Jeeps find fulfillment in regional exit

Photos by Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Tristan Linne reached up to pat Northeast Dubois teammate Cameron Riecker on the head as he spun the runner-up game ball on his finger after Saturday’s Class 1A regional championship at Loogootee’s Jack Butcher Arena. Riecker scored 17 points in the final game of his senior season as the Jeeps fell to top-ranked Barr-Reeve 69-60. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

LOOGOOTEE — One was more lasting, but twin celebrations unfolded at the final horn Saturday night.

The first belonged to Barr-Reeve, which looked every bit the part of Class 1A’s top-rated team in rumbling to its sixth regional title. But for a moment, the noisier burst came from the Northeast Dubois bench and crowd, even after a 69-60 setback to the Vikings short-circuited the longest Jeep trek into the postseason since 2001.

The eruption was for senior Bill Schepers, who had entered the game just moments earlier — after chants of “we want Bill” from the Jeep student section — and plucked a rebound, raced up the floor and slung up a shot from the right wing. And boom: off the glass and in.

For a moment, the swell of applause from the Jeep crowd drowned out the steady cheer from Viking supporters whose team had the regional crown comfortably in its crosshairs for the entire second half, leading from nine to 16 points the entire time. Still, the game’s final shot made Jeep coach Terry Friedman beam as he pumped his arms in the air a few times.

“Bill Schepers is just one of those kind of kids that he comes to practice every day, he’s never complained one minute about not playing. He works his tail off every day at practice. And good things happen to good kids,” Friedman said of Schepers, who had scored just seven points all season. “Everybody on the team was rooting for Bill Schepers, and for him to hit that last-second 3 there made our day. It was special.”

For Northeast Dubois, the unmistakable aura of pride overlapped with a season-ending defeat — not just for Schepers’ shot, but for an entire Jeep group that maxed out its ability with a run to the regional final and an end-of-season revival that lasted one more game thanks to a rally from 16 points down to shock Lanesville 55-53 in the afternoon semifinals Saturday.

“We lost, but we didn’t give (Barr-Reeve) the game,” said Northeast Dubois junior guard Jacob Gress, whose three 3-pointers and 17 points were both career-bests. “From the beginning of the season, we lost by (19 points) to Barr-Reeve. But looking back, we improved so much and can’t really be ashamed of how we played.”

Barr-Reeve (25-1) gained command behind what longtime Viking coach Bryan Hughes called “one of the best point guard performances in a long time” as Viking sophomore Logan James (who averages eight points a contest) struck for 29, supplemented by 20 points from Micah Bullock and 14 by Addison Wagler.

The Vikings buried 18-of-25 free throws in the final 6:06 and didn’t afford the Jeeps much of a window to scrap back into the game. Regardless, Northeast Dubois kept pace. The Jeeps put up 60 points; no other team had scored more than 53 all year on Barr-Reeve, which leads the state in defensive average, yielding less than 39 per contest to opponents entering Saturday’s final.

“That’s Dubois,” Hughes said. “(They’re) always a tough out.

“Once they got healthy (late in the season), they put on a roll and they played good basketball. I knew it was going to be a war.”

Northeast Dubois’ Tyler Haas, right, and Eric Dodson fought Addison Wagler for a rebound. Haas grabbed 25 rebounds in Saturday’s two games and broke the school’s career record for rebounds with 638.

The Jeeps’ familiar pacesetters ensured that in their final games.

Tyler Haas supplied 19 points, graduating second on the school’s all-time scoring list (1,096). And thanks to an extra game Saturday, Haas leaves as the program’s all-time leader in another category. After clutching 10 rebounds in the semifinals, Haas reeled in 15 more in the championship to finish with 638, breaking the prior mark of 636 set by Leon Wehr, a 1977 graduate and classmate of Friedman’s.

Cameron Riecker also closed down a prolific career, with his 17 points in the championship giving him a career total of 764. Irrespective of his team’s more visible exploits — a second straight sectional crown and six-game win spree en route to becoming one of the last eight teams remaining in 1A — Riecker realized he’ll recall something else about his final year of hoops.

“I’m going to remember my teammates more than anything,” said Riecker, repressing tears as he finished the thought. “I’ve given everything I have to give for this organization and for this town. ... It just feels like it’s too soon.”

Likewise, the farewell dredged up emotions for Friedman when he outlined the impact of his four seniors, including the other member of that group, Gage Knies.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be like coming to practice and coming to games without Cameron Riecker and Tyler Haas on the sideline. They’re both three-year starters for me, and they’re just great kids, they come to practice every day with a smile on their face; they leave practice with a smile on their face,” Friedman said. “They’re such great kids, and our whole senior class is that way. All four of them. They’re great leaders, and I’m going to miss them. This program’s going to miss them. They’ve made their mark for Northeast Dubois.”

And it reverberated with the Jeeps who remain.

“Just how great of teammates they were,” Gress said of what he’ll remember about the senior quartet. “They were the most unselfish teammates I’ve ever had. They’re great people, they’re smart, they always had a good time out there. They loved the sport, and they made it just a blast to play with (them).”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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