Refueling strategy a familiar habit for Jeeps

 

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Northeast Dubois senior Emily Lueken, right, is one of three veteran senior starters for a Jeep team that opens the season ranked fourth in Class 1A after reaching the state finals two years ago and the regional championship last season. The Jeeps will begin the season Friday at home against Orleans in a stretch of four home contests in the first five games of the season.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

The Northeast Dubois girls basketball has danced this shuffle once or twice before.

Graduate a couple prolific players, plug those voids with able newcomers, win, repeat. The Jeeps have choreographed the steps practically to perfection, and it’s how 11 consecutive winning seasons and 11 straight sectional championships have been cataloged in Dubois.

So when Jeep coach Alan Matheis summarizes the task of replacing graduated 1,000-point scorer Nicole Dodd and fellow three-year starter Taylor Borden, he does so with a veneer of calm. The 13th-year coach sits comfortably in his office with one leg crossed over the other, describing how seniors Emily Lueken, Rachel Breitwieser and Haley Kinder form a capable cornerstone and listing seven players who await their shot to become part of the Jeep heritage. Maybe it’s his mellow persona or maybe it’s because his teams have accomplished it so many times before. But Matheis projects a sense of confidence that a solid returning nucleus plus a few newcomers to provide a trusty support system can equal something special once again in Dubois.

“When you lose some good people there and you’re going to come back and try to do something along that line, it’s sometimes pretty tough, unless you’ve got these new people coming up that will step up there and play with maturity. That’s kind of the key to this bunch,” said Matheis, whose team opens the season ranked fourth in Class 1A. “We’ve got a good nucleus in those three kids, we’ve just got to get some people to go around them that can play consistent and play with some maturity.”

That’s the expectation, though it’s not automatic.

There’s still work to do, Lueken emphasized as she referenced last week’s sometimes-shaky preseason scrimmage against Shoals. Lueken said the Jeeps were uncharacteristically fidgety, scared and nervous with the ball, causing a rash of turnovers when players weren’t prepared to meet passes. With the test run complete, Northeast Dubois is set to launch the season with four home contests in their first five games, starting with Friday’s visit from Orleans.

“Our scrimmage definitely made us realize that we have work to do, and we need to step up our game. Everyone needs to. And play as a team,” Lueken said. “I know we have the ability to go far, and if we work together, we can do that.”

Lueken and Breitwieser both started as sophomores on Northeast Dubois’ state runner-up team and again last year during a 21-3 campaign that eventual state runner-up Vincennes Rivet halted in the regional championship. Kinder (9.8 ppg) emerged as the second-leading scorer last season, and Matheis said the 5-foot-8 forward could be borrowed more on the perimeter this season to assist Lueken with handling the ball.

Lueken (8.2 ppg) blossomed into more of a scorer last season, and Matheis wants a few more points out of her and the rest of the cast to defray the loss of Dodd’s 20.3 points per contest. The Jeep coach also expects to get more from Breitwieser, who’s playing more relaxed and “coming a little more into her own this season,” he said. The 5-11 center brings back 6.7 ppg after setting a 1A state finals record with 17 rebounds as a sophomore. Matheis anticipates that athletic junior guard Brynn Hoffman (1.6 ppg) is also ready to score and handle the ball more this season.

Beyond that cluster of four veterans, auditions are open.

“What we need to do is get up to seven or eight pretty steady players, and we’ll be OK,” Matheis said.

The junior class offers guard Chloe Johnson plus two frontliners, 5-7 Morgan Seng and 5-9 Katelyn Helming. Seniors Taylor Bauer and Talia Terwiske could offer a dose of outside shooting. Same goes for Liz Huebner, a sophomore who’s coped with knee trouble the past few years but could work into varsity form as the season progresses.

Matheis indicated that the Jeeps may introduce some more zone defense, since they don’t wield the same quickness at all five positions as they did a year ago. But that’s OK. As usual, Matheis and his team are in no hurry.

“I’m one of those people that I believe in, I call it a tempo-type setup where you’re not pressing all the time, you’re not running up and down all the time, you’re playing at a pace where everybody on the team could possibly play at,” Matheis said. “Sure, we have some kids who could possibly play fast all the time, but we’ve got some kids that couldn’t do that. What we’ve got to do is figure out a speed where we’re all capable of being in that same mold and trying to develop the best team we can, and hopefully everybody can adjust to fit into the mold of what we’re working with.”

Northeast Dubois has already sampled appetizers of success, as Breitwieser ran on a semistate-qualifying cross country squad this fall while several other Jeeps starred on a volleyball team that captured 24 wins and climbed into the 1A rankings. No sooner had the sports calendar flipped to hoops did the Jeeps start to ponder big plans once again — and encounter expectations that seem to inflate a little more each year.

“We always say that we don’t want to be the team that loses sectional,” Lueken said. “Our fans are anxious to see how this year goes and I know we are, too. We’re ready to play and give our fans some more of what they want.”

Contact Brendan Perkins at bperkins@dcherald.com.




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