‘All-in’ Cats dominate in OT to win fifth straight

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Jasper’s Brooke Nottingham, center, celebrated with her teammates after the Wildcats defeated Gibson Southern 63-56 in overtime Tuesday evening. Nottingham scored four of her 12 points during the overtime period to lead Jasper to victory. The overtime win against the Titans marks back-to-back seasons where Jasper defeated Gibson Southern in extra time. For more photos from the game, click here.


JASPER — We’ve all been there before. You get near the end of a task, and suddenly come to the realization that the job is going to take a bit longer than you had initially anticipated.

This is the position the Jasper Wildcats found themselves in when they hosted the Gibson Southern Titans on Tuesday night. After four quarters of regulation, the score was all notched up at 51 and another four minutes of overtime play was needed to decide the victor. But the extra work did not dissuade the players.

“I was eager,” said sophomore guard Brooke Nottingham. “I was excited we got to play a little bit more.”
“We were ready to go, but we were a little nervous too,” added junior guard Kortney Ruhe.

Whatever nerves were present were quickly cast aside. The Wildcats jumped out with a 7-0 run, and got the necessary stops to seal the 63-56 victory over the Titans for their fifth win in a row.

Jasper coach Jessica Mehringer said that synergy amongst the team is flowing, and their bench is now fully healthy, which helps keep continuity should the starters find themselves in foul trouble. She also credited the team’s improved efforts in rebounding as another ingredient for the recent win streak. The Wildcats out rebounded the Titans 24-19 Tuesday night.

“I’m really proud of the kids,” Mehringer said. “They’re really locked in on what we need to do to beat teams. It’s fun when everyone is on the same page.”

The first quarter was a defensive affair with no team gaining a decisive edge. The Jasper girls produced two early blocks, including an in-paint swat from sophomore Meredith Hilgefort with about 15 seconds left. But Gibson Southern’s junior forward Tabatha Klem hit three shots from three-point land to help give Gibson Southern the early 11-8 lead at the end of the first.

Ruhe started to come alive for Jasper, scoring seven points for Jasper in the second quarter. The Wildcats were able to take their first lead of the game, 26-25, late in the second off a layup from junior forward Rachel Gress. But the Titans took back the lead, going into the break up 29-26.

Jasper’s Meredith Hilgefort picked up a loose ball before colliding with Gibson Southern’s Jordyn Graham in the second half of the Cats 63-56 overtime win. Hilgefort finished with eight points and nine rebounds. For more photos from the game, click here.

There was a combined nine instances of ties or lead changes over the course of the fourth quarter, until Ruhe tied the game at 51-all with about 40 seconds left to play.

“I was nervous, but I had confidence in my team,” said Ruhe when she talked about the shots she took to either tie the game or take the lead late in the contest. “I knew we could do it if we really wanted that W.”

Both teams were not able to use the final seconds to convert a basket, but it would not be any sweat off of Jasper’s brow. The Wildcats outscored the Titans 12-5 in the overtime period to secure the win.

Ruhe led Jasper with 22 points. Nottingham and sophomore forward Claire Knies each added another 12 in the winning effort.

“I feel like we’re just all coming together and playing together for once,” Knies said. “It doesn’t matter who’s out there.”

Klem scored a game-high 25 points for Gibson Southern, which including five three pointers. Sophomore forward Meredith Raley chipped in another 11 points for the Titans.

While she was pleased with the win, the one thing that stood out to Mehringer as an area of improvement was the Wildcats’ time management toward the end of the game. She wants to get them to a point where they slow down the pace of play if they have a lead late in games, instead of pushing and potentially creating more possessions for the opponent, which could bite them in closer contests in the future.

“Both teams really didn’t do a good job of clock management late,” she said. “Our kids want to push and when you have the lead late, you want to make sure you get the last possession. We kind of pushed it a little bit there when (we) would prefer they play it smart and maintain our possession, or get fouled and hit free throws.”

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