Ranger defense stops Belgrade


By Thomas E. Watson
Enterprise Staff Writer


A dominant defense helped propel Park from fifth to third place in the Central A conference, thanks to the Rangers’ 38-31 win over the Panthers in Belgrade Friday night.

“There’s no doubt,” head girls coach Scott Coleman said when asked if his team’s defense was the difference. “The only way they got back in it was we had a little trouble rebounding there in the third quarter. We knew that the way we could lose this game was to wrestle with trouble on the boards all night. That is how Belgrade wins games — they out-rebound you. They get multiple shots at the basket, and we (limited those).”

Both team’s played solid defense from start to finish. The first points of the game weren’t scored until Park’s Sierra Higgs made a shot over two minutes into the game.

Claree Tecca’s basket made it 4-0 four minutes into the game, but Park went into the second quarter up 6-4 after its offense stalled, as well.

Belgrade took a 10-9 lead, — its first in the game — with five minutes left to go until haltime, but Park immediately answered to retake the lead. The Panthers tied the game on a free throw, but the Rangers went on an 8-3 run to end the half. Tecca made a 3-pointer with 1:30 to go to put the finishing touches on the end-of-half run.

The Panthers started the half with an 8-0 run that ended with Belgrade owning a 21-18 lead with 5:30 to go in the third quarter. In addition to struggling on the glass to start the second half, Park committed five fouls in the first four minutes. Belgrade held the lead until the final minute of the third quarter, when Park pulled ahead 26-25.

“I think what is different for this team is we are starting to play as a team,” said Coleman. “This is the first time all year that we have fallen behind and come back to win a game. That has been a psychological barrier for us. When we fall behind, especially in the second half, we begin to get down on ourselves and we lose the idea of team. Tonight, there was a tremendous amount of composure in that huddle all night, and there was a tremendous amount of team. We had a few frustrations that we wiped away pretty quickly. We buckled down and had what I would say was a pretty oppressive defense in the fourth quarter.”

The Rangers scored four quick points to open the fourth quarter and take a 30-25 lead. Like its start to the game, Park’s defense did allow a point for a long stretch to start the fourth quarter, not allowing Belgrade to score for nearly five minutes.

Park used a defensive attack similar to the one it employed in its first game against Belgrade, and it was equally as successful.

“It’s hard to argue the first time didn’t work,” Coleman said. “We know they are a post-oriented team. They relentlessly try to enter that ball. We completely committed to not letting that happen.”

The Panthers did get as close as two points, but Rachael Robbins made a basket to make it 32-28 with 1:30 left in the game.

Robbins, Higgs and Meghan Gibson all scored eight points to lead the well-rounded Rangers. Tecca and Kinsey Whiting each scored five points, while Ella McKenzie and Holly Davis added two points each.

This week, Park has only one game, and Saturday is Senior Night for the Rangers when they welcome Big Timber for a game at 5 p.m.