Jasper ‘boosts mentality’ with tough victoryDecember 10, 2019
By JONATHAN SAXON
LINCOLN CITY — Tuesday night was cold, but the action in Spencer County was hot, as Jasper and Heritage Hills went back and forth before the Wildcats pulled away late to pick up a 43-36 basketball victory.
Wildcats coach Jessica Mehringer told her players they were in for a tough fight against a Patriots squad that won five of its past six games going into Tuesday night’s affair. Not only did they come back late, but Mehringer was also proud of how they executed on the defensive end in a game where every possession was precious.
“We told them before the game started it was going to be a battle,” she said. “Our girls stuck their noses in there. We made a few adjustments, and the kids really listened and did a great job. We got some easier looks in the second half, and our defense was stellar. That part was fun to watch.”
Senior guard Brooke Nottingham started the game with a transition 3-pointer which sparked a 7-2 run that included shots from junior guard Hannah Schwenk and sophomore forward Isabelle Hopf. Junior forward Nevah Barnett, though, helped make it a one-possession game. Senior guard Claire Knies stepped into a 3-pointer for the 12-7 lead, but sophomore guard Avery Neff scooped in a running hook shot to cut it to three points in the closing seconds of the first quarter.
Knies opened the second stanza with her second 3-pointer, but sophomore guard Hadley Lytton responded with a five-point burst, including an and-one play, to get the Patriots within a point of the Wildcats. Neff finally put the Patriots over the top with a drive inside and an additional free throw for the 17-15 lead. Schwenk cut it to one, but Neff sank a trey. A pair of foul shots from senior guard Brianna Quinn gave the Patriots a six-point lead. Knies and Nottingham cut it to two points, but Lytton closed the second quarter with a 3-pointer to put the Patriots up 26-21 at halftime.
Lytton opened the third period with a 3-pointer, but a pair of threes from Knies and a bucket from Schwenk got the Wildcats (3-4) back within one point of the Pats. Junior center Rebekah Gordon finally got one to fall, and Lytton added another score to pad the lead to five. Schwenk used a coast-to-coast drive to lay in one more bucket before the end of the third to keep the Wildcats within spitting distance, 34-31.
Schwenk used four points at the top of the fourth to finally get the Wildcats in line with the Patriots, 35-35. Junior forward Kylee Vaal put Jasper back on top after a 2-for-2 trip to the free throw line. Knies scored her last bucket on a fastbreak layup off her steal at halfcourt, and the Wildcats made five of their last eight free throws to seal the win. The Wildcats outscored the Patriots 12-2 in the fourth frame.
Knies finished with 16 points, while Schwenk scored 12. Lytton had 19 points.
“We started slow, but the second half we gave it everything we got,” Schwenk said. “We really made the adjustments we needed to.”
The Patriots (6-3, 2-0) were disappointed in how they got away from their offensive rhythm and failed to collect key rebounds when it was necessary. They look at this game as a sign that there is still plenty of work for them to do. They’ll play their next game against Pocket Athletic Conference rival Forest Park Rangers (5-3, 2-2) on Thursday.
“We got away from what was working for us in the second half,” said Patriots coach Kim Brown. “Their defense tightened up, and we didn’t get any open looks on the inside anymore. Shots didn’t fall around the rim, and we didn’t do a good job at the free throw line either.”
“The first half we did really well,” added Neff, who finished with eight points. “We did what we focused on in practice. We didn’t keep doing the things that were working in the first half. Our communication was off, but we can work on that. This gave us a step back, helped us understand what more we need to work on.”
The Wildcats were encouraged by the fact they were able to pull out a win in such a tight game, and will use Tuesday night’s performance to give them confidence as they start conference play against the Vincennes Lincoln Alices (7-2) Thursday night.
“They can go into that game with a whole lot more confidence,” Mehringer said. “It helps us see what we’re capable of.”
“We just came together tonight,” Schwenk added. “It boosted our mentality.”
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