Jasper hangs tough for 'gutsy' win

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Jasper's Josh Weidenbenner shoots past Vincennes Lincoln's Evan Combs, left, and Isaac Lane during Friday's boys basketball game in Vincennes. Weidenbenner finished with a season-high 11 points as the Cats weathered the hostile environment to defeat the rival Alices 61-53 for their third straight victory. For more photos from the game, click here.



VINCENNES — Jasper boys basketball coach John Goebel knew the Wildcats would be going into an unfriendly gym as they travelled up the road to face Big Eight conference rival Vincennes Lincoln.

He expected the Alices to bring a high level of energy and intensity, which would only be amplified by the home crowd throughout the game. When the Wildcats worked through all of that to defeat the Alices 61-53 on Friday night, he only had one word to describe their performance.

“I thought it was a gutsy performance,” he said. “Vincennes did exactly what we expected them to do, they came out fighting hard. They played with a lot of heart and tenacity, and we never expected anything less than that. But I’m proud of the way our kids responded, especially the way we started playing in the second half. I thought we handled things really well in a hostile environment down the stretch.”

Lincoln (6-7, 1-2) was able to get off to a fast start in the first quarter thanks to a pair of threes from the senior forward duo of Hunter Hopwood and Isaac Lane. The Alices also reaped the benefits of a vintage three-point play when senior forward Braydon Robb hit a layup through contact and made the subsequent free throw. But Jasper (7-2, 2-0) battled back with a three-pointer from senior guard Josh Weidenbenner and six quick points from junior guard Jackson Kabrick. In fact, Kabrick scored 11 straight points, and senior forward Phillip Noblitt collected his own and-1 play off an assist from Weidenbenner to cap off the first quarter with a 17-11 Wildcats lead.

But Lincoln wasn’t going to allow the lead for long. Robb started the second quarter with a putback-bucket as he, Lane, and Hopwood combined for a 6-0 run to tie the game at 17-all. Soon the run was extended to 10-0 with free throws from junior guard Brody Ruggles and another jumper from Hopwood which put the Alices up 21-17 and forced a Wildcats timeout with 4:57 left in the second quarter. Kabrick and Weidenbenner tied the game once again, but the stalemate would be short lived as a jumper from Ruggles put Lincoln back on top with 2:22 remaining. The increased tempo and physical effort to keep Jasper from moving the ball inside had a dramatic effect for the Alices as they outscored the Wildcats 16-6 enroute to a 27-23 lead.

As the team went into the locker room, Goebel and the coaching staff had one message for the team — we are in a fight just as we expected, and there is no room or reason for overreacting.

“The biggest thing we wanted to do is not panic,” he said. “We weren’t surprised that the game was tight (and) physical. We’ve been here before, so the biggest thing we wanted to do after halftime is keep our composure and not feel like we had to make up everything in the first possession.”

To that end, Kabrick was able to hit a three-pointer at the top of the third quarter to turnover the engine and get Jasper within a possession of Lincoln. A Weidenbenner steal led to a fastbreak layup which put the Wildcats ahead again briefly, but four straight points from sophomore forward Ethan Bushey allowed the Alices to reclaim a 33-30 lead. Senior guard Evan Combs hit a three for the Alices with less than five seconds in the third to extend the lead, but junior guard Elliot Hopf was able to draw a foul on junior guard Torrence Gillis and hit both of his free throws before the end of the quarter to keep Jasper within one possession as they went into the final quarter down 38-36.

Jasper seniors Camden Knies, left, and Hagan Patton cheer on the boys basketball team during Friday's game in Vincennes. The Cats won a hard fought game in which Jasper head coach John Goebel referred to as a "gutsy performance". For more photos from the game, click here.

The game had been tight and could have gone either way in the first three quarters, but the Wildcats were finally able to seize control of the game in the fourth. Senior forward Jared Englert was able to find sophomore guard Caleb Burger with an open look behind the arc and Kabrick scored another quick bucket after a stop to give Jasper a 41-38 lead. Burger hit another three and Englert was able to get loose for a fastbreak layup as the Wildcats cemented their claim on the game with a 15-1 run. Hopwood hit a three with 2:49 left, and the Alices tried to use an ultra aggressive trap scheme to slow Jasper down, but the Wildcats pushed through and hit seven of their last 11 free throws in the final minutes to secure the win. They outscored the Alices 25-15 in the fourth.

Kabrick had 18 points and Weidenbenner had 11 in the win. Englert almost had a double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds in addition to his six assists. Lane led the Alices with 14, Hopwood had 12, and Robb finished with 10 points.

“It started on the defensive end of the floor,” said Kabrick. “We played well as a team, we got some stops and that boosted our offense.”

“We came out a little slow,” added Weidenbenner. “We came together towards the end of the game, and showed how we can play together.”

Jasper picked up their fifth win in the last six games with the Friday night victory over Lincoln, and while Goebel still wants his guys to overcome their habit of starting slow, he thinks that their ability to find ways to win during their current positive streak says volumes about the character of the Wildcats.

“We haven’t always played well, but we’ve found ways to win games,” he said. “We didn’t always play well tonight, we didn’t play well against North on Saturday, but we still found ways to manufacture wins. That’s the sign of a team that wants to be successful.”

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