Jasper nearly upsets Barr-ReeveFebruary 4, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — It was a year ago this month the last time Jasper had an atmosphere like the one it had on Thursday. Jasper Athletics lifted some restrictions to allow cheerleaders, the pep band and a limited, socially distanced audience for the first time this season during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the hometown hoopsters made sure to put on a show.
An upset appeared to be brewing, as Jasper held a 52-46 with 2:26 to go Thursday at home against Class A-No. 1 Barr-Reeve. Yet, the Vikings are ranked the top team in their class for a reason, and they fought their way back on a 7-0 run to put the Wildcats (4-12) in a late deficit.
Junior Tanner Erny had something else in mind, though, trying to preserve the upset when he made a pair of free throws to give the Wildcats a 56-54 lead with 26.8 seconds left. The upset was in tact, until Barr-Reeve senior Devin Graber buried a late three. The Vikings tightened their defense to swat any inbound passes away, and hand the Wildcats a 56-54 loss.
“I’ve got no complains about our effort and our intensity and the emotion that we played with,” Jasper coach John Goebel said. “We didn’t get some breaks down the stretch that we needed. With two seconds left in the game, we needed one more miss for a pretty big win. We just weren’t able to get it.”
Goebel said that with 1.9 seconds left, it was a matter of catch and shoot — with not a lot of options.
The student section made their voices heard at just about anything early on — a trend that would continue throughout the evening. They vocalized their support when senior Caleb Burger drained a three to give Jasper a 3-0 lead, when junior Connor Foley stole a pass in the opening quarter or any time the Vikings were called for traveling.
Sophomore Carter Mundy made some big shots down the stretch for Jasper that led the student section to come unglued. He nailed a three in the final seconds of the third quarter to break a 38-38 tie and another one to reclaim the lead at 48-46. His 13 points were second on the team to only 16 from Isaac Day, as the former’s threes elicited noise from the fans.
“It felt like high school basketball, and I think the kids responded to it really well,” Goebel said. “It was the part of the season that we’d been missing — fans in the stands, students, family...it definitely gave us some energy and it gave us a nice, I would say home court advantage. We’re glad that it’s back.”
The 14th-year Wildcats coach said, though, that while Thursday’s environment was helpful, one of the things about being competitive is to be excited to play basketball if there are 1,500 people in the stands, five people or no people. With the schedule Jasper has been on, he noted that it’s hard to get up for every game while playing basketball Tuesday, Friday and Saturday for a month straight.
On that note, it was the first time Jasper played in five days, and Goebel saw the benefits of his team getting time to practice for a few days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. It allowed them to get some shooting in and shore things up by executing on offense without turnovers.
“There was that stretch where I think four out of five games we get 20-plus turnovers, and we wondered why we were losing,” he said. “Taking care of the ball tonight and better offensive execution has been a focal point.”
Jasper is scheduled to be back in action on Saturday at home against Boonville.
“We feel like we’re moving in the right direction,” Goebel said. “We don’t want to let up now. We want to stay focused on the things we’ve been improving, we want to stay positive and we don’t want to quit.”
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