FHC varsity basketball wins conference title

FHC stole the show from Lowell in their last game of the regular season, winning the conference title and giving them an extra jolt for the start of playoffs.


Joe Freihofer, Sports Reporter

The gym lights suddenly dimmed to a low glow, with only a single spotlight shining down on Lowell’s starters. The home crowd erupted with cheers at the sound of each player’s name. The Red Arrow home crowd was prepared to battle for their first conference title since 1978. It was the Rangers of Forest Hills Central, however, who ended up stealing the limelight and winning their third championship in four years. With heart over height, the Rangers fought tooth and nail to take down the Red Arrows 61-45.

From the moment the tip off was won by the Red Arrows, the Rangers were immediately on the attack. FHC relentlessly denied the ball to Lowell’s star player, and the school’s all time leading scorer, Matt Beachler. It was Ryan Dunn for FHC who was glued to Matt’s side for most of the night. Ryan has been a consistent guard for the Rangers for the entirety of the season, making smart passes on offense and doing his part defensively. But on Thursday night, the junior guard truly exceeded expectations. Ryan was overjoyed with the conference title and could not wait to go celebrate with his teammates. However, he knew that the Rangers would need to get ready and buckle down for another game.

“This is amazing,” Ryan said. “All of the work that our team has put in has paid off. We knew that we would have to come out here and put in a ton of work, because the first time through the conference, we lost three games. The second time through, we didn’t lose. We really turned it on.”

Shutting down a Division One athlete was no easy task for Ryan. The Central Michigan commit has caused complete chaos for teams all across the state, but despite finding a few scoring opportunities in the game, he was defended well by the Rangers. Ryan spoke on how they had prepared to face the Red Arrows throughout the week.

“We had the JV guys practicing with us,” Ryan said. “We were playing 5 v 5 v 5, and we would have one guy act like he was Beachler. I would be digging into him the entire practice, trying to get in his head and do the best job possible to make him uncomfortable.”

FHC’ s nonstop watch of the Central Michigan commit caused him to commit a costly technical foul after Ryan Dunn and Matt Beachler got tied up during an inbounds pass. Sal Sidebotham, the senior guard who stepped to the line and won the game for the Rangers in their last matchup, found himself at the stripe and made both of the technical foul free throws. A solid shooting percentage from the line by the Rangers was a major factor on Thursday night.

We were not even in the race a month ago, not even being in the discussion. But we are champs now, and it is pretty amazing.”

— Head Coach Ken George

Despite the momentum FHC had, the Red Arrows were chasing down the Rangers and narrowing the lead for most of regulation. The score was tied at 20-20 with a minute to go in the half, when junior forward Andrew Tebeau made the play of the game. With thirty seconds still dwindling down on the clock, Sal found himself trapped at the top of the arch between two Red Arrow defenders. In one sweeping motion, Sal leaped between the trap and swung the ball down to the corner where Andrew was waiting in shooting position. Without hesitation, Andrew pulled the trigger and let go of a confident stroke from behind the line. He was then knocked to the ground on the follow through, as the ball swished through the net at the sound of the official’s whistle. He would then step up to the line and finish his free throw for a 4-point play. Lowell gave it one last heaving half-court effort as the time expired, but caught nothing but air and a feeling of desperation. The Ranger student section exploded with cheer and excitement, propelling Ken George and his boys into the locker room with a lead at the half.

It was a similar playing style of attacking the rim and finding open shooters on the wings that held FHC in steady winning position in the second half. Junior guard Ty George, FHC’s main sharp shooter, was beginning to heat up and caused some serious problems for Lowell’s zone defense. Ty led the team with 21 points and provided a much needed point cushion at times when it seemed like Lowell could surge back. Ty said that he knew they would have to dig in at half time if they wanted to ensure a win; they finished off the red arrows perfectly after a quick meeting as a whole.

“Everybody just told me to keep shooting, “you’re our shooter”, so I knew that I had to get my confidence up early,” Ty said. “I had a couple layups and free throws, then I started knocking some threes down. I’m just happy for our guys. We definitely deserve this. Credit to Ryan Dunn. I don’t think people understand how hard his job was. To face guard a player like [Matt Beachler] the whole time is very tiring. But this means a lot. Not many people thought that we could do it.”

For head coach Ken George, he could not have asked for a better performance out of his guys. The twenty-three year veteran coach was extremely satisfied and acknowledged a few of his players on their hard work and hustle.

“I thought our guys were incredible,” said George, who has now won his eighth conference title. “The boys took our gameplan and ran with it. Matt Beachler has just been an outstanding player, so we knew we would have to limit him somehow and we did. He still made shots, but I give a ton of credit to our senior leaders.”

For George and his guys, tonight’s achievement was a bit unprecedented. The Rangers were written off by many this season to have a quiet year with low numbers and a relatively young team, but they silenced all doubters and nay sayers on Thursday night, to George’s delight.

“We were not even in the race a month ago,” George said. “Not even being in the discussion. We are champs now, and it is pretty amazing.”