Rangers top Pats in overtime

Photos by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Forest Park junior Drew Howard makes this game-tying layup for a 56-56 score Friday night against Heritage Hills. Howard notched 26 points, and Forest Park came away with a 66-60 overtime win.


FERDINAND — Time winded down Friday night between Heritage Hills and Forest Park with the home team trailing, 56-54, and that was when Drew Howard made it happen.

The Patriots (13-3, 8-1) had a turnover that allowed the junior for the Rangers (13-5, 5-3) to take the ball and lay it in for a game-tying bucket — sending Forest Park’s fans into an utter frenzy to tie the game. Heritage Hills got a shot off, but couldn’t make the game-winner. The limited, socially distanced fans would be treated to free basketball.

“When I tied it, I was like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to win this game,’” said Howard, who had a team-high 26 points.

Howard did it again when he had another steal to a lay up to give the Rangers the lead for good, 60-58, en route to their fourth straight win. Forest Park went on a 6-2 run the rest of the way, thanks to timely free throws from junior Landon Nalley and senior Blake Hagedorn. It was the first time the Rangers bested the Pocket Athletic Conference rival Pats since 2016. It was also the first time Forest Park coach David Welp got a win against Pats coach Nate Hawkins — who was an assistant coach to Welp when he played for the Rangers.

“Coach Hawkins does a great job with Heritage Hills,” Welp said. “This was a good win for our program, and I think our guys knew the task at hand — that it was not going to be easy. Give Heritage Hills a lot of credit — they’re a very good ball club and they’re going to be a tremendous in that 3A sectional.

“I’m just happy that our guys competed at a very high level tonight until the end,” Welp added. “I’m just very proud of them.”

For the Pats, this game slipped through their hands. They held second half leads such as 34-26, 45-37 and 54-48, but could not seal the deal. Heritage Hills allowed offensive rebounds and also turned the ball over that enabled Forest Park to get back in it and ultimately come away with the win.

“We’ve got a veteran group out there,” Hawkins said. “We’ve got a bunch of seniors that are out there playing, and turning the basketball over at a high level — it just can’t happen, not if you’re going to play winning basketball. I don’t know how many turnovers we had, but it was way, way too many.

“We obviously trust because we do have some experience out there,” he continued. “We expect those guys to make the right plays, but whatever reason tonight, we did not a very good job of handling the basketball. And I think that’s something that we’ve got to shore up between now and March if we’re going to have a chance to make a run for a sectional championship.”

Senior Blake Sisley gets a bucket for Heritage Hills on Friday. Sisley had a game-high 32 points, but the Patriots fell to Forest Park, 66-60, in overtime.

This loss brought Heritage Hills its second straight loss. The Pats had star senior Blake Sisley back, who went for a game-high and career-high 32 points, but it did not suffice. Hawkins thinks some of his other players are going to have to step up and make plays, though, and Heritage Hills did not make the plays when it needed to.

The Pats will look for that bounce back win Saturday at home against another formidable PAC opponent in South Spencer.

“South Spencer (is) a very talented group,” Hawkins said. “They’ve got a bunch of kids that can all score the basketball, and we’ve got to just to learn from this. And I believe that we’ll be ready tomorrow.”

Forest Park, meanwhile, will try to push it to a fifth straight game on Tuesday at Boonville, another PAC foe.

“This is a good win for our program, but we cannot be content,” Welp said. “We got to move on now. We’re going to enjoy this tonight — we’re going to enjoy this one, but we got to move on starting tomorrow, and learn and grow, continue to better, because I don’t feel like we have peaked yet.”

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