Rangers continue to go down to the wire
Chalk up two more buzzer-beater finishes for the Forest Lake boys’ basketball team, which closed regular-season play last week.
The Rangers held off Mounds View at home last Tuesday, 56-55, then fell by one on the road to White Bear Lake, 77-76, on Friday.
Forest Lake battled back-and-forth all game against the Mustangs. Mounds View picked up the pace to take an eight-point lead at the beginning of the second half, 31-23.
Junior Matt Degendorfer started a Ranger offensive rally with a three-pointer from the top of the key to close the gap to five at 31-26. Sophomore Connor Knutson, senior Noah Davis and senior Andrew Wright all then contributed to keep Forest Lake in a one-possession ball game at 41-39.
The Rangers came up with some big shots in the second half from Davis and senior Brock Baumgartner, and despite team struggles at the foul line (8-20 overall and 2-10 down the stretch) gained a 56-53 lead heading into the final 30 seconds.
Following a Forest Lake foul, the Mustangs sank two free throws to make it a one-point game at 56-55 with 24 seconds remaining.
The Rangers were fouled but unable to convert on the line, giving Mounds View possession of the ball with just 13 seconds to go. The visiting team called a timeout at nine seconds. After inbounding from the sideline, a potential game-winning, 15-foot jumper missed the mark.
The victory marked improvement for the Rangers after losing to Mounds View in January by 24 points.
Davis led Forest Lake with 22 points, followed by Wright and Baumgartner with nine points. Degendorfer contributed eight. Davis also tied the single-season record for three-pointers with 84 on the year. The record was previously set in 2011 by Phil Hegseth.
Head coach Dan Cremisino said the boys were relieved after the game.
“I think everyone just said ‘it’s about time’,” Cremisino said. “It’s like you almost expect the other team’s prayer shot at the end of the game to be answered and have that bounce go their way.”
Unfortunately for the Rangers, that’s what happened in the one-point loss to White Bear Lake on Friday.
The close game came down to a last attempt by Davis off a pass from Baumgartner with about a minute to go in the game.
The bounce went to the Bears again, as it did in the first matchup of the season where the Rangers lost by five points.
“It was another one that went down to the last shot,” Cremisino said. “It was really a fun game to watch and we had a good opportunity to win.”
Davis led the Rangers with 21 points, followed by Degendorfer with 16 and Knutson with 14. Davis broke the single-season three-point record and set the new standard at 87.
White Bear Lake finished its regular season with an overall record of 17-9 and was fourth in the Suburban East Conference at 12-6 behind No. 5 Woodbury (15-3), No. 10 Roseville (15-3) and Stillwater (13-5).
Forest Lake finished eighth in the SEC with a conference record of 6-12 and went 10-16 overall.
The Rangers earned the No. 3 seed in the section behind top-seeded St. Francis (17-9) and second-seeded Duluth East (14-12). The Rangers face Cambridge-Isanti (7-19) at home at 7 p.m. tonight, March 7 in the first round of the Section 7AAAA tournament. The winner will play in the semifinals at 8 p.m. next Monday in North Branch.
The parity of the section this season has Cremisino excited.
“From the top to the bottom of the section, there’s really not a standout team except maybe St. Francis,” Cremisino said. “We’ve proved that we can play with anyone and if we play our best and get a couple breaks, we have a good chance at winning this thing.”