Rangers capture 65-53 senior night victoryFebruary 9, 2021
By JIMMY LAFAKIS
FERDINAND — Just moments before the Forest Park (12-5) boys basketball team blitzed Springs Valley with an aggressive zone press on Tuesday evening, the Rangers recognized four of the program’s stalwarts. Seniors Blake Hagedorn, Simon Jacob, Wade Leonard and Collin Rothgerber were honored in a pregame ceremony.
The seniors did not want to squander their special night. When Forest Park secured a 65-53 win over the Blackhawks, Rangers head coach David Welp lauded the veterans’ overall efforts.
“These four seniors have put in a lot of time,” Welp said. “They’ve dedicated a lot of their energy to their program. This is my third year as coach, and I think they’ve grown and bought into our program. They’ve bought into what we ask and need them to do. They’re willing to dedicate a lot of time and energy to our program, and I’m very proud of them.”
Buoyed by the passionate home fans and emphatic band, the Rangers seized a 22-13 lead at the end of the first quarter of play. Forest Park junior Landon Nalley broke an early 8-8 tie with a deep 3-pointer midway through the first quarter. Fellow junior Drew Howard attacked the basket with a relentless fervor and tossed in an artful pull-up floater.
The Rangers displayed serious defensive gumption throughout the first two frames. The Blackhawks’ string of turnovers allowed Forest Park to push the tempo and widen the gap.
Springs Valley burned a timeout after the Rangers captured a 34-17 advantage. That timeout came less than three minutes into the second quarter, but Nalley’s second long-distance connection forced the Blackhawks to fall even further behind.
The junior shook off some defenders, planted his feet and sank another soaring 3-pointer. As the ball tickled the twine, the Forest Park student section roared with joy.
“Landon did really well in the first half,” Welp said. “I thought his intensity on both sides of the basketball was critical to jump-starting some of our offense. On the defensive side, he got some deflections. We were able to get a couple of steals. I thought he did a great job getting us jump-started there late in that first quarter.”
Howard led the Rangers with a team-high 10 points in the first half. Nalley contributed nine points, while Hagedorn added eight points. Forest Park held a 39-27 lead at the intermission.
The Blackhawks trimmed the deficit to 39-31 with 4:51 remaining in the third quarter. Both offenses searched for consistency throughout the frame’s middle stages, but Hagedorn’s athletic putback basket proved to be a boon for the Rangers. Two possessions later, the senior drew a shooting foul and knocked down a pair of key shots from the charity stripe.
Stout defense helped the Rangers obtain an 11-point lead before the fourth frame started. Both sides traded a flurry of early baskets in the final quarter, but the Rangers won the day with strong scoring depth. Howard dropped a game-high 21 points and Hagedorn chipped in with 12 points.
“I thought our guys finished the game well,” Welp said. “It’s a good win for our program. Springs Valley is a scrappy team. They’re going to be a very tough out in that 1A sectional.”
Forest Park will return at 8 p.m. on Friday and host Pocket Athletic Conference rival Heritage Hills.
“It’s a big PAC game,” Welp said. “We’ve got to play four full quarters against Heritage Hills. They’re a very good team, led by Blake Sisley. He’s a standout athlete. He can post up, he can drive the basketball and he can shoot the basketball from the outside. We’re going to talk about them over the next couple of days and get ready for that game.”
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