Off-aim Jeeps remain on mission for confidence

Ariana van den Akker/The Herald
Northeast Dubois’ Rachel Breitwieser and Paoli’s Olivia Brewster reached for a rebound Tuesday in Dubois, where the Class 2A No. 9 Rams nipped the Class 1A No. 7 Jeeps 45-41 in overtime. Breitwieser totaled 14 points and 13 rebounds while Brewster buried seven 3-pointers en route to 23 points. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

DUBOIS — Somehow, it turned into more than a 24-hour bug.

When the Northeast Dubois girls basketball team waded through a forgettable night of shooting Saturday against Heritage Hills, making just 23 percent of its shots, it had the feel of just one of those nights the Jeeps suffered through and could promptly forget about. Only the infection of shaky shooting didn’t go anywhere.

The horde of missed shots again came by the dozens — many times landing short or sometimes veering away from the rim altogether — and undercut the Jeeps’ chances in an intersection between ranked squads Tuesday night. Class 2A No. 9 Paoli skipped Dubois with a 45-41 overtime escape of the Class 1A No. 7 Jeeps, who labored through their second straight game of shooting 4-of-29 in the opening half and watched their overall percentage dip further, down to 22 percent.

When it comes time to diagnose the issue, though, Jeep coach Alan Matheis probed past the surface of the frightful percentages. Wayward shooting isn’t the chief affliction, he said. It’s just a symptom.

“It looks like shooting has been our main problem, but it’s still the development of  our team, everybody’s got (to find) this confidence that it takes to be a good team, and we’re just a ways away from that yet,” Matheis said. “This group is working hard and I figure that in time, they’ll get there. But they’re not there yet.”

Matheis knows the Jeeps harbor a capacity for accuracy, since they shot 40 percent from the floor in winning their first two games of the season. Northeast Dubois trudged through 14-of-64 from the field Tuesday, and for the Jeeps, the vexing thing is how an entire team can struggle while one player can make shooting look so simple.

In accumulating 23 points, Paoli’s Olivia Brewster needed just 10 field goal tries and didn’t attempt a free throw. The junior lefty was 7-of-8 from 3-point range, most of which rippled the cords in clean swishes. Her final bomb of the night equipped the Rams (3-0) with a 42-38 edge they sustained through the final 21⁄2 minutes of overtime.

Northeast Dubois (2-2) assumed its final lead of the night with 4:38 left in regulation, when Brynn Hoffman dished the last of her four assists to Chloe Johnson for a short give-and-go jumper. From there, the Jeeps misfired on 12 of their final 13 field goal attempts, including a 3-point try at the regulation horn.

“We’re just kind of getting into the groove yet,” said Jeep senior Haley Kinder, who totaled 11 points. “Hopefully, it’ll get better.”

Matheis’ first solution for a fix? Slow down.

“There’s got to be a speed where you’re more productive, and we haven’t been productive on the offense yet like we should be,” Matheis said.

“The other thing we might be doing is playing a little faster than what we need to be playing. Sometimes a team has an idea in mind that they’re open, they’re ready to shoot a shot, and we’re really not in a rhythm of offense, and it’s maybe not their shot they ought to be shooting. That’s something we might have to look at, too, is being more patient. And the second half, we were patient.”

That, and some of the Jeeps’ redeeming qualities, allowed them to blot out a 24-15 halftime debt. When shots weren’t falling, Rachel Breitwieser was still rebounding, Chloe Johnson maintained her hustle and Emily Lueken was still a defensive menace.

Lueken landed nine points and four assists, and after nabbing five early steals at the apex of the Jeeps’ 1-2-2 zone, she shadowed Brewster in the second half and limited her to four field goal attempts.

Meanwhile, Breitwieser reaffirmed a familiar idea: that the senior center who oft finds foul trouble is mighty valuable when she stays on the floor. Tagged with her third foul a minute into the second half, Breitwieser remained on the floor, churned out nine second-half points and concluded with sums of 14 points, 13 rebounds, four blocked shots and two steals.

Nine of Breitwieser’s boards followed Jeep misses, and Northeast Dubois gathered 23 offensive rebounds in total. The Jeeps squeezed just 11 points out of all the second chances. Ironing out the offense just takes time, explained Johnson, who still dabbed at her bleeding chin after the game following a dive for the ball at the outset of overtime.

“It is a little frustrating because we’ve been in so many close games, but it’s just a matter of figuring out how to work as a team and work together and get our (zone defenses) to work, and I think once that happens, we’ll be fine,” Johnson said.

“We’re working on a lot of shooting drills in practice, and I think it’s just a matter of finding the groove that we need to be in. Once we hit that, we’ll be like every other year, we’ll be unstoppable. It’s just we need to find the groove and find the right people we need to pass it to at the right time to be able to score.”

The good news, Matheis emphasized: There’s plenty of season left for the Jeeps to repair their aim. For a team that hadn’t lost back-to-back games in the last two seasons, the 22 percent shooting nights can’t last forever — right?

“We haven’t hit the panic button yet, I can tell you that,” Matheis said. “But we’d like to see a little better progress there against some good teams.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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