Jasper falls in OT, drops third in a row

Jasper's Riley Merder attempts a layup during Tuesday's girls basketball game in Jasper. The Wildcats fell just short to North Harrison in overtime 64-62 on Tuesday evening as Jasper fell to 1-4 on the young season. For more photos from the game, click here(Herald photos by Nic Antaya)



JASPER — There are few things more frustrating in team sports than close losses. It’s one thing to look back on a game where blown out and realize you were simply outmatched, it’s another thing to have to figure out the small adjustments that are needed to turn the close losses into wins. The Jasper girls basketball team is still trying to figure out the latter part of the equation as evidenced by their 64-62 loss to the North Harrison Cougars in overtime on Tuesday night.

Jasper coach Jessica Mehringer was proud of the effort and the way the team battled in order to give themselves a chance at the end of the game.

“Overall we were pretty pleased with the effort that we put in,” she said. “The girls executed the game plan really well. The girls did a great job of playing together. We made some silly turnovers late in the game...late game situations is where we've got to be better.”

The Wildcats (1-4) were the first team out of the gate after tip off. They used an aggressive press and trap scheme early which caused the Cougars (6-1) to struggle in advancing past half court and led to a few easy baskets for junior guard Claire Knies and senior guard Kortney Ruhe. But senior forward Lilly Hatton was able to leak out behind the Wildcats’ press to get the Cougars’ first bucket of the night, and scored once again shortly after that to get North Harrison back into the game. Freshman guard Ali Saunders flipped one in to complete the 6-0 run for North Harrison to tie the game. Junior guard Brooke Nottingham responded for Jasper with a quick three-pointer on the other end of the floor.

Jasper kept up its press, but the Cougars were able to settle in and find holes in the coverage which allowed a few of their girls to leak out and get easy access to the rack. Hatton was able to finish a layup to give North Harrison their first lead of the game, but back-to-back triples from Nottingham and junior guard Meredith Hilgefort put the Wildcats back on top and Jasper was able to claim a 19-15 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Knies and Cougar freshman guard Diana Burgher exchanged shots to start the second, but North Harrison took advantage of Jasper’s reliance on jump shots and committed to getting touches in the paint to produce a 6-2 run which tied the game at 21 with a little over three and a half minutes left in the half. Junior guard Chloe Jacobi hit a pair of free throws and Saunders lobbed in another layup to put the Cougars up 25-24 at halftime.

Both teams came out with strong volleys to start the third quarter. Saunders and junior forward Lucy Robertson scored the first two baskets for North Harrison, while Knies and Nottingham answered back for Jasper with buckets of their own. Saunders knocked down a three-pointer to give the Cougars the lead. But the Wildcats kept clawing back thanks to scoring outbursts by Ruhe and junior forward Reagan Egbert. By the end of the third, the game was tied up once again at 43-all.

There were a series of turnovers from each team to start the fourth quarter, but Nottingham was able to cash in on one of her steals for a fastbreak layup. North Harrison responded with an 8-2 run to take back control of the game. The Wildcats kept fighting through the Cougars’ high zone to chip at away at their deficit and Nottingham was able to knock in her third three-pointer of the night to tie the game at 53 with a little over a minute left in the fourth. Ruhe was able to get a steal for the Wildcats in the final 18 seconds of regulation, but Jasper wasn’t able to convert before the clock ran out as the game went into overtime.

Jasper's Claire Knies falls after she reached for a loose ball during Tuesday's girls basketball game in Jasper. North Harrison defeated Jasper in overtime 64-62. For more photos from the game, click here.

After the tip for overtime Saunders and Hatton were able to put the Cougars on the board with early layups. Hilgefort knocked in a three to bring Jasper within one point of North Harrison. Hatton put in another four points, and Hilgefort landed another one from beyond the arc to bring the Wildcats within spitting distance of the Cougars.

After a couple of trips to the free throw line for both teams, Knies was able to hit a jumper with less than 16 seconds left to bring Jasper within a point of North Harrison. But Hatton was fouled late and sent to the line once again. She only made one of her two shots, but Jasper wasn’t able to get clean rebound on her miss for a final shot, and the score was 64-62 in the Cougars’ favor when time expired.

Hatton had 28 points for North Harrison and led all scorers. Saunders had 12 and Robertson had 11. Knies led Jasper with 15 points, Hilgefort had 14, and Nottingham finished with 13.

“I thought we battled every minute out there,” said Knies. “When we turned the ball over or had mental mistakes, I felt like we came back. That was really important for tonight.”

Mehringer said that the team has been showing improvement throughout this early portion of the season, and despite their record they have been in it with most of the teams they have faced in their first five games. She said that the team played their most cohesive offensive game up to this point, and she liked the effect the girls were able to achieve with their press. 

The next challenge now for the team is working to operate better late in games where the score is close and work on making a few adjustments to the full court pressure so that the team can keep up the heat for the entire four quarters. Mehringer wants to tinker with some things that she believes will maximize the team’s scoring abilities when the games are tight moving forward, but she thinks her team is headed in the right direction.

“It’s tough to call it a slow start based on the caliber of teams we were playing,” she said. “Our crucial growth factor is in those end of quarter and end of game (moments). Tonight we gave ourselves a chance to win a ball game. We got shots that we drew up, we didn’t just wing it. We’re a talented group, we’re just not giving ourselves the best chance to score. That’s the hump we have to get over.”

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