By JASON EPP
When good teams compete, it is often the fundamentals that are the deciding factor in winning or losing. There were plenty of amazing, athletic plays from these two athletic teams to wow the crowd. But the No.2 Forgan Bulldogs won by winning the fundamentals of defense, rebounding, and free throw shooting to defeat Beaver County rivals, No. 12 Turpin 67-47.
“I was very impressed,” said Forgan coach Todd Kerr. “We played really well. The second half, that’s the best half of basketball we’ve played all season without a doubt, because Turpin is the best team we’ve played all season.”
Turpin Cardinal coach Gary Wallace knew it was the little things that let this game get out of hand.
“The difference in the game was the little things,” said Wallace. “They did the little things better than we did. They played more as a team than we did, and we got stuck with some people holding the ball too much, and we didn’t get it rotated enough. To me, we didn’t play together enough. We need more people touching the ball - that’s how we play, and they did it better than we did.”
Early in the game foul trouble looked like it might derail the Bulldogs game plan. Ryan Radcliff was called for his second foul after only 1:15 of play. Tanner Jones also picked up his second foul midway through the first quarter, after Forgan had taken a 7-0 lead. Turpin’s Keifer Hood saw his first action of the season after recovering from a knee injury that kept him off the court for the first semester. Keifer Hood (15 points, 5-of-9 from 3-point range) cut Forgan’s lead to two with his first basket of the season, a three with three minutes left in the first quarter.
Foul trouble continued to be a concern when Rhett Radcliff picked up his second just over a minute into the second quarter, and Ryan Radcliff (9 points), and Jones each got their third fouls before the half. It gave Coach Kerr his only negative critique of his team for the night.
“We had some guys get some fouls that were avoidable, and it limited their minutes some,” said Kerr. “We are going to have to find a way to limit those avoidable fouls. Some fouls you are going to get with hustle and getting after it, but we got some silly ones.”
But Turpin was unable to put Forgan at a disadvantage in the second half with foul trouble which left Cardinal Coach Gary Wallace confounded with his team’s play.
“Opening up, we did a good job getting the ball inside and got a lot of fouls,” said Wallace. “For some reason we went away from that. I don’t know why, but we did. Its not like I called something to go away from that I don’t know why but for some reason we were settling for stuff we don’t normally settle for.”
Rhett Radcliff (25 points on 7-of-12 shooting) scored 12 straight during a first half stretch to keep the Bulldogs going offensively. Turpin tied the game four times in the second quarter, but were never able to take a lead. Back-to-back threes by Jake Regier (18 points, including five threes) and Matt Morris (5 points) gave the Bulldogs a 28-22 lead at the half. Turpin finished the first half 0-for-10 from the charity stripe.
Forgan’s rebounding advantage really started to show to begin the second half when the Bulldogs first ten points were all second chance points, including one possession with six offensive rebounds.
“I just love my bangers down there,” said Coach Kerr. “Those guys, (Tyler) McReynolds, (Tayler) Eagan, and (Tanner) Jones - those guys just get in there and do the dirty work, and don’t get a lot of credit from anybody, but we definitely know what they do.”
Forgan’s rebounding ability is not lost on Coach Wallace either.
“They crash (the boards) better than any team we’ve ever played,” said Wallace. “They always have four guys who flat go get it (rebounds).”
Forgan was able to build some cushion with a 12-5 run to take the lead to double-digits, at 40-29 midway through the third. After three Forgan led 48-37. Konner Hood (14 points, 7-of-10 from the field) helped keep Turpin within striking distance despite struggling mightily from the free throw line (0-of-9).
But the Bulldogs put the game out of reach with an 11-0 run to start the fourth that increased their lead to 22, and the Cardinals were unable to recover. Aaron Kuns (6 points) was able to end the Cardinals bleeding when he hit two free throws with 5:01 left in the game. It was Turpin’s first made free throws of the game. Turpin was an abysmal 2-of-14 from the line for the game.
Gary Wallace knows his team has a lot of room for improvement, but knows they have great potential.
“Offensively we looked sluggish, looked like we haven’t played in two weeks. Keifer (Hood) coming in he looked all right at times, but we’re just not used to playing with him again.”
And while Todd Kerr’s team is playing well, his focus on what wins games is unchanged.
“We preach every day that the things that define us (are): the way we defend and the way we rebound, that’s it. If we will defend and rebound the way we are capable of, we’ll have opportunities to win. Those are the two things we hang our hat on.”
These two teams could be on a collision course to meet again Saturday, as both will be taking part in the Oiltown Classic in Woodward. In the first round Thursday, Forgan will take on Sharon-Mutual at 11:30 a. m. Turpin will take on Canton at 8:30 p. m.