Rangers stave off South Spencer, earn 60-44 winJanuary 19, 2021
By JIMMY LAFAKIS
FERDINAND — Forest Park junior Ali Welp needed just a split second to make her decision. Welp sprinted from the halfcourt line, rejected a South Spencer layup off the wall and sent the home bench into a frenzy.
The early stages of Tuesday evening’s Pocket Athletic Conference girls basketball contest between the Rangers (13-3, 6-3) and Rebels were a delight to defensive purists. Both teams began the game with full-court pressure, but the Rangers cracked the code and earned a 60-44 victory. Welp’s block helped the Rangers gain the confidence they needed.
“You’re thinking, ‘They’re going to go down and score a bucket,’” Forest Park head coach Tony Hasenour said. “She just races down the floor. She’s a volleyball player, and it looked like a volleyball play when she went up and got it. It was a huge play. As a South Spencer coach or player, you think you’re going in for two. Then, it gets stopped.”
The Rangers employed two main advantages in the first half — their height and length. Their stifling full-court trap caused the Rebels to commit several miscues throughout the first two quarters. Forest Park needed time to settle into its transition game, but the Rangers eventually established their groove.
The fast-break opportunities certainly blossomed into boons, but the Rangers also reaped the rewards from some long-distance connections. Just a few moments after her powerful block reverberated throughout Buechler Arena, Welp swished a key 3-point shot.
“Big plays tonight from her,” Hasenour said. “They made a huge difference for us.”
Forest Park took a 34-24 lead into the locker room at halftime. The Rebels cut the deficit to four, but the Rangers rebounded and finished the third frame with a 45-38 lead.
“It did get a little dicey there in the third quarter,” Hasenour said. “You’re in that danger zone of them maybe coming all the way back and tying it up and taking the lead. We had some girls step up and hit some big shots for us there. We kind of spread it back out and stretched it back out. We were able to hold on from there.”
When Forest Park dropped back into a man-to-man defense, sophomore Amber Tretter displayed her defensive versatility. Tretter roamed the interior and created problems for the Rebels in the first half. In the second half, she extended her defense and caused a decisive mismatch on the perimeter.
One crucial possession gave the Rangers another key boost. Tretter stepped in front of an errant South Spencer pass, tipped it to herself and secured the steal. That fleeting moment caused the tides of momentum to turn in Forest Park’s favor.
As the fourth quarter began to unfold, the Rangers attacked the glass with fervor. Forest Park did a solid job of snatching defensive rebounds early in the game, but the Rangers created several additional scoring chances with strong offensive boards in the latter moments.
The Rangers secured the win with some shrewd play in the final moments of the fourth frame. Forest Park emphasized a healthy mix of ball movement and ball security. Several quick passes around the perimeter paved the way for open looks underneath the hoop, and Tretter sealed the game with baskets in the paint.
“South Spencer’s got a handful of quick little guards,” Hasenour said. “If you’re not paying attention or you’re a little bit soft with it, they’re going to zip right in there and get a steal. That was something that we stressed there at the end — South Spencer would be coming to put pressure on us. We had to be tough with the basketball.”
Welp led the Rangers with a game-high 20 points, while Tretter contributed 16 points. Forest Park sophomore Carley Begle added 12 points of her own. South Spencer’s Trinity Britton led the Rebels with 15 points.
Forest Park will return to the court for a 2:30 p.m. game against Mount Vernon on Saturday in Ferdinand.
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