Cats again quiet before decisive dash

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper’s Courtland Betz, left, Alex Allen, Rhiley Eckert and Austin Alles cheered for teammate Kyle McWilliams after he scored his first points of the season Friday at the Jasper High School Gym as the Wildcats dumped Washington 67-52. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Editor

JASPER — The equations have been laid out for Jasper’s boys basketball team.

Lethargy + lack of leadership = close games and an irritated locker room.

Energy + vibrant fullcourt defense = easy buckets and seamless basketball.

Seems like simple math. But darn if those equations are tough to recall and take time to master.

For a half Friday night Jasper High School gym, the Wildcats figure they stumped themselves with an attitude and effort they deemed as too relaxed. And for a half, they went full throttle with another third quarter that vaulted them into control for the second straight Friday against a Big Eight Conference foe.

The first half: 21 points on the board and a tie game with Washington at the halftime intermission. The second half: 46 points and a 67-52 dash past the Hatchets. Even after Jasper (4-4) advanced to 3-0 in Big Eight play for the first time since 2007-08, a sour aftertaste remained about part of the Wildcats’ alter ego that they can’t seem to shake.

“We’re just really, literally, a tale of two teams. There never seems to be a middle ground with us,” Goebel said. “We’re either very soft and passive or we’re aggressive and fun to watch. We’re just going to have to be closer to the fun-to-watch end a little bit more often.”

Jasper found that range — eventually — but not before a push from a Hatchet team that found itself three men down in just a week’s time. Leading scorer Colten Garland sat out with a sprained ankle, and Washington (2-8, 0-2) was also without fellow starter Andy Garland (concussion) as well as Austin Ghirardelli (quit).

Matthew Stephens sparked the Hatchets with 14 points and fellow freshman Jacob Overton kicked in 13, but Washington’s rawness showed as Jasper started exerting itself via full-court defense that contained more zip from the first half to the second.

“I saw a little bit more spring in our step and a little bit more hunger ... and we created much, much more out of our defense,” Goebel said.

After stinging Vincennes Lincoln with a 20-5 spurt a week earlier in the third quarter, Jasper swamped Washington with a 26-14 advantage in the third period. It continued revealing a difference about this year’s Wildcats: They’ve got spurtability.

In 4 1/2 minutes, they turned a 21-all tie into a 40-30 cushion. Nothing stopped the outpouring — not even when Hatchet coach Gene Miiller burned three timeouts in three minutes’ time. Washington committed seven of its 20 turnovers in the period, translating to 10 Wildcat points.

“We were not very happy with our play in the first half, so we really tried to send a message coming out starting in the second half,” said Wildcat junior Austin Alles, who scored 10 points in the third quarter and finished with four steals. “We’re on our way there, but we still need to try and figure out our defense and be more consistent offensively.”

“Coming off a big win, I think we were kind of complacent, because beating Vincennes was a pretty big game,” added Jasper junior Nolan Ahrens. “Coming into the third quarter, we came out ready, because we knew we were better than this team and we knew we could win this game. But it just took attitude and effort.”

And balance — though that’s been a constant that hasn’t wavered much.

After Alles and his 11 points, T.D. Nottingham, Courtland Betz and Ahrens all logged 10 points, Tyler Begle notched eight points and Alex Allen also added eight to go with seven rebounds and two blocked shots.

The night wasn’t totally overcast in gloom for Jasper, which beat Washington for the fourth straight time (following 10 successive losses to the Hatchets) and hiked the lead high enough for the reserves to finish the game — triggering the biggest cheer of the night when senior sub Kyle McWilliams tallied his first points of the season after taking a feed from Ahrens and rolling in a reverse layup to cap Jasper’s scoring.

But Goebel continues to prod, push and challenge, because he knows bigger things are possible for his guys, who can peer above .500 for the first time tonight if they win on the road at improved Pike Central (4-4). As Goebel sees it, his work in the matter is largely accomplished. Now, it’s time for a few to seize command and everyone to aid in a push toward consistency.

“Two of our biggest weaknesses as a team right now is we’re young and we don’t always have real good leadership. Because of that, we don’t always start the game with the right mentality. As a coach, you can teach and prepare and talk all you want, but it’s up to the players to make sure they’re mentally ready to play, and we’re not always real good at that,” Goebel said.

“The players can’t keep relying on their coaches for energy. If you’re the type of person where your boss has to chew you out to get you motivated, you’re not going to be successful. We need a little more self-motivation, a player or two on our team to make sure that our mind is where it needs to be and we’re sharp where we need to be. This team, it is a problem that we have to deal with, in practice and in games — if Coach isn’t pushing they’re not always playing at a level they need to be playing at. Hopefully that does change.”

Contact Brendan Perkins

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