Role players provide spark for Rangers

Photos by Hunter Tickel/The Herald
Junior guards Danielle Eckert (20) played a crucial role in Thursday's 56-25 win at Tell City. 








TELL CITY — With three-year starter Ali Welp out for the season opener, Danielle Eckert was tasked with filling in.

The Forest Park junior guard was up to snuff for the same-day assignment from the tip.

"It definitely gets my nerves out," Eckert said. "Just to go out there and be able to play."

It was a large reason why the Rangers (1-0) cruised to a 56-25 win over Tell City on Thursday to uncork the 2021-22 campaign.

It was Eckert's first career start for the Rangers.

"I'm very excited for her," junior teammate Alivia Gehlhausen said. "I think she deserved it. She's been working hard in practice and I was expecting her to be the (next) man (up)."

Eckert matched junior forward Carley Begle's putback to open the season scoring account with a stickback with 5:54 left in the opening period.

The Rangers (1-0) took a 13-4 lead on a triple and lay in from junior point guard Lydia Betz.

Betz finished with 11 points.

Then, Eckert had a look inside to Begle that she finished for an and-1.

With 3:03 left in the quarter, Eckert lined up a 14-footer on the baseline, fluidly drilling the jumper.

The first two Rangers off the bench were Gehlhausen and senior Grace Fleck, in the next period.

Gehlhausen collected a pass open at the top of the arc, couldn't knock it down, but followed her shot for a trip to the charity stripe. She knocked down a triple later in the game.

Forest Park junior guard Alivia Gehlhausen (23) defends her basket against the Marksmen. The Rangers topped Tell City 56-25 on Thursday on the road.  

On the subsequent possession, Gehlhausen swung the ball to the right corner where junior Amber Tretter sank a corner 3-pointer.

In the final minute of the half, Eckert made another strong play for a shorter guard when she stepped into the middle of the Rangers' zone to snatch a pass and proceeded to send an outlet to Tretter for a layup.

Tretter finished with a game-high 21 points.

The Rangers rolled out a full-court press, zone and man-to-man defense to keep the Marksmen on their toes.

In the closing half, Eckert curled off a screen on the bounce for a floater in the paint that didn't fall, but it showed another piece to her repertoire.

It was valuable minutes for Eckert and other reserves as Forest Park looks to strengthen its rotation.

"I'm starting with my four other junior teammates so it's just kind of like how it's always been so it wasn't that bad," Eckert said. "It was lots of fun. The energy was up."

The next chance to enhance its depth is Nov. 11 when it to French Lick to face Springs Valley.

"I think it's good that everyone is ready for the big minutes," Gehlhausen said. "If anyone else gets hurt on the team they'll be ready and they'll know how to contribute in different ways."

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