Rangers’ focus: For sectional, everybody’s 0-0

Herald File Photo
Freshman point guard Ali Welp has entered the program and made an immediate impact for the Rangers. Forest Park (11-12) opens its postseason Tuesday against Evansville Mater Dei (12-10) at 6:30 p.m. with a potential semifinal against Perry Central (4-18) looming. The other first round matchup is South Spencer (11-11) against Tell City (13-10) with the winner facing North Posey (1-21).


Coming into the season, the Forest Park girls basketball players knew they were going to be facing some tough challenges. They graduated several key pieces from their 2018 team that went 15-9, and also entered the year with just 14 players on the roster.

The limited number of players meant the Rangers wouldn’t be able to field a junior varsity team, and several freshman and sophomore girls were going to be thrown into a varsity role from the very beginning. While a situation like that would make anyone nervous, Forest Park head coach Tony Hasenour has been impressed with the progress the younger players have made throughout their 11-12 season.

“Most of these freshmen and sophomores were supposed to get JV learning lessons, but instead they were thrust into the varsity spotlight,” Hasenour said. “There were a few times earlier in the year where they’d mess up and we had to remind ourselves as a staff that these mistakes they were making in a varsity game would normally have come in a JV game. I’ve really been pleased with how they’ve come along and how much better they’ve gotten throughout the year.”

One of the players Hasenour has been especially impressed with is freshman point guard Ali Welp. Welp has started since the Rangers’ first game of the season against Tell City, and Hasenour called her “one of the most coachable players we have on the team.” Welp is currently averaging 8.2 points, and scored a season-high 15 points against Perry Central and Northeast Dubois.

Forest Park has also been led by its trifecta of players with three years of varsity experience — juniors Macie Zink, Kenlee Gehlhausen and Faith Zazzetti. That veteran group has helped lead the Rangers to several big wins this season, including a road victory over Paoli, as well as victories over county foes Southridge and Northeast Dubois.

What’s helped Forest Park come away with wins in some key situations?

“All of our leaders on our team have confidence,” Zink said. “Let’s say we’re trying to get a pass to someone. If it doesn’t work the first time, we just have the mindset that we’ll go and get it next time. It’s not like we’re going to be scared to pass it because we might get a turnover. Confidence has been a big part of our team this year.”

Gehlhausen added: “We’ve just been getting a lot smarter with what we do. Our passes have gotten better, and we’ve worked on handling the ball.”

If there’s one thing that’s hindered the Rangers’ success this season, Hasenour believes it’s been their turnovers.

Heading into the postseason, he referred to it as Forest Park’s “Achilles heel,” and said it’s important for the team to handle its opponent’s schemes. In fact, it’s one of the main keys for the Rangers this postseason.

“Whether it’s a pressure man-to-man team, a full-court press team or a half-court trap team, we have to be able to handle the other team’s pressure,” Hasenour said. “We feel like the girls are starting to understand the angles, balance and positioning a little better, and it’s making a difference on the court.”

Forest Park will face Evansville Mater Dei (12-10) to open the sectional Tuesday in Ferdinand, the eighth consecutive season the Rangers have hosted a sectional. Forest Park has defeated four of the other five teams in their sectional (North Posey, Perry Central, South Spencer, Tell City), but lost to the Wildcats.

However, no matter what the result was the first time the two teams met, the Rangers know they have to remain focused on the matchup at stake, not what happened in the past.

“We can’t think ‘Oh, hey, we beat them my so many the first time,’ because everybody goes into the sectional 0-0,” Zink said. “Everyone is in the exact same spot, and we need to engrave that in everybody’s head. No one comes in at the bottom, no one comes in at the top. It’s all even, and we’re all putting together that same fight through the end.”

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