Balance, defense carry Cats to opening victory

Photos by Nic Antaya/The Herald
Jasper’s Josh Weidenbenner and Evansville Harrison’s D.J. Mitchell dive for the ball during Tuesday’s boys basketball game in Jasper that saw the Wildcats claw past the Warriors in their season opener, 73-60. While Jasper was victorious by double-digits, it wasn’t all easy for the Cats as they had to fight their way back from an early deficit. However, they managed to play a solid final three quarters to power their way to victory. For more photos from Tuesday night's game, click here.


JASPER – There’s a saying that goes along the lines of “teamwork makes the dream work” and on Tuesday night the Jasper boys basketball team followed the example of said phrase.

The Wildcats had four players score in double-figures as they made sure to pass the ball around and find the open man in their 73-60 home opening night victory over Evansville Harrison.

“If we have multiple guys that can score then it’s hard to stop all of us,” said Jasper junior Jackson Kabrick who led the Cats with 23 points. “If everyone is having an impact on the team then you can’t really do anything about it.”

Jasper head coach John Goebel added: “Having multiple guys that can score is great but having the mentality to share the ball, those two things have to go together. I didn’t seen anybody with the mentality that it had to be all about them and if we have that team mentality, then we can be successful.”

While things ended pretty for the Wildcats, they didn’t start that way. Jasper (1-0) and Evansville Harrison (0-1) traded buckets for most of the first quarter with the Warriors even stretching their lead to as many as nine points with a bucket from Jason Williams Jr. at the 1:45 mark to make it 26-17. The Cats scored the final five points of the quarter thanks to two consecutive buckets from Elliott Hopf but they still trailed by five points entering the second quarter.

However, the second quarter was a complete overhaul for Jasper’s defense. While the Cats gave up a lot of buckets in transition to start the game, the defense locked down in the second quarter which in turn led to plenty of offensive opportunities. Jasper took the lead at the 6:14 mark on a Josh Weidenbenner three-point basket and never looked back from there as they wouldn’t trail again. The Cats outscored the Warriors 20-5 in the second period and it turned out to be a major factor the rest of the game as Jasper held a 41-31 advantage.

“In the first quarter we just gave up way too many easy buckets - I believe almost every bucket they made in the first quarter was basically a point-blank layup,” Goebel said. “Once we started to become defensive minded first, we started to score points. If you can get players to become excited about defense first then it creates offensive productivity as well.”

Junior Quentin Harmon, who scored 10 points in his first career start, added: “I think in the first quarter our defense was rough but then we started getting stops which led to some transition buckets and easy layups for us.”

Harrison started the third quarter on a mini run to trim the Jasper lead to 43-37 but the Cats eventually stretched the lead back to double-digits with 2:20 left in the quarter as Caleb Burger made his first three-pointer of the season.

The remainder of the third and fourth quarters saw Jasper maintain around a 10 to 12-point lead but Harrison did once again make things interesting late as they trimmed Jasper’s lead to seven with 1:35 to play thanks to two free throws from Kel’Ondre Dixon. However, the Warriors had to foul in order to try and continue to get the ball back and Kabrick nailed six straight shots at the charity stripe toward the end of the game to seal the 73-60 victory.

Jasper’s Elliott Hopf goes for a layup during Tuesday’s game. Hopf finished with 10 points off the bench as Jasper had a balanced offensive attack. For more photos from Tuesday night's game, click here.

Kabrick led the Wildcats with 23 points while Hopf, Harmon and Reece Milligan all finished with 10 points. Burger added seven, Jared Englert finished with six, Weidenbenner added five and Carter Stamm scored two.
Williams Jr. led Harrison with a game-high 25 while Dixon added 17.

Jasper shot 51 percent from the field compared to Harrison’s 49 percent while Jasper was 6-of-18 (33 percent) on three-pointers and 17-of-26 (65 percent) on free throws.

The Cats are grateful to start the season off with a win but they know there’s still a lot of things they need to work such as trimming down the 16 turnovers. But a win over Harrison in the regular season for the first time since 2006 (Cats did however beat the Warriors in the sectional last year), has Goebel excited for what’s to come.

“I wasn’t sure we were going to be ready and there’s still a lot of things we need to work but it’s nice to get a win against a very athletic Evansville Harrison team,” Goebel said. “It’s a good start to our season.”

For the players? Well, they were just happy to finally get back on the court in front of their home faithful.

“I’ve been waiting for a long time,” said Kabrick with a laugh. “I think the whole team has been anxious to play and I think we’re ready to put this win behind us and just keep going forward.”

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