Defense sends Wildcats past Chargers

Photos by Daniel Vasta/The Herald
Jasper’s Jared Englert attempts to make a basket while being smothered by Pike Central's Christian Benson and Judah Leathco during Friday's boys basketball game in Jasper. Jasper defeated Pike Central 46-32 as the Wildcats used their strong defensive presence to stymy the Chargers from ever getting fully comfortable. For more photos from the game, click here.


JASPER — The Jasper boys basketball team had hit a bit of slump in the past couple of weeks as they have struggled to score during some of their final games of the regular season. Some teams would probably fold under the pressure of overcoming late season shooting struggles, but the Wildcats made a different choice.

Instead of letting the slump get the best of them, the team has continued to press forward and now find themselves on a bit of an upswing as the Wildcats defeated the Pike Central Chargers 46-32 to earn their third win in the last five games.

Jasper head coach John Goebel thought the Wildcats (13-8) hit the right chords on the defensive end and thinks that was Jasper’s saving grace in a game where they didn’t shoot particularly well to start things off.

“We defended really well, when you hold a varsity basketball team to 32 points you have to be proud of the way you defended,” he said. “We had another game where we didn’t shoot the ball very well. We were 4-for-22 from the three point line, most nights that isn’t going to cut it.”

There wasn’t a whole lot of action to write home about early on. Senior guard Josh Weidenbenner and senior forward Phillip Noblitt scored the Wildcats’ first four points but they were quickly answered by Pike Central’s (3-18,1-6) senior guard Christian Benson and sophomore forward Ethan Gorby. A lull in the action followed for a bit as both teams struggled to find the cup, but Jasper was able to break the stillness with a 6-0 run to end the quarter with scores coming from Weidenbenner and the junior forward tandem of Jackson Kabrick and Quentin Harmon.

The Wildcats were up 10-4 to start the second quarter, but the Chargers cut into the lead thanks to a three-pointer from senior guard Hayden Kabrick. The Wildcats answered right back with a 9-0 run thanks to a pair of layups from Harmon, a three from senior guard Reece Milligan, and a putback basket from senior forward Jared Englert. Junior guard Ethan Scott and senior guard Austin Holder put up a few more points in the second, but the Wildcats were in full control of the game and led at halftime 23-11.

The Chargers tried to gain a foothold back into game as they began the third quarter. Baskets from Holder, Gorby, Benson and Scott cut Pike Central’s deficit to 26-20 with a little over four and a half minutes to play. Enlgert and Milligan stormed back with a five-point flurry to give Jasper back their double-digit advantage. A three by Kabrick solidified the team’s hold with a 34-22 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Englert started the final frame with three quick points before Kabrick struck back with a drive inside for the Chargers. Scott then was able to come up with a steal that turned into a transition layup plus a three pointer on consecutive possessions to bring Pike Central within eight points of Jasper with four minutes to play. But that was as close as they would get for the rest of the night. Milligan sunk in a final three-pointer and Weidenbenner topped things off with one more drive inside to give the Wildcats the breathing room they needed to coast to finish to the tune of 46-32.

Milligan paced the Wildcats with 13 points, while Englert finished with 11. Holder led the Chargers with 12 points.

“We played hard, but we didn’t play smart at times,” said Milligan. “We need to shoot the ball a little bit better, but other than that we’re playing hard.”

“We had some really good effort that we haven’t had at home lately,” added Harmon, who finished with six points. “That was a better effort on our part, but we need to shoot the ball better.”

The Jasper Wildcats watch to see if the free throw will be good during Friday's boys basketball game in Jasper. For more photos from the game, click here.

Goebel thought the players took good shots as the opportunities presented themselves throughout the game, but he thinks that the boys just have to get out of their own heads and shoot with more confidence when they ball is in their hands with a window to the hoop.

“The shots we took tonight were good shots, especially around the perimeter,” he said. “They were looks that we’ve got to be able to hit at least 35 percent of them. We’re about a 40 percent three-point shooting team in practice, then we come out on our home floor and that confidence goes away. It’s a psychological thing.”

Despite their shooting struggles he credits the team with maintaining a positive attitude and sticking with their process even as they went through a rough patch which saw them drop three in a row not so long ago. He called the games against Evansville Mater Dei and Mount Carmel turning points for the Wildcats.

It’s encouraging that they still won despite experiencing a bit of a setback, but they have one more game against North Daviess to work out the shooting struggles as they get ready for sectional to roll around.

“Our team just needs to work on being ready to shoot and we need to keep playing good defense,” said Harmon.

“We want to play our best game against North Daviess,” added Milligan. “You always want to end the regular season on a high note. I’m looking forward to doing it.”

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