Rangers stymy Wildcats in frenzied showdown

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Forest Park's Simon Jacob shoots past Jasper's Quentin Harmon during Friday's game in Jasper. Forest Park defeated Jasper 54-51 in a game that had a rather chaotic finish. Jacob led Forest Park with 21 points and knocked down a big three-pointer late to give the Rangers the lead. For more photos from Friday's game, click here.


JASPER — There are several ways you can describe the final two minutes of Friday night’s boys basketball game between county rivals Forest Park and Jasper.

But perhaps the best way to describe it? Hectic.

Trailing 49-48 with about 1:30 left in the game, Wildcat senior Reece Milligan made a huge three-pointer to put the Cats up 51-49. But in the matter of near seconds, the Rangers answered back as Simon Jacob was left wide-open in the corner from downtown.

“I was kind of thinking about how I missed a three-pointer earlier in the game but I didn’t let that affect me,” said Jacob, who finished with a team-high 21 points in the Rangers 54-51 victory in Jasper. “Curt (Hopf) was able to find me open and I just did what I do best.”

The Cats (9-4) still had chances following the made three-pointer as Forest Park’s Reid Steffe missed a free throw with 30 seconds left but Hopf came up with a rebound on the miss.

Hopf, who admitted that he’s struggled from the line this season, then went on to hit two shots from the charity stripe to put the Rangers (9-6) up 54-51. Quentin Harmon had one last heave for the Wildcats but the shot fell short.

“I knew I hadn’t been hitting free throws well this season but if there was one thing that could turn it around, it’s an end of the game situation like this,” said Hopf who finished with nine points and eight rebounds. “Thank the Lord that I hit them.”

While there’s no true preparation that can get you ready for those late-game free throw situations other than actual end of the game moments, Forest Park head coach Dave Welp tries to work with his team on it as often as he can in practice situations.

“We always practice something called Win the Game — each guy shoots two free throws and one point goes to us if we make it but three points go to the other team if we don’t,” Welp said. “I’m really proud of our guys because they stepped up to the challenge — Jasper is a great program and I have a lot of respect for John (Goebel) and his team. I’m happy that these guys were able to finish off a tough win.”

The Wildcats have now dropped consecutive tough home losses that came right down to the final buzzer.

Jasper head coach John Goebel believes his team has to play smarter down the stretch and find ways to tough out wins in difficult situations.

“We had chances — they missed a foul shot late but we didn’t get the rebound and then we didn’t contest a three-point shot when we were up two points late,” Goebel said. “We just had too many offensive and defensive breakdowns but the bottom line is Forest Park came in here hungry to win. They took the ball to the rim hard and they went to the foul line because of it and we haven’t learned that lesson yet.”

The Wildcats shot just two free throws in the loss (2-of-2) while the Rangers went to the line 14 times and made eight of them for a 57 percent shooting night at the charity stripe.

Goebel believed another key was the rebounding, especially on the offensive end. Forest Park finished with 11 offensive rebounds compared to Jasper’s six.

The entire game was a back-and-forth physical type of battle. The Rangers and Cats were tied at 12-12 after the first quarter but the Wildcats took a 26-25 lead into the halftime break thanks to a buzzer-beating shot from Jackson Kabrick.

Forest Park senior Nathan Hamilton and the student section celebrate Curt Hopf's dunk during Friday's boys basketball game in Jasper. However, the dunk was called back due to a traveling violation. Both teams student sections were rowdy and raucous throughout the majority of the game. For more photos from Friday's game, click here.

Jasper jumped out to an eight-point lead in the third quarter courtesy of some big shots from Milligan and Jared Englert but Jasper but the Rangers cut the lead to three-points at the end of the quarter after Jacob and Hopf got shots to fall.

Neither team could take control early on in the fourth quarter as the Rangers took the lead on a few shots from Reid Steffe but Jasper continued to march back thanks to shots from Harmon and Englert. However, the Rangers took advantage of the missed opportunities late by the Cats and hung on for the win.

Simon Jacob led the Rangers with 21 points while Isaac Uebelhor finished with nine points and eight rebounds. Hopf and Drew Howard both finished with eight points each. Reece Milligan led Jasper with 15 points while Jared Englert had a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Kabrick and Josh Weidenbenner both finished with seven each.

The Wildcats will be back in action against another county foe in Northeast Dubois and New Albany, who the Wildcats have just a 32-54 record against all-time.

“Out of the frying pan and into the fire,” Goebel said. “We have to get some things corrected, especially down the stretch. We’ve got to be tougher down stretch, it’s that simple.”

The Rangers travel to Lynnville tonight to do battle with Pocket Athletic foe Tecumseh. A win like the one the Rangers recorded on Friday is sure to give the team confidence moving forward.

“Pulling away with a win against a county rival on the road for our three-game win streak? This will definitely help us in the long run,” Hopf said.

Jacob added: “Oh, we’re just going to be rolling now — this just gets us going.”

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