Bench vital cog in Jeeps' basketball success

Herald file photo
Northeast Dubois players and managers react from the bench during Saturday’s boys basketball sectional championship in French Lick. Northeast Dubois defeated Evansville Day 55-51 to advance to this weekend’s regional tournament in Loogootee.

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

DUBOIS — Most fans focus on a basketball team’s starters. But successful teams can’t just be top heavy. Squads need to have solid role players to weather a season’s grind, and the reserves for the Northeast Dubois Jeeps have had a solid hand in steering the team to Saturday’s regional round.

“We’re a seven- or eight-man rotation,” Jeeps coach Terry Friedman said. “We have a lot of confidence in our bench. We can go seven to eight deep without much of a letdown at all in our play. Our bench has been very vital to us.”

Logan Mehringer, Colby Pieper and Dante Miller are the players Friedman looks to when he starts making substitutions. Mehringer is usually the first one called in the game, and adds a different physical element as the Jeeps’ tallest player. He matches up with opposing bigs, rebounds, sets screens and finds buckets from time to time. The junior forward embraced the added responsibilities of being the sixth man from the start.

“Last year, I was mainly JV,” he said. “This year I was trying to get as many minutes as I could on varsity. I knew we lost three seniors, so I figured I’d have to step up my leadership. I just try to hype everybody up on the bench and pick people up on the floor whenever I go in.”

Pieper is another player who has contributed solid minutes despite limited varsity experience. The sophomore guard was eager to make his mark, and that often resulted in some bad shots early on. Pieper increased his productivity once he learned to slow down and play within his role.

“At the start of the season, I wanted to do too much,” he said. “I realized that just getting an assist here and there and maybe a couple easy buckets was the way to go.”

Miller still plays mostly on the JV team, but he’s often come in and helped the Jeeps close out games this season. The junior guard isn’t concerned too much about his own shot, he just wants to make sure the ball gets to where it’s needed when he hits the floor.

“I realized I needed to step up,” he said. “I knew we’d only have about two people coming off the bench, we needed some subs. Whenever I was in [the game], I wasn’t necessarily looking to score all the time. I mostly look to create for everyone else.”

All three guys played key roles in the Jeeps’ sectional run. Mehringer scored a game-high 14 points in the first round against Cannelton, and had key rebounds and free throws in the title game against Evansville Day. Pieper knocked down key shots and dropped many a dime across the three sectional games. Miller didn’t play in the title game, but he was part of the close out unit in the first two sectional games. Friedman said all the players have grown that much better because of the experience they’ve gained this season, and he trusts them to keep up the tone set by the starters.

“They’re always ready to go,” he said. “They know that their job is to go in there, and there can be no let down in play from our team. They do a good job of that. There’s been a lot of games where our bench players have finished the game. They know their role is just as important as a starter, but you can only start five guys.”

Their energy from the sidelines is also just as important as their play on the court. The bench sometimes has to be the team’s biggest cheerleaders, especially during road games where the opposing crowd overwhelms fan support.

“Having that energy is a real big part of the game,” Miller said. “Some nights you don’t have that energy coming from the crowd. Sometimes that bench will bring that for you. They help keep the energy and team going in the right direction when you have the momentum. It’s big having guys on the bench just worried about helping everybody else and keeping their positive attitude.”

The bench guys sometimes get overlooked, but their team-first spirit and unselfish attitude is a critical piece to any successful team. The Jeeps’ bench hopes they can keep making positive contributions during the team’s regional play this Saturday.

“There’s definitely a lot of nerves,” Mehringer said. “But we’re just going to keep coming into practice how we have been and try to do whatever we can to win regional.”

“I’m confident we have a chance at getting a win on Saturday,” Pieper added.

 




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