Ranger boys’ last heartbreaker still stings

True to their nailbiting season, the Forest Lake boys’ basketball team kept fans attending the Section 7AAAA final jumping out of their seats down to the last minute last Friday night in North Branch.

Forest Lake fans left disappointed, as their boys fell 41-37 to Andover after scoring just nine points in the second half.

The Rangers started with a spark, leading over the Huskies 20-4 in the first half. They also led 25-9 while Andover struggled to start their offensive against Forest Lake’s 1-3-1 zone defense that featured junior Matt Degendorfer up top, senior Anthony Tyler and sophomore Connor Knutson on the wings, senior Noah Davis in the middle and senior Brock Baumgartner running the baseline.

Andover found its rhythm soon enough, penetrating the lane twice with a teardrop shot and layup to close the gap at 12 points, 25-13.

Head coach Dan Cremisino called a time out, but his squad was unable to maintain control of the ball in the possessions following.

Three turnovers in a row left Forest Lake with just a six-point lead at 25-19 with less than a minute to play in the first half.

With 16 seconds remaining, Taylor Gullikson brought the ball upcourt and passed to Davis, who hit a long-range three-pointer in the final seconds to put the lead back at 28-19 for the Rangers heading into the break.

The low-scoring game continued after the break, but this time it was Forest Lake who struggled.

Andover went on a 14-3 scoring run and took its first lead of the night at 33-31 when junior guard Connor Wilkie hit a three-pointer from the wing.

Davis answered with a pull-up jumper in the lane to tie it at 33 with less than six minutes remaining.

Wilkie hit another long shot for the Huskies, who followed a Ranger turnover with a layup to go up five.

Davis tried to respond again with a three-pointer, but missed.

Knutson grabbed the rebound and scored the putback to close the gap to 38-35.

Knutson again gave the Rangers hope by passing to a cutting Tyler on the left side for a lay-in, bringing their squad within one at 38-37 with 2:45 to go.

The scoring stopped there for Forest Lake, however, and despite several long-range attempts, Andover sealed the game with a layup and free throw, winning by four.

Head coach Dan Cremisino said this week he is still finding the loss hard to handle.

“First and foremost, it was disappointing,” Cremisino said. “We all felt we had a chance to go to state and really thought we would have the state trip. We just didn’t hit our shots. It’s tough to swallow.”

Cremisino said the numbers that Forest Lake put up in the second half were some of the worst he’d seen historically, but Andover was struggling too. The Rangers hit just 15 percent from the field in the second half and 26 percent overall while the Huskies made 30 percent of their shots. Andover had 18 turnovers and Forest Lake had 14. The Huskies took advantage of their position under the boards though, and grabbed 10 more rebounds than the Rangers with 44 on the night.

“It got pretty raggedy there,” Cremisino said. “It was gradual too. We started out executing very well and it just slowly got away from us.”

Knutson led the scoring with 12 points, followed by Davis and Degendorfer with nine and eight, respectively. Tyler recorded four points, while senior Wyatt Lawson contributed three.

Davis earned spots in the top 10 in school records across the categories this season: He is first in single-season three-pointers with 93, second in single-season points with 572, third in career three-pointers with 131, fifth in single-game scoring with 36 points, eighth in free throw percentage at 80.5 and eighth in all-time scoring with 883 points.

“Noah did a nice job of carrying us this season when we needed it,”

Cremisino said. “He played great all year and had a historic season.”
Other Rangers to place in the top 10 include Tyler as fourth overall in career blocks with 28 and eighth overall in steals with 85.

Degendorfer also made the cut as a junior as seventh in single-season three pointers with 62.

Forest Lake finished the year as section runner-ups with a record of 12-17 overall, but finished the second half of the season strong with a record of 7-5.

Cremisino said the squad’s strength this year was never giving up.

“They just kept coming back after losing some really heartbreaking games,” Cremisino said. “They worked hard to get better in practice every day— this was a quality team.”