Rangers cage Bears, secure fourth seed
Boys host St. Francis in playoff opener Thursday
As a long and often trying regular season came to an end, Ranger boys’ basketball coach Dan Cremisino hung his hat on a couple positives heading into postseason play. Forest Lake has won five of nine games, he noted, and will be playing at home as the Section 7AAAA playoffs tip off Thursday, March 8.
Forest Lake, seeded fourth of seven, plays host to fifth-seeded St. Francis. The Fighting Saints (9-17) lost 61-50 at Forest Lake in December.
St. Francis, which tied for ninth in the North Suburban Conference, enters the postseason on a four-game losing streak.
Thursday’s winner plays at top-seeded Duluth East next Tuesday. The Greyhounds (18-8), ranked eighth in the state, earned a first-round bye.
The other half of the bracket pits second-seeded Blaine against seventh-seeded Cambridge-Isanti and third-seeded Anoka against sixth-seeded Andover. The section finals are set for next Friday at Elk River.
Cremisino hoped to land the third seed, noting the Rangers have the third-best record in the section. Anoka, though, won five of six to end the regular season.
Forest Lake improved to 11-14 with a 67-59 home win over White Bear Lake on Friday. Seniors Tyler Rosenberger and Jackson McDowell each scored 21 points to help the Rangers dig out of an 11-0 hole.
Forest Lake played zone defense throughout and forced 22 turnovers.
“We just stayed with what we thought was going to work, finally hit a shot and from there they started getting a little less patient with the ball,” Cremisino said.
The Rangers pulled ahead by halftime. The Bears regained the lead once early in the second half, but Rosenberger and sophomore Matt Degendorfer hit three-pointers on a key streak which put Forest Lake up for good.
The win tied the Rangers with East Ridge for seventh place in the Suburban East Conference at 6-12. Seventh-ranked Roseville defended its title by going 16-2 in league play.
Forest Lake’s second close loss of the season to Mounds View came on the road last Tuesday by a score of 51-48.
Anthony Tyler opened the scoring with a breakaway dunk and Forest Lake led 23-22 at the break. The Ranger zone bogged down the Mustang offense.
The lead changed hands throughout the second half. McDowell scored off an offensive rebound to put the Rangers up 39-38 with 3:30 to go. With the same score, Forest Lake held possession with just over one minute remaining. A turnover, however, led to a go-ahead jumper by Mustang senior guard Paul Kroska.
Kroska missed the front end of a one-and-one with 24 seconds left, giving Forest Lake one more chance. Rosenberger drove and drew a shooting foul with 3.8 seconds to go. He made the first free throw, but missed the second and the game went to overtime.
Mounds View hit two quick shots, and Forest Lake never came closer than two points again.
Rosenberger led the Rangers with 15 points and McDowell added 11.