Rangers rally, hang on for win

Photos by Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald
Forest Park's Issac Uebelhor attempts to make a basket during Wednesday's game in Ferdinand. Forest Park defeated Crawford County 53-51.


FERDINAND — Forest Park coach David Welp thought Wednesday’s season-opening 53-51 home win against Crawford County helped his team get ready for when play begins in the Pocket Athletic Conference.

“Crawford County is a great team,” Welp said. “They’re well-coached. They do a lot of great things. They’re a very scrappy team that just gets after you, especially defensively, and then, offensively, they just push the basketball and grind you out. This game will only help us as we watch game film. We just got to continue to learn and grow from our mistakes, and from the things that we’ve done well.”

The Rangers had to climb out of a 30-20 third quarter deficit in order to win on their home floor, but they gradually found a way back in it, with Welp crediting the full court pressure on defense and engaging Crawford County’s defenders on offense. Forest Park had some early leads at 2-0 and 5-3, before Crawford County starting creating room at the end of the first quarter, but the Rangers had their runs. Senior Isaac Uebelhor, who had 16 points, tied the game, 34-34, and Forest Park retook the lead when they got the ball back.

Sophomore Drew Howard, who finished with a game-high 18 points, put the Rangers back ahead, 36-34. Forest Park found itself in a 40-40 tie with Crawford County after three quarters, and Howard played a starring role in how the game ended.

Forest Park's Landon Nalley passes the ball during Wednesday's game in Ferdinand. Forest Park defeated Crawford County 53-51.

The Rangers and Wolfpack traded leads throughout the fourth quarter, as a thin margin was persistent throughout. The neck-and-neck struggle continued all the way to the very end. Junior Simon Jacob got the ball rolling for the Rangers when he had a steal and found himself at the free throw line after he was fouled on a layup. He made both free throws with 44.5 seconds left, giving the Rangers a 51-49 edge.

However, senior Wyatt Allinger was determined to make something happen for the Wolfpack when he sank both free throws with 23.3 seconds left to play, tying the game, 51-51.

That’s when Howard came in. Crawford County was defending him with the ball in his hands. He drove and found some space, making way for a layup in the waning seconds of the game.

“They were pressuring me,” Howard said. “I just wanted to go around them and try to find an open shot.”

Both teams took a timeout with 7.1 seconds left. Allinger had the ball in his hands, making an attempt for a layup at the rim, but it did not go with the buzzer sounding, bringing the Forest Park faithful to their feet.

Welp knows that PAC rival Tell City will be a tough team and will be hungry on Dec. 7 when it visits Forest Park in the conference season opener. The Rangers will be one-and-done for more than a month, though, after their game against the Marksmen. It’ll be their second game of a three-game homestand, as on Dec. 13, they’ll entertain Loogootee. Forest Park’s next PAC game is scheduled for Jan. 17 at South Spencer, with Welp calling every conference game tough.

The Rangers will have some things to try to improve on until their conference opener. One thing the Wolfpack managed to do was get buckets against Forest Park’s transition defense in the first quarter, and found ways to the hoop as the Rangers tried to transition in the fourth quarter, even if the ball didn’t always go in.

“First, we have to take care of the basketball,” Welp said. “That will help eliminate some of those transition baskets, and then also, we just need to communicate. Who’s the guy back or the two guys back, and then the others, who are they crashing? Who’s crashing the offensive glass? Those are things that we can learn from, and grow as the season grows.”

The Rangers will be facing a Marksmen team that has posted three consecutive winning seasons and a record that has gotten better each year in that timespan. Tell City won a sectional championship in 2018-19, getting as far as the second round of regionals.

Welp said Forest Park’s defense will continue to work on its shell drill and rotations. He added the offense must continue to work on piston passes, and taking care of the basketball, but added his Thanksgiving turkey was going to taste a lot better on Thursday.

“Nobody played perfect tonight, but that’s why it’s a whole season,” he said. “This is just the first game. We’re going to continue to learn and grow.”

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