Rangers earn 53-28 win over Perry Central

Photo by Jimmy Lafakis/The Herald
Forest Park junior Ali Welp (left) and Perry Central senior Bree Noland (right) go after a loose ball during the first quarter of Friday evening’s 2A Sectional 48 semifinal game in Ferdinand.


FERDINAND — Forest Park (16-3) made an immediate statement during the first quarter of Friday evening’s 2A Sectional 48 semifinal game against Perry Central. When the Commodores sought offensive rhythm, the Rangers created a full-court fortress. 

An early 9-2 lead set the tone for Forest Park’s convincing 53-28 victory. Just two nights removed from limiting North Posey to 30 points, the Rangers endured the peaks and valleys of the semifinal with stout defense. 

“When we can get some turnovers caused off the press, that’s always a good thing for us,” Forest Park head coach Tony Hasenour said. “It kind of gets us rolling a little bit —  it builds our confidence and our mojo. We were able to do that tonight. We were able to switch it up between a few different looks with the pressure. We’ve been on the other end of that, too. Sometimes, when teams put that pressure on you, you have a hard time getting into any kind of offensive rhythm.” 

Perry Central’s missed opportunities allowed Forest Park to push the tempo. Rangers senior Emma Gray delighted the home crowd with a corner 3-pointer in the first quarter.

Gray’s basket gave Forest Park its first double-digit lead of the game, and the Rangers held a 16-5 advantage after the quarter concluded. 

“That’s big for her confidence,” Hasenour said. “It’s big for the team’s confidence. If she’s hitting like that, that takes some of the pressure of the other girls. It gives them a little bit more open space and more room to maneuver. Nothing but positives come out of that.” 

As the second quarter reached its latter half, Gray rose from the top of the key and drained another 3-pointer. That bucket boosted the Rangers’ lead to 25-10. The Commodores scratched across a few baskets later in the quarter, but the Rangers took a 26-14 lead into the intermission. 

Forest Park sophomore Amber Tretter began the third quarter with a pull-up jumper from the right elbow. Later on, Perry Central emphasized a five-out offense in an attempt to space the floor. Forest Park countered the tactic by pressuring the ball and contesting shots on the perimeter and at the rim. 

A quick flurry of points in the paint gave the Rangers a 33-16 lead with 4:54 to play in the third frame. After Tretter slashed through the interior and laid in a soft layup off the backboard, she flustered Perry Central with her length and defensive activity. Her energy and effort forced the Commodores to burn a timeout. 

When Forest Park returned to its press, the Rangers pushed the Commodores toward the sidelines with various double-teams and traps. Forest Park senior Linda Jacob flicked in a layup before Gray found the bottom of the net on another 3-pointer. The Rangers entered the final frame with a 48-22 advantage. 

Tretter altered several Perry Central shots at the start of the fourth quarter. When Perry Central senior Bree Noland rushed toward the basket, Tretter braced herself and took a charge. The Rangers’ bench burst into celebration and provided another layer of palpable energy inside the gymnasium. 

“She anticipates so well,” Hasenour said. “She’s a girl that really prides herself on defense. I think she enjoys blocking a shot as much as she does making a basket. Even the shots that she doesn’t get a hand on, she alters them. She’s got those girls thinking, ‘Where is she at?’ Her defensive effort and the charge she took tonight were big for us.” 

The Rangers closed out the win with more consistent play on the defensive end of the floor. Jacob hauled in some rebounds and received an ovation from the crowd as she returned to the Forest Park bench. When the final horn blared, the gleeful Rangers rushed to their locker room. 

Gray scored a team-high 14 points for Forest Park, while sophomore Lydia Betz added 12 points in the victory. Noland led Perry Central with a game-high 15 points. 

Forest Park will face Evansville Mater Dei at 7:30 p.m. Saturday evening’s championship game. The Wildcats claimed an 39-20 victory over South Spencer in Friday’s first semifinal contest. 

“This is what you work all season for — to play in a game like this tomorrow night,” Hasenour said. “We’re going to put a game plan together. We’ll have a walkthrough in the morning and get everybody’s mind right. Hopefully, we can come out here tomorrow night, play well and come here with a win.”  

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