Defensive pressure a staple for Jeep basketball

Herald File Photo by Daniel Vasta
Northeast Dubois’ Ethan Ziegler, Marshall Knies and Lane Knies show off the Jeeps defensive pressure against North Daviess earlier this year. The Jeeps (9-13) open their postseason against Cannelton (9-13) on Tuesday at Wood Memorial. With a win, Northeast Dubois will face Evansville Day (9-11) in Friday’s semifinal.

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

Going into this season, the Northeast Dubois Jeeps knew they had to contend with a few adjustments as they worked out their new basketball identity.

Gone was the senior-laden core that carried the bulk of the scoring load for last year’s sectional finalist team, so kids who either didn’t see a lot of varsity time or played on the junior varsity team would be asked to fill in those roles.

The Jeeps (9-13) also didn’t have size in the front court that could establish a reliable a post and rebounding presence, which forced the team to cater their offense and team rebounding approaches to compensate.

Despite those challenges, the Jeeps still had their signature defense to rely on, a man-to-man scheme which sought to pressure opponents at every turn and use stops to create fastbreak buckets. Additionally, the team felt that they had the speed and shooting ability to spread teams out in a way to facilitate perimeter offense and cuts inside to the basket.

But, there were times where the team’s deficiencies came back to bite them. Their defense could always keep the Jeeps in ball games, but that could only go so far during periods where shots weren’t falling and the boys couldn’t get a basket inside to stop other team’s offensive pushes. The struggle to score led Northeast Dubois on a ride where it was difficult to establish positive consistency for most of the season.

“When the losses have piled up, it’s shown in the shot percentage column,” said junior guard Reece Bauer. “We haven’t hit many threes in the games that we’ve lost.”

“On offense we would get stagnant and miss shots,” added junior guard Ethan Ziegler. “We missed a lot of threes at times in bad stretches.”

But Northeast Dubois head coach Terry Friedman chooses to look at the season a different way. Yes, it would have been great to string together the wins this year, but with sectional functioning as a second season for all teams involved, Friedman wants the Jeeps to look at their regular season as an extended stretch of prep for the tourney.

“As we move into the tournament, I feel like we’ve got 21 practice games under our belt,” said Friedman before the Jeeps went out and won their final regular season game against the Tecumseh Braves, 44-30. “We’re going to have to take the experiences we’ve had over the course of this season and apply those in the tournament as we move forward.”

Friedman believes that there has been progress the team can lean on in the postseason.

When he factored in the youth of the Jeeps and the fact that a lot of the guys would be learning on the fly, he anticipated there would be times were the team took a few steps forward and then a few steps back. But despite that, he saw stretches where the boys were competing on an even plane with the good teams they faced and thinks that their trial-by-fire will benefit them when they start sectional play against the Cannelton Bulldogs (9-13).

“When I look at this team, I’m not really sure the wins and losses reflects the growth that we’ve seen,” he said. “We started with a fairly young team, I feel like over the course of the season we’ve really developed and gotten better. We’ve shown in some big games that we’re capable of competing.”

Friedman still has confidence in his team, specifically the shooters, and thinks the Jeeps can make a deep run similar to what they accomplished last season if the boys play with the thought of letting the shots fly with no hesitation as they present themselves.

Defensively, the Jeeps gave up an average of about 46 points per game during the regular season, and if they can minimize the turnovers as well as raise their efforts when it comes to crashing the glass they have as good of shot as anybody in a tournament field that Friedman see’s as up for grabs.

“This is wide open tournament that we’re in,” he said. “With the tournament, you can throw the records out. Right now it’s going to come down to which team can execute the best. We’re going to be ready.”

“We have a lot of mentally strong basketball players,” added Bauer, “Everyone has high spirits, hopes right now. Everybody is going into it with the same goal in mind, and I believe everybody thinks we can win it.”




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