Jeeps to play for sectional championshipMarch 6, 2020
By JONATHAN SAXON
FRENCH LICK — Friday night’s Class 1A sectional semifinal game was a rough-and-tumble affair. The Northeast Dubois and Vincennes Rivet boys basketball teams tried to stamp their tickets to the sectional championship game. It was close throughout, but the Jeeps (15-10) used timely shots and late free throws to pull away and defeat the Patriots (5-16), 50-35.
“We really hung in there,” said Jeeps coach Terry Friedman. “I felt like we played a solid game. It’s never easy in the tournament. Vincennes Rivet had a great game plan, and their kids played really hard and made it very tough on us. Once we were able to get a bit of a lead, then we were able to play our game a bit more.”
The Patriots jumped out to a 5-0 lead after an opening three from senior forward Austin Finch and a pair of free throws from senior forward Tre’von Taylor. The Jeeps overtook the Patriots quickly with a pair of threes from senior guard Ethan Ziegler and junior forward Lane Knies. Taylor reeled off consecutive scores for a 9-6 lead, but a transition layup from senior guard Reece Bauer brought the Jeeps back within one. However, Taylor cashed in a lob as time expired that gave the Patriots a three-point lead at the end of the first quarter.
Ziegler tied the game with a three at the top of the second quarter, and Taylor and Bauer traded buckets to get a grip on the game. A three from Finch put the Patriots up five, but Bauer and junior forward Logan Mehringer combined for a 7-0 run that reclaimed the lead. Sophomore forward Colby Pieper finished off the quarter with a fastbreak bucket that gave the Jeeps a 22-18 halftime lead.
Finch closed the gap with a three to start the third quarter, but back-to-back threes from Knies and Bauer gave the Jeeps a seven-point edge. Shots from Finch, freshman forward Tommy Herman and junior guard Charlie Niehaus made it a one-possession game, but Bauer and Ziegler again extended the lead back to seven. Finch laid in one more score to make it a five-point game at the end of the third.
The Jeeps pulled away for the good in the fourth. Knies, Bauer and Mehringer sparked an 8-2 run that included the trio going 4-for-6 from the line. Junior forward Nick Lueken made his own contributions from the charity stripe, going 4-for-4 down the stretch to put the game out of reach for the Patriots. Both teams sent out their reserves with less than a minute left, and the Jeeps cemented their place in Saturday’s championship game.
Bauer and Knies both finished with 13 points. Knies and Mehringer had five rebounds each. Taylor had 15 points and nine rebounds, while Finch had 13 points and six boards.
“We started really slow,” said Knies. “But when we got that run late in the second quarter, it boosted our egos, and we got back playing like normal.”
“They got on us early and made it hard for us to get inside,” added Ziegler, who had nine points and two assists. “We knew we were going to have to make a couple of outside shots. Once we got the lead, we felt like we could pull them out, make them play defense on us and get driving lanes to free up our offense.”
Friedman was proud of the way the players fought through the Patriots’ physicality and made 8-of-11 free throws in the fourth to seal the win. He thinks Friday’s game will have them ready for whatever situation the players find themselves in when they face Evansville Day (14-9) today in the sectional final.
“In order for us to be ready for the intensity of a championship game, this game was good for us,” he said. “The fact that we had to hit free throws down the stretch is going to help us tomorrow night.”
“Early in the season we weren’t hitting free throws at all,” added Knies. “We were shooting about 50 percent a game. Now, we’re getting more shots up in the gym (and) it’s paying off.”
Today’s sectional final will have a grudge match feeling hanging over the atmosphere, as last season, the Eagles defeated the Jeeps 55-44 in the sectional semifinals. So in addition to a shot at the title, Saturday’s game also offers the chance at revenge for last year’s bitter ending.
“They’re playing really well right now,” said Ziegler. “We’re playing well also. It should be a fun game.”
For more photos from the game, click here.
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