Rangers beat Fergus in home opener

By 
Ryan Peerboom — Enterprise Staff Writer
Monday, December 16, 2019
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Enterprise photos by Ryan Peerboom

Brendon Johnson, right, dribbles around a Fergus defender on Saturday at Park High School

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Kodie Vondra looks for a lane to the hoop as she dribbles the ball.

The Park basketball teams had their first home games of the season on Saturday as they hosted the Fergus Eagles at Park High. Both teams improved to 2-0 on the season with wins.

 

Girls

The Lady Rangers took the floor first and rode an early lead to a dominant, 46-22 win.

Things started slow for both teams, but Park jumped out to a 6-2 lead after a 3-pointer from Bobbi Lima.

With 2:39 left in the first, Fergus cut the lead to 6-4 with a layup and Park coach Megan Burns called a timeout to regroup. The Lady Rangers came out of the timeout and finished the quarter on a 6-0 run with buckets from Kodie Vondra, Ryleah Floyd and Sylvie Schoenen.

Park built on their lead in the second quarter, outscoring the Eagles 8-5 to take an 11-point lead into halftime.

The Rangers poured it on in the third quarter and continued to play strong defense, extending their lead to 35-16.

Park kept a consistent pace in the fourth quarter before the final buzzer sounded with the Rangers more than doubling up the Eagles, 46-22.

Floyd led all scorers with 13 points while Vondra added 12. Schoenen had seven points and Lima had 6.

Vondra played a lot of minutes for the Rangers, barely taking a breather until the game was already in hand. She said she was prepared for to work hard while on the floor for that long.

“I think it was the workload I was expecting,” she said. “I came ready to work hard on defense.”

The hard work on defense paid off for the Rangers. Fergus struggled to find any good looks while they were on offense and Park made them earn every point they scored.

Floyd said the offense is coming along, but that the team is relying on defense to win games right now.

“We’ve been playing really well,” she said. “Our defense is really what’s keeping us in the games. Our offense is coming, but defense is for sure the big thing for us right now.”

Coach Burns also appreciated the effort her team showed on defense.

“I have really loved the fighting spirit of my team this year,” Burns said. “They have not let up when they are winning. Our defense has been amazing, now we’ve just got to be able to convert and control the offensive end as well.”

Despite the big win, Burns further elaborated on the offensive struggles, offering some constructive criticism.

“We cannot settle for the way that we’re playing,” she said. “We’re being a little sloppy on offense. We’re not taking our time (and) controlling the flow especially when we’re winning.”

Burns added that the Rangers will need to make changes and limit mistakes before they face tougher opponents this week.

“We will not be able to afford to make those kinds of mistakes against Billings Central and Hardin,” she said.

 

Boys

The Rangers followed with a tightly-contested, 57-53 win over the Eagles that came down to the final minute.

Both teams wasted no time finding the scoreboard. Brendon Johnson tallied the first five points for the Rangers on free throws before Sage McMinn knocked down Park’s first field goal of the game. Johnson’s first field goal gave the Rangers an 11-10 lead before Fergus took it right back with a 3-pointer.

The Rangers climbed back on top late in the quarter and finished it with an 18-15 lead.

The second quarter began much slower than the first with the Rangers scoring a single point over the first two minutes. The Rangers still held a 19-15 lead before the Eagles called a timeout with 6:02 remaining in the quarter.

After the timeout, Fergus took the momentum and the lead which forced a Park timeout just over two minutes later with four minutes left in the half and the Eagles leading 23-19.

Park crawled a little closer before the half ended with the Eagles up three, 27-24.

The Rangers started the second half with a new starting group and a new energy to go along with it. Park started the half on a 7-0 run to take a 31-27 lead and force a Fergus timeout just over a minute into the third quarter.

Fergus settled in after the timeout and outscored the Rangers 18-9 for the remainder of the quarter to take a five-point, 45-40 lead into the fourth.

The Rangers remained calm and kept their composure throughout the fourth quarter, leading to a string of clutch plays.

First, the Rangers took the momentum back on a breakaway dunk from Nick Battrick to get the crowd energized and give Park a 47-46 lead.

Johnson sent the crowd into a further frenzy with a powerful slam of his own with just over three minutes later to push the Ranger lead to five, 51-46.

Fergus wasn’t going anywhere without a fight and quickly tied the game at 51.

Johnson answered once again as he drained a contested 3-pointer to give the Rangers the lead for good with just under two minutes left.

Fergus made things interesting down the stretch, but as their players and bench grew louder and more desperate, the Rangers remained poised and closed out the game.

Johnson led the charge for the Rangers with 21 points. Jack Gauthier added 12 points and played a big role in the paint as he grabbed rebounds and converted on second chance opportunities.

Park head coach Layne Glaus said he was proud of the way his team finished out the close game.

“I’m proud of them,” Glaus said. “We’ve got a lot of new guys out there and I felt like they handled the pressure well late in the game.”

Gauthier credited the Rangers defense down the stretch for being a big part of the win.

“Our defense was a big thing that really (helped) pull it out in the end,” he said. “I think we were playing great defense at the end.”

Gauthier’s rebounding was key for the Rangers in the second half.

“I’m just thankful that the ball came my way and I’m thankful that my teammates helped to box out too,” he said. “(I) couldn’t do it without them for sure.”

Glaus said he feels the defense fuels the Rangers.

“I think we feed off of our defense as a group,” he said. “So when we’re locked in defensively and we’re getting a few turnovers everything else starts to click for us.”

Johnson’s play down the stretch was pivotal. Glaus said he’s comfortable with the ball in Johnson’s hands late in games because of how hard he works year round.

“When you’re talking about Brendon, he’s a kid that puts in more time than any kid I’ve been around,” Glaus said. “That’s where he gets his confidence from and we trust and we want the ball in his hands late.”

Johnson also credited his hard work with giving him confidence.

“I always am in the gym, I’m working hard on my game,” he said. “It’s just in my veins.”

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