Pressure defense, ball movement propels Park past Laurel, 54-48

Neil Patrick Healy
After being down through most of the first quarter, the Park High Rangers stormed back in the second quarter and never looked back, beating the Laurel Locomotives Tuesday, 54-48. 
The Rangers got off to a slow start when going against the Locomotives’ zone defense, resulting in settling for contested jumpers on the perimeter. 
“When they drop back into that zone, you have to be a little patient and figure out when to attack,” said Park head coach Layne Glaus. “That’s kind of what pushed us out to the perimeter and taking those early shots. We didn’t give ourselves a chance to go inside-out with our perimeter shots and we weren’t attacking the middle.”
After being down 15-5 and only hitting one field goal through the first six minutes, Park switched up its defense to try and get back in the game. The move worked, with Park going on a 10-0 run to take a 17-15 lead midway through the second quarter. 
Glaus attributes his team’s run to the decision to switch to pressure man-to-man defense, something he breaks out when he feels his team is sluggish and needs a boost. 
“We went out of our 1-3-1 defense and the guys brought good energy in man (defense) and had good ball pressure, caused turnovers and had some guys leaking out to get some easy buckets,” he said. “We have athleticism and quickness, so that’s something we can go to if we feel like we’re getting a slow start offensively. It picks up the tempo and gets us some easy looks.”
Glaus also felt breaking out his press defense would present a problem to Laurel’s inexperienced roster. 
“They’re a younger team,” he said. “They lost all their starters from last year, so with a younger team, if you bring the pressure on them, they can get into some trouble.”
Senior forward Jakim Ricketts helped Park close the half strong, scoring nine of his 18 points in the second quarter, including the team’s final seven points to help Park take a 22-20 lead into the locker room. 
“We’re going to be tough when he attacks the hoop,” Glaus said. “Everybody can see that he is very talented and athletically gifted. Teams have trouble guarding him with one defender, so if he’s not settling on the perimeter and getting to the rim, then that opens easy ones for him and then good looks for his teammates.”
The Rangers held the Locomotives at arms length through the second half, never relinquishing the lead they secured late in the second quarter. Laurel got it to a four-point lead late in the fourth, but Park’s free throw shooting iced the game, giving Park the hard-fought win. 
After Rickett’s 18, Park had sophomore Brendon Johnson come up big with 12, including five in the fourth quarter. Senior Rydell Floyd added nine, while seniors John Waddell and Brock Peterson had six apiece. The Rangers, who were stagnant and settling for contested shots in the first quarter, increased the movement on and off the ball, which freed up the offense. 
“All five of us weren’t sticking in one spot, so that’s key for us,” Glaus said. “If we have five guys moving and then we’re not letting the ball stick in one spot, it’s going to open up opportunities.”
Laurel had two players in double figures, with Gage Leischner recording the game-high in with 23 and Camden Hill with 14. 
Park improves to 4-1 on the year and will close out its home stand with Beaverhead County Thursday at 4 p.m.