Defensive power carries Jeeps in road romp


WASHINGTON — The phrase ‘attack the boards’ has become a common defensive theme in basketball but on Friday night, the Northeast Dubois Jeeps took that to another level.

On a play where Washington Catholic had four players directly under the basket, senior Griffen Bauer came flying out of nowhere to steal the rebound and put up the layup to stun the entire Cardinal fan base in attendance.

“All I do is sit back, wait for my opportunity and then I just attack,” said Bauer who finished with 12 points and tied for a team-high with Alex Harder with seven rebounds in the Jeeps 75-33 victory. “Once I grab the board, I have to attack that opportunity — that’s just what I do.”

The hustle was shown through all four quarters by the Jeeps as they finished with 38 points off of turnovers, 17 second chance points and also out-rebounded the Cardinals 34-14 to open with their first Blue Chip conference victory of the year.

Northeast Dubois coach Terry Friedman said the hard-nosed, gritty style that his team plays with has become known simply as, “Jeep basketball”.

“That’s just what it is, they play with a lot of heart, lot of hustle,” Friedman said. “They go after every single loose ball while they’re on the court.”

The defensive intensity has been a staple of the Jeeps basketball program with guys like Harder, Brandon Merkel and Alan Kerstiens not afraid to get into your face and look for their next opportunity to steal the ball for a fastbreak or snag an offensive rebound.

“Our defense has always been a big focus, it’s really important to us,” said Kerstiens. “It helps us get our intensity up and keep it there, especially when we’re grabbing offensive boards.”

Washington Catholic got out to a quick start with junior Brock Craney scoring all 10 first quarter points for the Cardinals (0-3, 0-1) and led 8-7 early in the quarter forcing a Jeep timeout.

But once the Jeeps (2-1, 1-0) started to make the extra pass and find a wide open man behind the three-point line, things began to look up.

“Alan (Kerstiens) is kind of our leader out there (behind the three-point line) but we’ve got a good balance of kids who can shoot the three,” Friedman said. “But we also want to remember to attack the basket — we don’t want to fall in love with the three-point shot.

The Jeeps finished just 6-of-15 from behind the arc but the shots they made from behind the three-point line were created from smooth offensive plays that often led to one man being unguarded.

“It’s something we’ve been working on perfecting in practice,” said Kerstiens, who finished with a team-high 17 points with nine of them coming from deep. “We just have to take those opportunities when we have them and expand our range.”

Northeast Dubois also made it a point early to dominate the post presence.

The Jeeps outscored the Cardinals 44-8 in the paint with bigs such as Bauer, Harder, Trevor Seufert and Reece Helming controlling the post and not allowing the Cardinal defenders to get into their heads.

“I love being able to overpower my opponent,” Bauer said with a laugh. “Just knowing that I’m getting the ball and they’re not is a good feeling.”

Even with the 42-point win, Friedman still has a few areas he’d like to see the Jeeps continue to improve on including limiting turnovers as Northeast Dubois finished with 12 in the game.

“We have to take care of the basketball and become crisper in our half-court offense,” Friedman said. “Defensively we’re good but we want to get even better, it’s all about improving on the finer points everyday in practice.”

After opening up the season with two close games (a 53-50 home win over Pike Central and a 41-40 loss at Tell City after a last-second shot fell just short), Kerstiens was happy to see the Jeeps jump out with a quick start and end the first quarter with a 15-point lead.

Northeast Dubois was able to jump out to the quick start thanks to several fastbreak points with Kerstiens leading the charge — something that gave him some memories of running away for wide open goals during the soccer season in the fall.

“I guess it is a little bit of the same,” Kerstiens said with a laugh. “The big difference in this game compared to our last few games is that we played a lot better on defense. We came out a little slow (against Tell City) but this game we came out a lot quicker and htat’s all you can do.”

After overcoming the tough environment of “The Birdcage”, as Washington Catholic’s arena is affectionately known as, the Jeeps know tonight’s foe will be just as tough of a test.

The Patriots and Jeeps tend to usually meet at the beginning of the season with the Patriots winning three of the past four meetings between the two teams with neither team winning by double digits since 2014.

“We take things one game at a time but we know we have a big one at home tomorrow, so hopefully we’ll be ready for that,” Friedman said.

Kerstiens agrees, “It feels good to get this one so now we know what we need to do as we get ready for (tonight’s) game.”

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