High-pressure Patriots slow Jeeps to gridlock

Photos By Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Northeast Dubois guard Emily Lueken zeroed in on Trinity Lutheran’s Haley Couch as she brought the ball up the floor in Saturday’s Class 1A regional at West Washington’s T. Kermit Tower Gym. The fifth-ranked Jeeps dismissed Trinity Lutheran 44-30 in the semifinals, but No. 4 Vincennes Rivet foiled their bid at a repeat regional title with a 53-39 defeat in the championship. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

CAMPBELLSBURG — The tears no longer trickled down, and now a delicate smile appeared intermittently upon Taylor Borden’s face.

Undeniably disappointed yet proud beyond doubt.

While Northeast Dubois’ state tournament run stalled with a 53-39 defeat at the hands of Vincennes Rivet in Saturday night’s Class 1A regional championship, the Jeep senior guard summed up the feeling of a season gushing with success. A second straight season with more than 20 wins.

An 11th straight sectional title. A victory that delivered Alan Matheis his 200th win as coach of the Jeep girls team.

“It’s amazing,” said Borden, who momentarily stood removed from hordes of Jeep fans inside West Washington’s T. Kermit Tower Gym. “It really is.”

It was the second time in less than a month that the fourth-ranked Patriots knocked off the fifth-ranked Jeeps. On Jan. 24, Rivet’s late surge awarded the team a 49-44 win in Dubois, snapping the Jeeps’ 14-game win streak at the time.

Saturday, the Patriots took a 14-13 lead with 4:53 to play in the first half and never trailed again.

Northeast Dubois’ Haley Kinder peered over the defense of Trinity Lutheran’s Kyra Klosterman in the Jeeps’ 44-30 semifinal win as the Jeeps pulled away by outscoring the Cougars 13-5 in the final period.

Their motion offense prospered largely from dribble penetration, and their full-court pressure drove the Jeeps’ typically well-operating offense to become disjointed at times. Woven in was the fragmented presence of Rachel Breitwieser, whose minutes were trimmed because of foul trouble.

All told, Rivet’s aggressiveness was a difference-maker, Matheis said. With the Patriots’ poise and experience, engineering a comeback was a daunting task.

“That’s the way they play. … They go up and down, they pressure, and if you can handle that and become efficient scoring on it, you’re going to be a pretty good shape,” Matheis said. “Tonight, for the most part, we did a pretty good job of it, with some breakdowns at some times. And consequently, they built a little bit of a lead on us and we couldn’t catch up.

“And once you get a really good ballhandling crew like that and builds up a lead on you, it’s pretty tough to catch back up. The big thing is you don’t want that to happen. And it did tonight.”

Despite team-highs of 16 points and nine rebounds from Nicole Dodd and a 13-point contribution from Emily Lueken, the Jeeps were unable to creep any closer than five points in the fourth quarter. Rivet, which outscored Northeast Dubois 19-10 in the game’s final 61⁄2 minutes, profited from perimeter threat Kelsey Ivers (17 points) and inside slasher Lauren Herman (12).

The Jeeps (21-3) slumped early with the Patriots’ clingy full-court defense, which played a key role in forcing the Jeeps to commit eight turnovers in the first half. Rivet swiped 11 points off possessions following the miscues and entered intermission ahead 23-19.

With the evening championship being each team’s second contest of the day, what the Patriots (21-4) looked to fulfill with its pressure wasn’t as much about extracting turnovers as it was trying to induce fatigue, Rivet coach Tim Young said.

“We told the girls we’re not going to get any steals out of our press today, we probably won’t get any turnovers, but we’re just going to contain the basketball and mentally wear them down for 24 minutes. Try to take their legs out because they’ve got great (3-point) shooters,” Young said. “If we can mentally wear them down, maybe those 3s will come up a little short in the fourth quarter. And if it’s a tight game, maybe we can win it.”

The Jeeps, who did sink eight free throws in the fourth period, hit just 2-of-10 field goals in the final eight minutes.

Breitwieser, who played sparingly after bagging her fourth foul with 6:26 to play in the third quarter, picked up her fifth with four minutes remaining in the contest. The junior, who snared 10 rebounds and blocked two shots in the Jeeps’ 44-30 semifinal win over Trinity Lutheran (15-9), retreated to the bench with just two rebounds and without a point.

Northeast Dubois senior Nicole Dodd reflected in the locker room after her team’s season ended with Saturday’s Class 1A regional loss to Vincennes Rivet. Dodd closed her career with 1,203 points.

When Dodd grabbed her own rebound and finished underneath to make it 34-29 with 6:45 to play, the Jeeps appeared back within striking distance. Yet an Ivers layup was followed by a backcourt traveling call on the Jeeps. Allyson Wehrheim, who ripped down a game-high nine rebounds to match Dodd, then canned a 3 from the top of the key. Within 40 seconds, the lead doubled from five to 10 points.

From there, the Patriot advantage was no smaller than eight points. All seven Jeep possessions that resulted in points were echoed by points for the Patriots on the ensuing possession.

“I think we fought really hard,” said Jeep forward Haley Kinder, who scored seven points and blocked two shots as the Jeeps’ primary interior defender with Breitwieser on the bench. “Sometimes it’s just not hard enough.”

With 26 points in the semifinal, Dodd concluded her senior year averaging 20.3 points per game and her career with 1,203 points. Yet the numbers tell but a slice of the story, Young said.

“She’s just a great basketball player. She tries to make things happen when her team’s down and out,” the Patriot coach lauded. “We knew that we were going to have to make every play that we possibly could. We had players making plays when we needed to.”

The Jeep quest to return to the state championship was not fulfilled. By no means, however, did that define the season as a failed endeavor, Matheis said unwaveringly. What resonated for the 12th-year coach was not necessarily the win percentage or the in-game execution, but the uncompromising character of his 12 girls.

“This has been an extremely successful season for us. Like I was telling the kids a while ago, besides having a good record, these are outstanding young people to work with. They’ve got very pleasant personalities, they all work together, they all get along real well,” Matheis said. “It’s been a really excellent experience as far as the season and particularly with the seniors there, Nicole Dodd and Taylor Borden. They’re excellent leaders, they’re excellent students.”

Borden’s words possessed a similar tone.

“I’m very proud of my team,” the senior said, the meek grin once again peering through. “I couldn’t ask for a better effort than my team put forth tonight.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.

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