Jasper comeback attempt falls shy

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Junior Tanner Erny looks to drive for Jasper Saturday night. Erny scored 11 points — one of three Wildcats in double figures against Loogootee, but Jasper fell, 60-53.

JASPER — A huge early deficit was nearly erased multiple times Saturday night, but despite Jasper's efforts, it could not finish the comeback against Loogootee.

A slow start put the Wildcats (0-2) in a 20-4 deficit at one point in the first half, but they weren't about to be deterred from getting back into things. They slowly crawled their way back, and trailed by as little as three points on multiple occasions, but they couldn't complete the rally — falling to the Lions, 60-53.

“We appreciate how difficult it is to spend the motion and the energy that we did last night to do it two nights in a row,” Jasper coach John Goebel said. “We were hoping we could generate that kind of enthusiasm two nights in a row, but we didn’t start the game that way.”

The Lions used perimeter shooting and free throw shooting — plus they beat the Wildcats at the rim for much of the first half. Loogootee closed Jasper off, and the Wildcats had a tough time getting good looks early on that prevented them from keeping pace with the Lions.

“Loogootee did such a much better job at getting to the foul line,” Goebel said. “We didn’t contain the ball real well, we didn’t defend like we did last night, but the good news is we did find some energy — especially late in the game, where as bad as things were for the entire game, we gave ourselves a chance to win late in the game.”

The Wildcats began erasing their 20-4 deficit off a 3-pointer from junior Jack Ahlbrand, prompting the start of an 18-10 run to finish the first half — with senior Isaac Heim’s nine second quarter points propelling the rally.

Jasper's 3-point shooting also factored into the comeback effort, as junior guard Isaac Day nailed back-to-back threes to narrow Jasper's deficit to 38-35, and suddenly, the Wildcats were on the cusp of the lead.

Jasper had to rely on its younger, smaller and less experienced players Saturday night. The Wildcats didn’t have senior Caleb Burger, who brings experience to the team. Goebel knew how difficult it was not to have him Saturday evening, but the Wildcats balanced their distribution of the basketball. Day led the team in scoring for the second night in a row with 14 points. Heim and junior Tanner Erny each 11, and sophomore Carter Mundy contributed nine off the bench.

The Lions, however, drove often to the lane and finished at the rim. Senior big man Silas Bauer tied with senior teammate Jordan Wildman for a game-high 15 points, and Jasper had a tough time accounting for Bauer, which allowed him to get those buckets at the rim. The 14th-year Wildcats coach cited Bauer’s size and talent — but while Jasper didn’t expect to shut Bauer out, it hoped to limit him better than it did.
Loogootee also grabbed some offensive rebounds that it turned into scoring.

“I think we’re doing a pretty decent job being in rebound position,” he said. “We’re not very tall is part of the problem, and we’ve had two teams two nights in a row that crashed the offensive boards pretty hard. I think some of it right now is just toughness. When the ball comes off the rim, we have to go get it. You can only hold your block out so long. You’re going to have to go get the ball, grab it with two hands and want that basketball.

“For whatever reason these last two nights, we’ve given up offensive boards,” Goebel continued. “I don’t want to say it’s from lack of effort, but we were not determined enough to have that ball in our hands. And you also have to give credit to the two teams we’ve played. They were taller than us in the paint, and we got dominated offensively and defensively in the paint tonight.”

Loogootee tried to further pad its cushion Saturday evening, and Jasper trailed, 56-47, with 2:00 left, only for the Wildcats to go on a 6-0 run, and again, being one shot away from tying things. Jasper managed to get a deflection, and could've knotted things, but instead, the ball got away, and backcourt violation was called on the Wildcats.
The Lions proceeded to finish the game on a 4-0 run, with Wildman going 4-of-4 at the charity stripe for clutch free throws down the stretch to dash any hopes of Jasper completing its comeback.

Jasper will now get a layoff until Friday when it plays its first game back in the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference at Evansville Memorial. Goebel said the Wildcats aren’t going to change anything, but they’ll watch film, and continue emphasizing work ethic and defensive intensity, among other things.

“I know our kids will come in with the right attitude on Monday, and we’ll put in a full week of practice — working on our game, trying to get in better shape, trying to get better and trying to do the things we do well,” he said. “And hopefully, on Friday night, we’ll be ready to play.”

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