All-around effort leads Cats past RangersJanuary 3, 2019
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
JASPER — With a starter out due to injury and a few players dealing with foul trouble, the Jasper girls basketball team looked to the bench for an early spark.
Sophomore forward Emma Shelton was the first substitute called on for the Cats and she made noise early, scoring 10 of her career-high 12 points in the first half of Jasper’s 62-43 victory over county rival Forest Park on Thursday night. With the victory, Jasper has now won 10 straight games.
Getting in an early rhythm helped Shelton feel good right away and it carried over to the rest of the team.
“It just gives me that confidence. Being as young as I am, I know I might not have as many minutes so I want to take advantage of what I have,” Shelton said. “I know what I have to do my help team — I just have to always know what my role is.”
Shelton wasn’t the only role player to have a solid night for the Wildcats.
Guard Lexie Jerger performed well at the point guard position while starter Brooke Nottingham was on the bench, forward Riley Merder grabbed a pair of rebounds and senior forward/center Rachel Gress added four points and a pair of assists in her second consecutive game in the starting lineup with Meredith Hilgefort out due to injury.
“Emma stepped up in a big way, got open in the right spots and made great catches which led to good looks for her. She had one of her smartest games offensively,” Jasper head coach Jessica Mehringer said. “I’m really proud of the kids that took advantage of the opportunities they got, we know they’re ready to go when their number gets called.”
While the final score may look as if Jasper dominated, the game was actually a back-and-forth affair for the majority of the first three quarters.
Jasper (11-4) opened the game with a 12-3 start thanks to six quick points from Nottingham but Forest Park (8-10) scored the final four points of the quarter via Macie Zink to trim the lead to 12-7 at the end of the opening stanza.
Once again, Jasper opened up the second quarter with a quick start as they jumped out to a 21-9 lead as Shelton started to get going. But the Rangers wouldn’t go away — shots from Faith Zazzetti, Kenlee Gehlhausen, Amber Theising and an and-one bucket from Brooke Haug helped Forest Park end the half on a 8-0 run as the Cats led 26-22 at the break.
The Rangers were able to end the half on a high note thanks to some big offensive rebounds. Forest Park head coach Tony Hasenour believed that was one of the biggest keys of the night.
“Jasper has size and strength but we were very pleased with what we did on the inside,” Hasenour said. “We need everybody rebounding and taking care of the ball if we want to do what we want to do.”
The third quarter was extremely back-and-forth with Forest Park trimming Jasper’s lead to as little as two points three times early in the quarter. But while the Rangers ended both the first and second quarters on big runs, this time it was Jasper. Nottingham, Merder and Riley Egbert helped stretch Jasper’s lead back up to eight to end the third period.
Things started to unravel for Forest Park in the fourth quarter. They were able to keep the point differential around eight to ten points early in the quarter but Jasper’s 9-0 run late made it 60-41 and ended any chance of a Ranger comeback.
Brooke Nottingham led Jasper with 19 while Emma Shelton added 12 and Claire Knies finished with 11. Faith Zazzetti led Forest Park with 17 points.
For Forest Park, the 20 turnovers and missed opportunities late doomed a potential upset over a county rival. It was a little frustrating for Hasenour because he believes it’s something that the Rangers have struggled with throughout the season.
“It’s something we’ve been trying to address and we’ve got to get better at it,” Hasenour said. “We get in these spurts where we have two or three turnovers in a row and that just kill us. It went from an eight-point game to a 15-point game in a blink of an eye and you don’t even know what hit you.”
Jasper has a tough stretch of games coming up against tough opponents such as Evansville Mater Dei, Gibson Southern and Jeffersonville. While their win streak sits at 10 games, they know they can’t overthink things too much with a gauntlet of opponents heading their way.
“After each game we talk about things we did well and what we need to work on and I think keeping the focus on those small things gets our mind off of that big, looming thing,” Mehringer said.
For Shelton, it’s simple: “Just keep going back to work — we have to take it day-by-day.”
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