New Knoxville catches fire in first half, holds off No. 8 Fort Recovery

FORT RECOVERY — For a quarter, the New Knoxville Rangers couldn’t miss.

New Knoxville hit seven of eight 3-pointers in the first quarter, built a 21-point first-half lead and then staved off state-ranked Fort Recovery’s desperate comeback in the fourth quarter to earn a 65-62 win at the Fort Site Gymnasium on Friday night.

Fort Recovery’s Elijah Kahlig’s 3-pointer at the buzzer caromed off and New Knoxville celebrated near mid-court.

New Knoxville at Fort Recovery Boys Basketball Photos

New Knoxville senior Jake Allen, who scored a game-high 25 points, said it’s the team’s biggest win of the season.

“It meant a lot, because we just wanted this whole year one game where we could show our toughness and measure where we were at,” Allen said. “To come in here and in a pretty tough enviroment and to win like that, it’s pretty cool.”

Eighth-ranked Fort Recovery, meanwhile, couldn’t make anything at the free throw line, as the Indians saw their hopes of a Midwest Athletic Conference frittered away by their inability to hit uncontested 15-foot shots on their home floor.

Fort Recovery went 13-of-31 from the free throw line, as the sizable crowd in the Fort Site Gymnasium let out a guttural “oh!” with the mounting misses at the free throw line. Defending MAC player of the year Wade Gelhaus went 3-for-13 at the charity stripe, despite scoring 19 points on the night.

“You can’t shoot 46 percent from the floor and shoot 41 percent form the free throw line,” Fort Recovery head coach Brian Patch said.

The Rangers had their four-guard system clicking in the first half. New Knoxville went 7-of-8 from 3-point range in the first quarter and were 9-for-11 from the floor. From 3-point range in the first quarter Allen was 2-for-2, Ryan Lageman was 2-for-3 and Andrew Arnett, Isaac Kuntz and Adam Howe each hit the 3-pointer they attempted in the game’s first eight minutes.

“They live and die by that three-point line and tonight it was all feast. and not too many spells of famine,” Fort Recovery head coach Brian Patch said.

New Knoxville led 25-8 after one quarter.

“We have some good shooters on this team,” Allen said. “We had confidence, so we were going to keep shooting them.”

The win quickly erased the memory of a close call against MAC cellar-dwellar Parkway and a 44-43 eking past Lima Temple Christian last Saturday night. Suddenly the Rangers have won four straight and are 10-8.

“We didn’t show it for two games last week, but in practice we’ve been shooting the ball better,” New Knoxville head coach Kort Fledderjohann said. “I credit our guys. When we came out, our ball movement and getting into the middle, kicking and hitting the extra guy and letting him knock down the shot was excellent.”

New Knoxville finished the game 9-of-14 from long distance.

The Rangers’ lead swelled to 21 points when Allen made back-to-back baskets to start the second quarter to make it 29-8. It was a high-water mark for the Rangers’ lead, which would be maintained between 13 and 17 points for most of the next two and half quarters.

The Rangers led 37-20 at the half.

“You just can’t get that far behind to a team that shoots it as well as New Knoxville was shooting it tonight,” Patch said.

“In the first half, our defense just wasn’t very good.”

The lead was still a comfy 48-32 advantage heading into the fourth quarter, but Fort Recovery added full-court defensive pressure and Wade Gelhaus and Elijah Kahlig both began to attack the rim on the offensive end.

“They’re a great team. They’ve got two of the best players in the league with Gelhaus and Kahlig and the game’s never over with those two,” Fledderjohann said. “You saw down the stretch when they wanted to get to the basket, they got to the basket and we didn’t have an answer for it.”

Kahlig scored a team-high 23 points, almost single-handedly bringing the Indians back in the final minute.

“We knew they were going to make a run, so it was just about stopping them to the best of our ability,” Allen said.

After New Knoxville’s Shane Topp hit two free throws to put the Rangers up 62-57 with 25.7 seconds left, Kahlig hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

Jake Allen knocked down one of two free throws with 15 seconds left to put the Rangers up 63-60, before Kahlig grabbed the rebound and was fouled just past the time line by Andrew Arnett.

“I wanted him to foul. I don’t know if Andrew wanted to,” Fledderjohann said with a grin. “Fouling 35 feet from the basket, I wish he’d waited another four seconds, but it worked in our favor.”

Allen then made two more free throws to put the Rangers up 65-62, setting up Kahlig’s jumper at the buzzer that bounced off the left side of the iron to end the game.

The early success from outside didn’t become fool’s gold for the Rangers, even though Fledderjohann said he would’ve been okay with his team attempting more than the two treys the Rangers put up in the second half. New Knoxville went 10-for-20 from inside the arc.

“We can’t get open shots unless we can get it in the paint and go inside-outside,” Fledderjohann said. “I credit Fort Recovery because in the second half they picked up the defensive intensity and trapped and we had some trouble scoring on it late third and early fourth quarters. Thankfully we then got to the line.”

New Knoxville went 18-of-25 (72 percent) from the free throw line.