Rangerball Comes Back Against FHN

Cooper James, Staff Writer

The atmosphere was tense and the sea of black shirts anxiously stared as the ball was thrown into the air on Friday night. The varsity boys basketball team began their season with some new faces on the floor and it showed early. Forest Hills Northern took the early lead with a three pointer and the rest of the half followed very similarly. The first half was a rough start to the Ranger’s season as they saw the Huskies hit six total threes and miss only three in the first sixteen minutes of the game.

Down 25-37 at half, the Rangers tried to regroup during halftime. Senior captain Connor Kelly tells what went on that turned the game around.

“We really just focused on staying positive and keeping our self belief that we could still win the game,” said Kelly. “We preach toughness and reaction to adversity every day and that was the best way that we could prove that we are a team with those intangibles.”

Echoing Kelly and also pointing out how the inexperience of the team may have caused early struggles, John Fuller gives his take on what changed at halftime.

“Our attitude as a team made a complete 180,” said Fuller. “Being that this was the first game for a lot of us, the first half was our first experience playing within a hostile, varsity environment. After we were able to rid ourselves of our first half jitters, we were able to not think as much, and just play.”

Coach Ken George said that one of the biggest changes he made at the half besides calming down his players was utilizing the trap. The team played a 2-3 zone defense most of the first half and they continued to in the second with the simple adjustment of more pressure on the ball and the shooters.

Also commenting on the defensive changes, senior Colson Korpak focused on the energy that the team showed while playing.

“I think that the biggest difference between the first half and the second half was our energy on defense,” said Korpak. “We came out with a lot better energy in the second half, and that energy gave us the stops, steals, and rebounds that led to our comeback.”

So, coming out of halftime rejuvenated and ready to mount a comeback, the Rangers did just that. Starting the half on a 10-2 run and only allowing four points in the entire third quarter, the Rangers drew closer to the Huskies as the student section got into the game.

As the game got even closer, the atmosphere became even more intense, but the Rangers were ready for it this time. Korpak came up big drawing three charges and racking up four of his five blocks as the Rangers closed the gap. Finally, with about four minutes left in the game, Fuller got a steal and assisted Sal Sidebotham to tie the game. A couple minutes later, Fuller had a putback layup to give the Rangers their first lead of the game and their season.

Keeping this momentum and using the energy of the student section, the Rangers stretched their lead and finished off the game with a flurry of Kelly free throws that lead to a 57-49 victory.

Kelly finished with a career high twenty-five points, Fuller totalled twelve and was the second leading scorer for the Rangers, and Korpak, along with his five blocks and three charge takes, had a pair of steals. The win against the Huskies also carried a couple more significant factors: the seniors this year are still undefeated against them, and this win marked the nineteenth straight home win for the Rangers, breaking the school record.

Moving forward, the Rangers are trying to use this win to achieve even more great things this season.

“This win is huge for the team in so many ways,” said Fuller. “With having such a young and inexperienced team this year, this comeback win gave us some much needed confidence. Our efforts really just showed us what exactly we’re capable of this year.”

Kelly also believes that this win is crucial in moving forward in a good direction for the season.

“Coming back in the second half showed everybody that we will be just fine, and that we can face deficits and come back with no problem. We are really looking forward to building off this game with a lot of positives but also working on the negatives.”

Echoing his fellow senior, Korpak gave his input on what this win means to the team.

“I think that we can use this win as an example of how to overcome adversity later in the year. With such an inexperienced team, proving to ourselves in the first game that we can mount a comeback and get a win is really important.”

Other important matters for the team are getting players back that they were missing against the Huskies. Justin Spates, Jack Uecker, and Daniel Deindorfer all hope to return to action soon. But probably the most significant aspect going forward involves Coach George, who is going for his 300th win against Grand Haven this Tuesday.