Fast start sends Jasper to semifinal

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
Jasper’s Reece Milligan, center, attempts a shot while being guarded by Harrison's Jason Williams Jr. and Terrance Ringo during Tuesday's Class 4A boys basketball sectional opener in Evansville. Jasper got out to a quick start and never looked back as they defeated Harrison 54-48. The Wildcats will face Evansville North in the sectional semifinal on Friday at 8 p.m. EST. For more photos from the game, click here.


EVANSVILLE — Jasper fell into a bad pattern in the waning days of the regular season, one in which the team would start their games slow offensively and have to rely on putting together multiple stops in order to dig themselves out of holes. But Tuesday night they flipped the script in their sectional opening game as the Wildcats used a quick start to set themselves up for a 54-48 win over the Evansville Harrison Warriors.

Jasper head coach John Goebel was happy to see the Wildcats (14-9) break out of their first quarter scoring slump and thinks the initial shots did wonders for the psyche of the team.

“I loved our focus and energy,” he said. “I think we had a good game plan and the players carried it out really well. Psychologically when the shots go down early that’s a relief for everybody. When we were able to score early it boosted our confidence and morale”

Junior forward Jackson Kabrick got the ball rolling when he pulled up and hit his first attempt from three-point land. He was quickly followed by senior forward Jared Englert senior guard Josh Weidenbenner as they worked to give the Wildcats a 9-0 run at the top of the first quarter. Senior forward Jason Williams Jr. backed his way inside for the first Warriors’ (12-11) basket; he would find the rim twice more in the opening frame for seven points. Sophomore forward Terrance Ringo accounted for the only other basket for Harrison, while senior guard Reece Milligan tacked on another five points to give Jasper a 14-9 lead at the end of the first.

Ringo opened the second with a layup to shorten the lead to three points, while senior guard Kel’Ondre Dixon put in two more scores to craft a 6-2 run and make it 16-15 on the board with four minutes left in the second quarter. However, a pair of threes from Kabrick and a point-blank layup for Milligan propped the Wildcats back up 24-17 with a little over two minutes to play in the half. The Warriors were able to reap the benefits of making 5-of-7 free throws as the second came to a close, but the Wildcats maintained a narrow 24-20 lead at halftime.

Ringo once again struck first with an inside look at the start of the third quarter, but Englert was able to slice inside to hit back at the rack. Williams and Ringo each had four points, and a shot from junior guard Mason Bost once again got the Warriors within a possession of the Wildcats, But Jasper always managed to stay one step ahead. Englert had ten points in the quarter as he responded nearly every time the Harrison frontcourt was able to score. Kabrick and junior forward Quentin Harmon put in a couple more to help out Englert, and it was enough to allow the Wildcats to edge out the Warriors 14-11 in the third for the 38-31 lead.

Jasper maintained their momentum and pulled away in the fourth quarter. First Kabrick floated one in off the glass and Milligan followed up with his second three-pointer to give Jasper a ten-point lead. Bost answered back, but Harmon hit a free throw line jumper to put the Wildcat lead back to double digits. Bost hit a three and senior forward Isaiah Edinburgh was able to get a breakaway layup, but the Warriors weren’t able to threaten the Wildcat lead. Kabrick and Milligan put in the final couple of field goals and the Wildcats hit 7-of-8 from the free throw line to finish the game and move on to Friday’s semifinal game.

The Jasper student section gestures toward Josh Weidenbenner as he attempts a free throw during Tuesday's Class 4A boys basketball sectional opener in Evansville. Jasper defeated Harrison 54-48. For more photos from the game, click here.

Kabrick led the Wildcats with 15 points, Milligan and Englert (eight rebounds) both had 12, and Weidenbenner finished with 11 points. Williams paced the Warriors with 15, while Ringo and Dixon had 10 each.

“People have been doubting us lately,” said Kabrick. “We wanted to come out and show people we still got it and we have a chance to win this sectional. I think we came out with a lot of heart and we showed people we have a chance to win this thing.”

“I thought we played our best game we’ve played in weeks,” added Milligan. “We came to play right from the tip off, it’s good to have it at this time of the year.”

The Wildcats defeated the Warriors when the two teams ran into each other back in November to start their seasons, but Goebel and the team were keenly aware of how dangerous Harrison could be if they were allowed to make shots and gain confidence. Goebel was proud of the defensive effort the players put forth in addition to taking care of all of the little details they could control in order to secure the win.

“I thought we did everything we needed to do to be successful,” he said. “We took care of the ball, knocked down open shots, we were successful at the foul line, just a whole gauntlet of things necessary to win an opening round of sectional. They’re a team that puts up a lot of points, so we knew they were capable of scoring. I thought we handled that really well, holding a team of that caliber to 48 points is a nice complement to our defensive intensity, which has been our saving grace all year.”

Now the Wildcats set their sights on Friday’s semifinal game against the Evansville North Huskies (5-17). Goebel said the team is not taking the Huskies lightly, as they have a lot of things working in their favor that could lead to an upset if the Wildcats allow themselves to be lulled to sleep.

“We understand there is no final game Saturday if we don’t take North seriously,” he said. “They’re quick and they’re hungry. They’re going to be rested because they didn’t play tonight, that’s their home floor, so they have a lot of things to their advantage right now. It’s going to be a hard fought game.”

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