FERDINAND — Being handed takeaways is one thing, punishing the opposition by turning them into points is another.
While Pike Central had several unforced errors in the opening quarter on Thursday, it was the execution in the open floor from tipoff that put Forest Park in command.
The Rangers posted their first win in more than a month 63-39 in Buechler Arena.
“It was important for our confidence,” coach David Welp said. “I think these games that we’ve played in December are going to help prepare us for the long run. It was just good to get back on the win column against a team that is a solid team. Pike Central can give teams fits. I thought our guys came out from the get-go. They really were focused and ready to execute and do their job.”
Forest Park (2-5, 1-1) came in losers of five in a row. Three of those came by a combined nine points.
The last time the Rangers lost five in a row was the middle of 2012-13 with former coach Nate Hawkins, now at Heritage Hills.
Their previous win was the opener against Crawford County.
Senior Drew Howard made sure that number doubled with assertiveness from the jump. He went 3-for-5 in the first quarter with three steals, but more impressive was his basketball IQ on the break.
“I tried to just start off hot for me and the team,” Howard said. “Just start scoring and playing good defense, getting my teammates involved is key because I’ve got some young guys obviously, playing, get some confidence up for them. Me scoring and them getting buckets, and me facilitating is good for them too.”
Howard dropped 27 points to bring his career total to 1,197 and a season average of 25.1. He’s No. 5 in the Rangers record book.
On numerous instances in the first, he picked his spots to quickly move the ball into the frontcourt or throw passes from beyond halfcourt for simple finishes. He had three assists in the quarter.
His steal and push to the rim for free throws, 14 seconds into the game, was a sign of dominance to come from the Rangers.
It wasn’t until 1:29 left in the first frame that Pike recorded its opening bucket.
In the second quarter, the Rangers’ largest edge was 27 points at 33-6.
The Chargers never posed a threat to climb back into the game.
Sophomore Reid Howard ran the point duties with the first team. For much of the second through fourth quarter reserves were in the game. He finished with nine points. Senior Cooper Uebelhor earned a start and contributed nine points.
He had a sound effort on defense contesting shots, pulling in rebounds and taking charges.
On Friday, the Rangers are scheduled to travel to Mt. Vernon.