Feb. 10—SIDMAN — As Friday's boys basketball game at Forest Hills Junior-Senior High School was still in doubt, a stretch where neither the Rangers nor visiting Westmont Hilltop connected on a basket of any sort spanned over four minutes of the fourth quarter following a Koy McGough 3-pointer with 7:30 remaining.
The drought saw the Hilltoppers hoist 3-point attempts on every trip down the floor, oftentimes with multiple looks in the same possession.
Another bucket by McGough came with 3:15 remaining to break the cold spell and put the Rangers up by eight points as they eventually held on for a 57-48 win.
"Every time they shot a 3, I was thinking, 'This is going to be the time that they cut that lead down,' " Forest Hills coach Dom Vescovi said. "Luckily, we got rebounds when they missed."
Westmont Hilltop (16-5) had battled back from an early 9-0 run by the Rangers over the first two minutes of the game to draw even at 26-all by halftime. Trailing by three after the third quarter and then six after McGough's triple, the Hilltoppers' attempts to answer again didn't come to fruition.
"We got wide-open looks," Westmont Hilltop coach Dave Roman Jr. said. "Most times, we're going to knock them down. I don't know if it was the start that we had to battle so hard on defense, and Forest Hills makes you guard. They have four guys averaging double figures the last six games.
"They're scoring 75 points a game. They can score, so we had to expend a lot of energy to slow them down. I think that affected our shots for sure."
The victory — Forest Hills' fifth straight — allowed the hosts (17-4) to claim sole possession of second place in the District 6 Class 3A rankings, behind Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic. It also allowed the Rangers to avenge a 60-34 loss at Westmont Hilltop on Dec. 14.
The result also puts Chestnut Ridge in the driver's seat for the West-2 slot in the upcoming Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference tournament. The Lions, who pounded Bedford 90-62 on Friday, hold tiebreakers on the Rangers and Hilltoppers as they all sit with three losses in LHAC West play.
Matching physicality with Westmont Hilltop, while limiting the damage from the Hilltoppers in the post went a long way on Friday.
"I think earlier in the season, we were not all in basketball shape just coming off football season and not playing together much," Rangers senior Si McGough said after netting a game-high 17 points. "We really put it together throughout the season. Lockdown defense really helps. It's tough when (Hilltoppers freshman) Grant Craig scores 16, but when you shut down their bigs that are averaging 20 points per game, it's gonna be hard for them to win."
Forest Hills, thanks to a Koy McGough 3-pointer, two buckets from Brandon Gregovich and a steal-and-score layup from Si McGough, bounded out to a 9-0 lead before the Hilltoppers' Caden Miller answered with a 3. After scratching two points from the initial Rangers lead to end the first, the Hilltoppers used four points from Craig, another four from Noah Brownlee and a 3 by Miller to spark a 14-7 edge in second-quarter scoring, leveling things at 26 going into intermission.
A bucket from Craig gave the Hilltoppers a 28-26 lead, but was answered by baskets from Si McGough and Koy McGough to push the Rangers back in front. Si McGough then hit a stepback 3-pointer to raise the advantage to 33-28 before Craig answered with another shot from the floor.
Koy McGough then hit a stepback 3 of his own to open a personal 6-0 run to make it 39-30.
Buckets from Kevin Edmondson and Nathan Gabany in the closing minute of the third pushed Forest Hills to a 45-42 lead after three stanzas.
Koy McGough's 15 points followed Si McGough's leading point total, while Chase Williamson pitched in 10 points and nine rebounds. Gregovich added seven points of his own, while Dylan Stohon yanked down six boards.
The Hilltoppers' Jonathan Crocco had 15 points, eight during the nip-and-tuck third quarter, while also collecting 12 rebounds. Brownlee had six points and six boards with Miller also tallying six points.
Shawn Curtis is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5085. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnCurtis430.