Attacking Cats muscle up for first win

Ariana van den Akker/The Herald
Jasper’s Nicolette Eckert, right, watched as Brooke Lueken carried Emily Jones off the court after the Wildcats captured their first win of the season Saturday night at the Jasper High School gym. Jones provided seven points to help the Cats stop Evansville Memorial 47-39. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

JASPER — In a way, Brooke Lueken had prepared for this type of game for the last three seasons. And maybe not for quite as long, but so too had Katelyn Hedinger.

So as the Jasper senior (Lueken) and sophomore (Hedinger) substituted for one another eight times in the final 2:37 of the Wildcats’ tangle with Evansville Memorial on Saturday at the Jasper High School gym, it came as no surprise that their production never skipped a beat.

Hedinger

Along with securely handling the ball against the Tigers’ full-court pressure, Hedinger deposited the last of her seven points on a fastbreak hoop with a tick less than two minutes to play immediately after replacing Lueken. Three substitutions later, Lueken jumped into a passing lane for her fifth steal of the contest. And after the players swapped another three times, Jasper held on to a 47-39 victory the Tigers didn’t concede until the very end.

And while the Wildcats (1-2) snatched their first win with offensive gusto from Tori Sermersheim — back from an illness that prompted a scoreless night a week earlier against Southridge — and Maddie Ubelhor, who each furnished 14 points, their success was derived from a cast far deeper than two pairs of hot hands.

With Lueken, the task was tall. Literally. Wildcat coach Ryan Erny assigned Lueken to contend with 6-foot-3 Memorial center Emily Sullivan, who enjoyed a 7-inch advantage over the Wildcat forward. No matter. Lueken had played the part too many times before to shy away.

“I’ve always been that person who wasn’t really good at shooting on the outside, so I always had to guard people that were usually inside players, which are usually tall people. And I never got that tall,” Lueken said. “And even in past years, I had to guard (2012 graduate) Megan Sternberg whenever she was in (at practice). (And 2013 graduate) Shelby Merder at 6-foot-3. ... I understand, like, ”˜Oh, I really have to be physically aggressive with them because they have their height.’ So they use their height to their advantage, but I’m strong, so I can use my strength to my advantage.”

Saturday, it was strength over length.

Lueken crippled Sullivan for much of the night, yielding just four points and four rebounds to the sophomore who remained sidelined with first-half foul trouble largely because of Lueken’s box-out precision, Erny said.

And entering the contest, that was exactly what the Wildcat coach preached about a Tiger squad that had drubbed Boonville by 28 points the prior evening: relentless rebounding on both ends of the floor.

So after his squad split 25 boards apiece with the Tigers (1-1), who recovered just three offensive rebounds in the second half, Erny justifiably dubbed the effort as “one of our best block-out jobs that we have done in a long time.”

Sermersheim and Ubelhor also led the Cats in boards, each grabbing six.

With Memorial’s vexing pressure that forced Jasper into 22 turnovers, the contest’s pace hardly slowed despite Jasper maintaining at least an eight-point cushion through the final 2 1⁄2 minutes.

And even with the blunders (Memorial committed 24 turnovers), Erny instead emphasized how the Wildcats coughed the ball up. While they had been hesitant at times in the Southridge loss, the Cats “attacked the press and ... were more aggressive,” Erny said. “You’re going to have some turnovers when you’re attacking, and I thought we did a much better job tonight of that.”

The Wildcats attempted just five 3-pointers and made two. Meanwhile, they shot 43 percent from the field (16-of-37) after entering the contest connecting on just 30 percent in their two losses, largely because their post-entry passing was “absolutely phenomenal,” Erny said. “Night and day difference from when we played Southridge.”

Again, Sermersheim best exemplified the notion, connecting on 6-of-8 field goals, many from around the basket — like her baseline drive with 1:21 left in the third quarter that gave Jasper its second-largest lead of the game at 32-20. But right along with the senior was her frontcourt counterpart Hedinger, who converted both her field goal attempts and drained 3-of-4 free throws.

“You just try to have confidence,” said an all-business Hedinger, playing in just her second varsity game this season. “You just try to do your best with the situation.”

Hedinger entered to score Jasper’s final four points of the first half, swooping in for a baseline layup and then knocking down a pair of free throws with 27.9 seconds left to give Jasper a 25-13 edge.

Altogether, the Cats converted 13-of-17 free throws, including 6-of-7 in the last 2:37, another ingredient Erny highlighted in the Cats’ capacity to finish. And just like Lueken’s offerings (four rebounds, five steals) without scoring a point, Erny also underlined the play of Elisabeth Ahlbrand (four points) and Nicolette Eckert. Ahlbrand limited the open looks Memorial’s leading scorer Stephanie Sherwood (13 points) received after the junior bagged 26 points Friday. And with Eckert, “Yeah, she didn’t score but she harassed (Tiger guard Allie Murphy),” Erny said. “Nicolette played her to a T.

“So that is a step in the right direction. We got better tonight. We learned from that loss (to Southridge),” Erny added. “And that’s what this early part of the season (is about): Learn from those losses. And tonight, I thought we did and we got better.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.




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