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Boys varsity basketball defeats Rockford in a big district win 47-46

Jake Heilman, Sports Reporter

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Senior captains Jack Uecker and Sal Sidebotham came up with essential offense plays, and led the Rangers to an incredible victory on Monday night. In the opening round of Districts, against a physical OK Red opponent in Rockford, FHC’s physicality earned them a 47-46 victory. The energy throughout the night could be described as electric.

It was the atmosphere all the way from the opening tip until the final Tyler George steal to seal the deal. Throughout the entire game, the student section was on their feet, and Ranger nation came out in strong numbers filling the arena.

The Rangers offense did not start off as hot, despite the high energy start, going 0/6 on their first 6 attempts from the field. The Rockford defense came in with the Rangers heavily scouted.

“They put a ton into this game, and I could tell,” head coach Ken George said. “They had a lot of things that we do scouted and were calling it out early. I thought we had to make more adjustments at halftime then we’ve had to make all year.”

The offense finally got moving with a couple of huge threes from Jack, along with clutch baskets from Sal throughout the second quarter. As the momentum finally started to swing the Rangers way, they got the boost they needed heading into the half.

With just under 17 seconds to play, junior Ryan Dunn brought the ball up the floor looking to the sideline for a play that would cap off a solid finish to the half for the Rangers. With just a couple of ticks left on the clock, Ryan kicked it out to fellow junior Andrew Tebeau. Andrew, in similar fashion to his buzzer-beater against Lowell, hit nothing but net.

As the Rangers came back out at the half, the defense looked changed and refueled making some key plays and causing major turnovers in the first couple minutes of play.

As the Rangers came down the stretch, Sal accumulated 15 of his 21 total points. Jack also couldn’t have heated up at a better time.

As the Rangers finally took their first lead of the ballgame 32-31, they were found in an extremely similar situation to the one at the end of the first half. Ryan again brought it up the floor and made a couple clutch moves to get it out to Uecker on the wing. With time expiring, Jack got the shot off and sank a three. Jack was now three for three from behind the arc. The Ranger crowd erupted.

“We played as a team,” Jack said. “We were down, and we knew we had to do something to come back. It was awesome. We came out and got it done together.”

As the fourth quarter ticked down, it was back and forth scoring affair. After a three from Sal with 2:01 left in the fourth, the Rangers found themselves up by two, 43-41. Jack was then fouled on the next possession resulting in two free throws for an even more comforting 45-41 lead.

After just four seconds up the floor, Rockford quickly hit a three-point shot, sending a fear through the Rangers. Junior Tyler George then received an opportunity at the line with 18 seconds to go. After hitting both free-throws, the Rangers regained a 47-44 lead.

Rockford continued to fight. They fought their way to the line, sunk two free throws of their own and shrunk the gap yet again.

The Rams then regained the offensive possession and attempted a three-point shot that would put FHC down two if it went in. Fortunately for the Ranger faithful, that was not the case. Jack came up clutch with a big rebound. He was fouled quickly and sent to the line for a one-and-one.

With only five seconds to play, the Rangers sent three men back to play defense as Uecker went to the line for his first. After hitting the rim twice, the ball bounced out and into the hands of Rockford’s leading scorer Ryan Gamm.

As time ticked down, the Rams center frantically dribbled up the floor down the far sideline. Sal and Ty both came collapsing down to contest an open shot. Ty poked the ball away with two seconds left.

Time expired. FHC rushed the court. Rangers win.

“It was unreal tonight,” Sal said. “Last year, we made it to the district final and suffered a tough loss against Lowell. It’s kind of different being the senior. You have a lot more responsibilities to lead. I can’t believe how well we played together. Underclassmen stepped up huge, KP is playing like a man. The student section was great, and we just played our hearts out.”

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Boys varsity basketball defeats Rockford in a big district win 47-46