Rangerball falls to Rockford 57-53 down the wire


If one thing was for certain entering Wednesday night’s marquee matchup at FHC, it was that the Rangers needed to play their most complete game yet to upset Rockford and advance to the district final.

The Rams were recently crowned champions of the highly-touted OK Red with an 18-2 record; they were also the undisputed favorites heading into the FHC Jungle. But, after upsetting Rockford last year in the first round, the Rangers looked to shock the district once again.

It was a “records-aside” type of matchup. No matter the storylines or expert predictions, this game was going to be a dogfight.

This was apparent throughout the contest; but, it came down to a couple of crucial stops and made free throws by the Rams. FHC was right in it for all 32 minutes, but could never gather enough juice to take a comfortable lead. Rockford narrowly escaped FHC with a 57-53 win and advanced to the district final.

“I just needed to do a better job of helping us put our guys in a position to be successful,” head coach Kyle Carhart said. “They still put us in that position by playing so hard.”

Although it was a balanced effort for the Rangers, senior Jacob Bonnett carried a lot of their weight on both ends. As a two-year starter and leader, Jacob came up with some huge takeaways and buckets on the other end. He finished his night with 17 points. 

The main story, though, was the late-game woes from FHC’s offense. A combination of pressure and anticipation caused the Rangers to rush some inside shots. Senior Conner Milton was also in foul trouble for much of the game.

“We have been really close in a number of games this year,” coach Carhart said. “The reason we had a chance to win so many, against really good teams like Rockford, is because our players compete and work so hard.”

Through it all, the Rangers stayed with it. They fell down 13-7 in the first quarter and were entering troublesome territory. But, a few stops and Jonas VanderWoude three-pointers later, FHC had mounted a 9-0 run.

A similar scenario broke out in the third quarter when Rockford climbed to a 39-32 lead. In a four-minute stretch to close the quarter, Jake Koning took the reigns of the offense and provided a spark. The junior guard was one of a few players all game to attack the Rams’ defense, which he benefitted from with a few pretty dishes and finishes in the paint.

Koning brought FHC to within just one point entering the final quarter. However, it became tough for the Rangers to score from then on out; they had just three field goals in the fourth.

In the end, the Rams capitalized on their slight edge. They came up with crucial stops, rebounds, and most importantly, they made their free throws. Rockford celebrated its way to the district final with a 57-53 win.

This caps off an all-around enjoyable year for the Rangerball program. The team went 13-6 over the course of the regular season and won its first playoff game. However, the most memorable thing about this group will be the bond that they formed off the court.

“The players deserve all the credit in the world,” coach Carhart said. “It has been great to work with them.”