Cats stay strong late, defeat Pioneers

Photos by Nic Antaya/The Herald
Jasper's Phillip Noblitt shoots a free throw during Friday's boys basketball game in Jasper. Jasper defeated Boonville 55-54 as the Cats made some key shots from the charity stripe late as they were able to hold off a late Pioneer rally for the victory. Noblitt had eight points off the bench and provided a spark for Jasper in the win. For more photos from the game, click here.


JASPER — With 13 seconds to play and his team leading 53-51, Jasper boys basketball player Jackson Kabrick knew whatever happened after his next two free throw attempts could help decide the game.

In a situation such as the one on Friday night against Big Eight foe Boonville, nothing much is going on in Kabrick’s mind except making sure he hears nothing but net.

“Honestly, I just want to put them in so we can give our team a better chance to win,” Kabrick said. “Because in the end if we hit those free throws, we know it’s going to give us a better chance to win the game.”

And that it did — both Kabrick and sophomore Caleb Burger made clutch shots at the free-throw line to defeat the Pioneers 55-54 at home for their first conference victory of the season.

After Jasper (4-1, 1-0) jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter, it was a full-fledged battle from that point forward. Wildcat head coach John Goebel gave credit to Boonville (1-3, 1-1) for playing hungry but also applauded his team for the way they handled some tough situations down the stretch.

“First of all, you have to give a ton of credit to Boonville. They beat us on the boards, beat us at the foul line and did a lot of the little things that are important to win basketball games,” Goebel said. “I’m proud of the way our kids played down the stretch for the most part — Jackson Kabrick and Caleb Burger made four big free throws with the game on the line and we handled their press when it counted. I think that’s what successful teams do — whether you’re playing well or not, you find a way to win the game.”

Early on, Jasper was indeed playing well. They jumped out to an 11-3 lead thanks to four early points from Quentin Harmon and a three-pointer from Reece Milligan. Boonville did make a little run late as they closed the first quarter on a buzzer-beating three from Luke Conner but Jasper still held a 15-8 lead.

The Conner three was the beginning of a huge for Boonville. The Pioneers ended up scoring 13 straight points and held a 19-15 lead with 4:09 left in the first half.

However, Jasper began to get a spark from senior Phillip Noblitt off the bench. After Noblitt scored a bucket in the first quarter, he added a few more big shots in the second quarter including a bucket with 1:06 to go in the half that gave Jasper the lead back. The Wildcats had a 27-23 advantage at the break.

With starting forward Jared Englert out of the lineup due to the flu and foul trouble with several starters late in the half, Goebel was impressed with how Noblitt stepped up off the bench in Friday’s victory.

“(Noblitt) didn’t even see the floor at the Ford Center but he didn’t let it bother him, he kept working all week,” Goebel said. “Without Phil, I don’t think we’re winning at halftime and if we’re not winning at halftime then I think the momentum of the game is different. I think in a lot of ways, Phillip was our MVP tonight.”

Noblitt felt he was able to get into a rhythm rather quickly, as he finished with eight points.

“I just got open looks and I did what I had to do with them,” Noblitt said. “We just broguht it all together, worked more as a team and had good chemistry.”

The third quarter began with both teams exchanging blows but Jasper started to pull away at about the five minute mark in the quarter with free throws from Elliott Hopf and a bucket by Kabrick. Jasper eventually jumped out to a 37-28 lead but the Pioneers crawled back by making two consecutive three-pointers. The Cats brought the lead back up to 43-36 at the end of the quarter.

Things once again got interesting in the fourth quarter. Jasper was able to hold a four or six-point advantage at many points during the final period but every time it looked as if the Cats would pull away, Boonville came right back.

After Josh Weidenbenner made two big shots from the free-throw line to make it 51-45 with two minutes left, Boonville drew three consecutive fouls. They were able to make three foul shots and trailed just 48-51. On the ensuing possession, Jasper turned the ball over which led to an easy bucket for Boonville’s Devin Mockobee to make it just a one-point game.

Jasper's Jackson Kabrick drives the ball down the court during Friday's boys basketball game in Jasper. Kabrick led the Wildcats in scoring with 22 points and also knocked down some clutch shots from the free-throw line that helped the Cats come away with the victory. For more photos from the game, click here.

Then, Burger and Kabrick made key shots at the charity stripe to make it 55-51 Cats after Boonville’s Rylan Hicks went 1-of-2 at the charity stripe before Kabrick’s foul shots. Boonville’s Hunter Bruce was able to make a three-pointer shortly before time expired but didn’t have enough time to foul as time expired and Jasper hung on for the 55-54 victory.

Kabrick led Jasper with 22 points while Noblitt, Hopf and Milligan all finished with eight points each. Rylan Hicks led the Pioneers with 18 points.

With a 4-1 start to the season, there’s an exciting atmosphere surrounding the Jasper boys basketball program, as was witnessed by the raucous Wildcat student section.

Friday night’s victory was also the first conference win of the year for the Cats — they’re hoping it’s the first of many.

“We’re trying to win conference against just like we did last year,” Kabrick said. “This was our first step to doing that.”

Noblitt added: “We have to keep this going in order to be conference champs. Tonight was a lot of fun — it’s always fun playing in front of your friends and seeing everyone super hyped up cheering loud for us.”

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