Confident Cats head into the postseason hungryFebruary 24, 2019
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
Jasper boys basketball head coach John Goebel has often preached the importance of playing your best basketball heading into March.
While the Wildcats have had a few stumbles against a few tough programs throughout the season, the team is very confident with where they’re at heading into Tuesday’s sectional opener against Evansville Harrison at Evansville North.
“I think we’re at a really good spot right now because we’ve been playing good team ball,” said senior forward Jared Englert. “We’ve been sharing the ball really well and I think that’s just going to set us up for success in the sectional.”
Goebel added: “We’re really proud of this team and what they’ve accomplished this season. We’ve had our peaks and valleys but now that we’re through them, hopefully we’re rising to the top at the right time.”
The Wildcats have notched plenty of impressive wins throughout the season. They defeated Washington in hostile territory at the Hatchet House, they had a gutsy performance against the rival Alices in Vincennes and they also knocked off a ranked foe in Evansville Mater Dei on the road.
Not to mention victories against other tough squads such as Evansville Reitz at the Ford Center as well as Evansville Central and Mount Carmel on the road.
Jasper also secured a share of the Big Eight conference title with Princeton and Washington, their fourth in the past six years. While there were some hiccups against county foes Forest Park and Southridge, the positives outweigh the negatives by far for the Wildcats.
“We’ve had a couple of tough losses but we’ve also had some really good wins,” Goebel said. “We’re really just a few breaks away from being 8-13 so you have to give these guys credit.”
At the beginning of the season, Jasper knew they’d have a core nucleus of guys coming back who already had an abundance of varsity experience from the past couple of seasons.
Players such as junior guard/forward Jackson Kabrick (team leader with 13 points per game), senior forward Jared Englert (six double-doubles this year), senior guard Reece Milligan (shooting 41 percent from three-point) and senior guard Josh Weidenbenner were players who entered the season with that past experience.
But Jasper has received a plethora of support from their role players as well. Several underclassmen — junior forward Quentin Harmon, junior guard Elliott Hopf and sophomore guard Caleb Burger — as well as several key seniors such as forward Phillip Noblitt, forward Kyle Hedinger and guard Dillon Sternberg have all made huge impacts for the Wildcats.
“These guys have came in and gave us strong, quality minutes,” Goebel said. “It takes more for a team to click then just a few guys who often get the glory — there’s a whole lot of roles and shoes that need to be filled.”
Burger is one of the players that’s stepped up and filled that role for Jasper.
In his first full year of varsity action for the Wildcats, Burger is averaging 11.5 minutes per game as well as 2.4 points per game.
“I just try to go out there and do my thing — whatever coach asks me to do, I just go out there and do my best to give it my all,” Burger said. “It’s pretty fun to go out there and give our team a boost whenever we need it. Just knowing that they count on me to go out there and do stuff like that is great.”
Jasper will open their postseason play on Tuesday against Evansville Harrison (12-10). With a victory, they’d face Evansville North (5-16) in the semifinal game on Friday.
While the Wildcats defeated every team in their sectional during the regular season except for Castle (they didn’t face the Knights), Jasper knows that the postseason is an entirely different animal.
And if there’s one thing that Jasper needs to focus on heading into the sectional, it’s keeping their eyes on the prize at all times.
“Our biggest Achilles’ heel has been our sometimes inconsistent focus at game time,” Goebel said. “We’ve had games, like Washington, where we were zeroed in but then in our games against Northeast Dubois and Evansville North, we just hit the floor without the right mentality. If we want any chance of being successful in the 4A sectional, we have to be zeroed in from beginning to end.”
Burger echoed that sentiment.
“We have to play hard right from the tip at the beginning,” Burger said. “We can’t just come out in the second half and play hard, it has to be the whole game — I think that will be the key to winning down there.”
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