Dallas Hopson’s heroic fourth quarter earns Rangerball a 61-56 win to start the season 1-0 for the first time since 2016

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In the first game of the 2021 winter sports season, the Forest Hills Central boys varsity basketball team tipped off on the road against Northview on Wednesday, February 10th. After waiting nearly an entire year to play, Ranger basketball faced an especially tough conference opponent in the Northview Wildcats. With just two contact practices under its belt, the team outlasted the Wildcats down the stretch by a score of 61-56 to capture the first victory of this promising season.

“I was just so excited for our players to get back out there,” head coach Kyle Carhart spoke postgame. “The opportunity to see the floor during such a challenging time is a blessing, something we for sure can’t take for granted.” 

Although league play has begun, the Rangers have been required to make a tight turnaround. After the hiatus earlier this winter, FHC now has been bombarded with a battle-testing and daunting rest-of-the-season slate. Rangerball’s focus and determination must not waver as the season progresses. On Wednesday night, this was a main focal point for coach Carhart and his players. 

“We tried to learn as much as possible in the short amount of time we had to prepare,” senior Jonah Spates said. “Coach Carhart just emphasized that we need to just play harder than the other team and everything else will work out like it did tonight.” As the players face an unprecedented challenge, a cool and calm composure is vital for this team’s success down the road.

For the Rangers, the game did not start out on a positive note. Despite an impressive three-pointer from Spates and a layup by senior Peyton Bush, the team turned the ball over three times in the opening minutes; although, it trailed just 8-5 down the stretch of the first quarter. After a timeout to re-group, FHC found its stride. Senior Chris Battiste knocked down a pair of shots, followed by baskets from fellow seniors Jeremy James and Jacob Ervin. This surge allowed the Rangers to grab a 16-12 lead at the end of the first quarter. 

At the start of the next quarter, the Rangers began to impose their will on the offensive end. Junior guard Jacob Bonnett gave solid minutes all night long, as he scored to extend the lead. In conjunction with two post-up baskets from Jacob Ervin, FHC held a 23-13 lead with just over four minutes in the first half left. Following this, it was junior Conner Milton’s turn to score. The junior stud made his way inside for an easy basket and finished off the FHC run with a three-pointer just shortly after. This 23-8 run in a seven-minute span for the Rangers became essential for the eventual win. 

Going into halftime, Northview had cut the lead to seven points, trailing just 33-28. However, the Rangers got right back to work. Jacob and Peyton converted on back-to-back scoring possessions, which would lead to an 11-point lead and another timeout from the Wildcats. Interestingly, Northview responded with a run of its own. All-conference phenom Kyler Vanderjagt sparked a run in which the Wildcats scored seven unanswered points, narrowing the Ranger lead down to a small three points. The Ranger defense, nevertheless, stepped up big-time. The Gang Green did not allow a point in the remaining three minutes of the third quarter, staying in control of the game with a 41-37 advantage. 

As the final stretch of the game was underway, the fourth quarter presented a unique spotlight. Since no member of the FHC had broken out for a dominant game, this allowed the players on the floor to keep spreading the ball around. Seizing this chance, senior Dallas Hopson took over. He scored ten points in the fourth quarter, setting up the Rangers for huge success. Additionally, Jacob Bonnett shone equally as bright. Bonnett made a couple of enormous outside shots in the final frame, as well as a few steals. After Northview cut the deficit to two points, it was Bonnett and Hopson time. With considerable help from Jacob and Peyton, the Ranger lineup down the stretch was extremely sound. Free throws at the end for Dallas and Jonah pushed the score up to 61-56, which would stand as the final score. In the first game of the year, Rangerball had risen to the occasion and defeated its first opponent. 

“I surely enjoyed the win, as I’m certain our players did as well. With all of the different things that we have faced the past few months, I’m not sure anything could’ve been better than winning and having fun right off of the bat,” Carhart said, speaking on the victory. “The best part, to be honest, is that we get to turn around and do it all over again. With one day of preparation, our expectations are not lowering but raising higher. It’ll be a tough, competitive game on Friday.” The adversity face by this group has been unmatched; however, the feeling of winning and executing definitely outweighs this misfortune. 

It was an overall solid night for the Rangers. Dallas’s fourth-quarter clutchness was enough to earn 16 points on the game, likewise with 15 points for Jacob Bonnett. With slightly fewer margins, Ervin scored eight points on over 50 percent shooting, in addition to five-point outings from Conner Milton, Chris Battiste, Peyton Bush, and Jonah Spates. Despite the prevalent scoring, FHC notched 13 more team assists and ten fewer turnovers. This staggering ratio was arguably the deciding factor in such a tight-knit matchup. Although this win puts the team in a good position, there are many features of the Rangers’ game that needs improvement.  

“We need to hit free throws, 11-27 from the line will not cut it moving forward,” marked forward Chris Battiste when asked about the room for improvement. “We did what we needed to do in order to get the win; however, we must clean up our offensive execution and get better looks at the rim.” Among the players and coaches, a sense of pride and tradition prevail. As a result of this, Rangerball student-athletes are consistently striving for greatness,

Now that first-game jitters are gone by the wayside, the boys varsity basketball team faces an uphill battle in the OK-White Conference. Rangerball will play its first home game of the season on Friday, February 12th against the highly-touted Forest Hills Northern Huskies.