Rangers, Jeeps wrap up 2019 calendar yearDecember 28, 2019
By COREY STOLZENBACH
FERDINAND — Neither Forest Park nor Northeast Dubois have any New Year’s resolutions as a team, but both will go into the new year with days of rest and things to work on.
The Rangers (7-1) and Jeeps (5-3) both got in one final game for the calendar year on Saturday, with Forest Park taking a 65-55 win against Northeast Dubois in the third-place game of the Access Storage Holiday Tournament at Forest Park. These two teams squared off for a rematch from Dec. 21 at Northeast Dubois, with the Rangers taking that one, 60-53.
“They’re a tough match up, and they’re going to be a good team come March,” Forest Park coach David Welp said of the Jeeps.
“They got a really good team,” Jeeps coach Terry Friedman said of the Rangers. “They’re well-coached. They stayed very focused on what they were doing tonight. I think tonight, once we allowed them inside of our zone, and to get inside of us, we couldn’t handle them, and that’s kind of the way it was the first game.”
The Jeeps held their latest lead in the second quarter. It was a 17-14 game when junior Wade Leonard’s bucket jump-started a 7-0 run for the Rangers, which allowed them to take the lead for good. Forest Park had different things working in its favor, such as perimeter shooting — making six shots from downtown — and also the low post game on both ends of the floor. Welp thought the biggest improvement the Rangers made from Friday’s 55-42 loss to Christian Academy was their defense.
“I think we got on the midline,” he said. “We rotated better. Christian Academy is a very quick team. They’re a very good shooting team. We’re going to learn a lot from that game.”
Northeast Dubois tried to make something happen in the fourth quarter. Senior Reece Bauer, who had a game-high 22 points, nailed a layup at the buzzer to draw the Jeeps closer, 46-41, after three periods. He also had a couple more buckets for a 48-45 score, but Forest Park went on a 17-10 run the rest of the way, and the Jeeps could not get any closer and reclaim the lead. Welp credited his team for making shots and executing at a higher clip.
The Jeeps finished the tournament 1-2, but also began the season 4-0 for the first time in Friedman’s 14 seasons coaching the team. He thinks they are headed in the right direction.
“I thought our ball movement was crisp tonight,” he said. “Defensively, we were really good at times, but we did run at them a few times and kind of took us out of our defense, but other than that, I felt like we played a solid floor game tonight, and we competed from the opening bell until the final bell.”
Friedman did not want to single out one thing in particular that needs work. The Jeeps will return to action Saturday against Evansville Day, back on their home floor for the first time in two weeks. This game was originally scheduled for Dec. 14, but will be made up after being postponed.
“We’re just going to continue to work on what we’re doing,” Friedman said. “We like some of the things we did out of our zone defense tonight. So, we’re going to continue to work on our zone a little bit and continue to build there in addition to our man-to-man.”
Welp said the Rangers need to fine tune some things on defense while staying confident and making shots on offense. Forest Park will get a test right off the bat in 2020 when the Rangers open up the new year Friday at Paoli. The Rams lost their first game of the season, and the Rangers will be tasked with trying to put their eight-game winning streak to a halt. Paoli won the Best Western Plus Holiday Classic on Saturday. Welp called Paoli a tough team who will challenge the Rangers.
“Playing at their place, it’s a tough place to play as well,” Welp said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but I think our guys will be up for it.”
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