Cats ride size, experience to win


Photos by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Jasper senior Gus Heichelbech (55) posted 13 points, all in the first half, and 11 in the first quarter Tuesday at Southridge to help his team to a 66-41 win in the season opener for both teams. 

HUNTINGBURG - Jasper entered Tuesday's county rival game with a size advantage and an experience advantage against Southridge - and it showed.

The Wildcats (1-0) took down the Raiders (0-1), 66-41, at Huntingburg Memorial Gym, and seniors Connor Foley and Gus Heichelbech had their way inside. Foley had a team-high 16 points, accumulating buckets at the rim in the fourth quarter to keep Jasper's foot on the gas, while Heichelbech stepped up early with 11 of his 13 points, all in the first half, coming in the opening quarter.

"Experience is a big one," Wildcats coach John Goebel said. "We took a lot of lumps last year, we lost some tough games. We played a lot of juniors and a sophomore in Carter Mundy. So, we played a lot of underclassmen, and you can't really put a value - you can't really put a price on how valuable experience is."

Heichelbech had the last of 11 points in the waning seconds of the opening quarter, but Raiders senior Carter Whitehead, who scored a game-high 19 points, had the last say when he threw up a shot at the buzzer for the exclamation point from downtown, narrowing Jasper's lead to 19-15 after one.

Junior Mick Uebelhor (4) dribbles for Southridge Tuesday as Jasper senior Connor Foley (45) defends. Uebelhor notched eight points for the Raiders, while Foley posted a team-high 16 points for the Wildcats in the 66-41 Jasper win. 

The Raiders brought the perimeter shooting with eight 3-pointers in Tuesday's game, and junior Mick Uebelhor drained one from behind the arc to have the Wildcats on their heels in what was now a 19-18 game.

That's when Jasper took over - going on an 11-0 run that began with a putback bucket from senior Tanner Erny, all the way to a Heichelbech basket that made it 30-18. Jasper gave itself some breathing room, but Southridge had its second buzzer-beater in as many quarters when junior Collin Tolley banked one from beyond the arc, trimming Jasper's lead to single digits - 30-21, at the half.

Goebel reverted back to experience being key and the Wildcats preventing the Raiders from capitalizing on some momentum.

"I think we recognized that Southridge hit some tough shots," he said. "I think we recognized that in spite of all, we were playing pretty good defense. We knew that if we kept executing and taking care of the ball on the offensive end and defending on the defensive end, I think it was just the belief that things were eventually going to go our way."

"I thought we did a good job of competing and answering their baskets, but just couldn't get stops," said Raiders coach Kyle Swafford after his Southridge coaching debut. "And you have to string together stops when you're under man. We just couldn't do it, we couldn't play catch up for long enough."

Swafford said the reason for running man-to-man against a Jasper team with size and experience was because the Raiders hadn't practiced any zone defense, but noted it was hard to emulate Jasper's size.

"I'll be hard-pressed to see us with two such big, powerful guys the rest of our schedule," he said.

Whitehead banked a three in the third quarter to make it 32-24, but a Mundy shot from downtown put the Wildcats ahead, 35-24, and they kept the momentum going from thee. Jasper showed how effective it could be at sharing the basketball, with Mundy 15 points and senior Tanner Erny's 11 points joining Foley and Heichelbech as four Jasper players in double figures. Jasper went on a 21-11 run in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

The Raiders might not have gotten the result they desired, but they can still say they knocked down eight 3-pointers, and they also went 9-of-11 at the free throw line.

"We didn't score the ball consistently enough, but we do have positives," Swafford said. "I think we learned something about ourselves tonight, and I think when you show the kids the film - I always tell the kids the film don't lie - so you see some things on film. And it kind of opens their eyes and it helps us change for the positive."

Southridge is next to set to play Dec. 3 at home against Pocket Athletic Conference rival Washington.

There are a couple of things that stood out to Swafford that the Raiders need to do a better job of going forward.

"First of all, I think we need to execute a little better," he said. "I think we were sped up tonight, and I think part of it was our own fault because we were excited to be playing. And I think we never really caught our second wind. So, we were just rushing things and our timing was off - so we'll work on execution.

"And then defensively, I thought we got out of position a couple times. Our goal was to not allow them to drive baseline, and I think we had a stat where we gave up 13 off baseline drives. So, our help's in the middle and so, we got to force middle and just some things that we can get and we'll work on. But yeah, there's some takeaways for sure."

The Wildcats saw the Raiders knock down eight shots from 3-point land, but Goebel didn't see perimeter defense as a concern because his team was contesting shots.

Jasper also has itself a big game the next time it takes the floor, as it's set Nov. 30 to welcome Evansville Bosse for both its home opener and Southern Indiana Athletic Conference opener.

"Offensively, we're going to have to do what we did this week, and Bosse's going to be a little quicker," Goebel said. "So, taking care of the basketball's going to be a must because when you turn the ball over against a team like Bosse, it's going to be two points the other way very, very quickly. So, we have to take of the ball, we have to score inside-out.

"Defensively, we have to be engaged," he continued. "We have to give team defensive effort because Bosse has some kids that can flat out shoot - they're triple threat kids. If you get out on them aggressively and defend the shot, they're going to dribble around you and get to the free throw line or get to the rim. So, it's going to be a team defensive effort if we have any chance of winning."

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