Result aside, effort pacifies Rangers

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Forest Park’s Dakota Begle searched for an open teammate while Crawford County’s Ethan McMonigle defended in Wednesday’s season opener in Ferdinand, where the Wolfpack outpaced the Rangers 48-42. Begle finished with team highs of nine points and seven rebounds. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

FERDINAND — Here’s the bad news for coach Jeff Litherland and his Forest Park team.

In their season opener, the Rangers shot 4-of-18 from the 3-point line, allowed 19 points to one of Crawford County’s frontcourt starter and committed 19 turnovers.

The good news: With three minutes to play in the fourth quarter, they lingered within four points of the Wolfpack.

In a game that started with turnovers on four of the Rangers' first five possessions — resulting in a 10-1 hole before the quarter’s midway mark — Forest Park hustled and battled before accepting a 48-42 loss to Crawford County on Wednesday evening at Buechler Arena.


“You got to be pleased with the effort,” Litherland said. “It’s not a win, but now we have some stuff to work on from here on out.”

Chalk it up to first-game jitters or an expertly run Crawford County defense, but the Rangers (0-1) began their 2013 campaign with a turnover-filled night that just wouldn’t yield. Every time Forest Park seemed poised to lurch toward controlling a game it never led, an offensive foul, risky pass or missed open 3-pointer interfered; something always kept the Rangers at the bottom looking up.

In fourth quarter, Forest Park closed the gap to four after an Austin Egloff putback. The Wolfpack (1-0) then turned the ball over on their next possession only for the Rangers to give it right back. When Crawford County immediately committed another one of its 21 turnovers, the Rangers gave it right back just as quickly.

“On my part, I was just going too fast for my own good,” Ranger junior Ben Englert said. “I need to slow it down and let the game come to me, not make it happen.”

“Some of the shots that we took late were challenged shots and our guys were tired,” Litherland said. “They played a lot of minutes. It’s something we can build on. We played a good team in Crawford. They have quick guards, they have a couple nice post players. We were just kind of searching to see where we’re at. … We just need to improve on a few things.”

One of those things early will be preventing opposing inside threats from having their way in the paint.

Crawford County’s Ethan McMonigle blitzed the Rangers in the second half for 11 of his game-best 19 points. He scored mostly off putbacks and shots off the glass from point-blank range. There wasn’t any secret to McMonigle’s success. The Rangers are undersized and the wide-bodied McMonigle was able to takes uncontested shots for most of the night. The 6-foot-3 center missed just two of his 10 field goal tries.

“We did a really good on them for a while and then (Wolfpack guards Ranger Caffrey and Brandon Cate) started driving in the paint on us,” Litherland said. “We had to help and our rotations were slow. And I’m sure it’s just fatigue, but we don’t have anybody that big in our program to practice against. On our team, our post guys are 5-foot-8, 5-foot-10.”

That isn’t something the Rangers will be able to change anytime soon. They hoped skill on the perimeter might nullify the height disadvantage in the middle, but the Rangers connected on just four 3-pointers all night.

There were moments though that proved the Rangers can provide points from all over the floor. On one sequence in the second quarter, senior forward Dakota Begle received the ball beyond the 3-point line. Begle drove hard left to the baseline and then threw a cross-court pass to Damon Wilmes, who drained a triple.

On three separate occasions in the third quarter, Englert converted either a rebound or a steal into points after driving the ball the length of the court for layups. Englert, Begle and Joel Weyer each scored nine points.

Again down four with less than three minutes left in the game, the Rangers allowed Caffrey to leak behind the arc and convert a clean 3-pointer from about 22 feet. The bucket extended Crawford County’s edge to seven points and Forest Park drew no closer than the final margin.

“(Damon Thomas) and Caffrey, (they) had a couple set shots and our guys closed out and both times … they didn’t challenge,” Litherland said. “And a lot of guys on this level can hit set shots. That was a big key.”

Wilmes chipped in five points and two rebounds for Forest Park, while Begle led all Rangers with seven rebounds and Cody Tempel added six points off the bench. The Rangers shot just 35 percent from the field.

Litherland remained optimistic about his team. An eight-man rotation competed against a fast, physical, 10-deep opponent that freely substituted. The effort was there. Litherland thinks the finer parts will follow.

“Coach (Mike) Brown’s teams, they always fight hard and when we got down 8-0, I was kind of concerned,” Litherland said. “We had to get in it with our defense and that’s kind of what we can hang our hat on.

“I’m very pleased. It’s not a win, but it is November. We’re keeping the big picture in mind.”

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