howard put up 10 first quarter points and added nine more in the first quarter as he continues to become more and more confident.

“Drew has progressed a signifcant amount,” Welp said. “He runs the point guard position well, he has the ball almost every possession and had zero turnovers —he competed at a very high level.”

For the Raiders, it was yet another victory in a tough atmosphere. They defeated Jasper on the road a few weeks ago and also have defeated teams such as Tell City and the Rangers on the road. They’ll be back in another tough venue on Saturday as they face the Washington Hatchets at the Hatchet House.

These tough games are certain to prove fruitful for Southridge’s final stretch of the regular season.

“This game was a grinder, it felt like a marathon game,” Rohrer said. “There were so many parts of that game and it’ll be to fun break them down tomorrow morning.”

Hayes added: “The atmosphere in these big games, coming down to crunch time moments when you have to step up is preparing us. It gets our nerves right and gives us that experience under our belt.”

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