Jasper rally falls short in overtime

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
Jasper’s Dillon Sternberg dribbles the ball during Thursday's boys basketball game in Jasper. The senior had a solid performance with 8 points and three assists, but the Wildcats fell short to North Daviess in overtime, 50-46. For more photos from the game, click here.



JASPER — Let it be said that Jasper never lacks a flair for the dramatic.

The Wildcats staged a tough, back-and-forth affair against the North Daviess Cougars in their final regular-season game. They started fast, then fell behind, and even produced a fourth-quarter rally to force overtime. However, the Wildcats ran out of gas in the final stretch, and fell to the Cougars 50-46 on Thursday night.

Jasper head coach John Goebel was disheartened to see the team still wrestling with issues when it came to making shots at home, but he lauded his seniors for doing everything they could to rally back and keep playing until the end.

“Our offensive struggles at home continued tonight, and that’s unfortunate,” he said. “But, I was especially proud of how our seniors stepped on the floor and competed really hard. They were a big reason we were able to come back late and put this thing into overtime. It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t knock down a couple shots when it counted.”

The Wildcats (13-9) struck first, thanks to a layup from senior guard Reece Milligan. But the Cougars (17-6) hit right back on a putback layup from senior center Jack Wininger. Both teams made back-to-back three-pointers, then senior forward Jared Englert made his way to the basket to give the Wildcats a 10-8 lead. Senior guard Shom Berry tied it up after an inside drive, then senior guard Dillion Sternberg reclaimed the lead with his second three-pointer of the quarter. Junior guard Jack Townsend hit his own three to balance out the score, but he missed his last shot of the first period as both teams went into the second quarter tied at 13.

Junior guard Trevor Riggins opened the second with a three-pointer to put the Cougars up 16-13, and junior forward Jalen Knepp padded the score with two free throws after drawing a foul on senior forward Kyle Hedinger. A Townsend fastbreak layup increased the Cougars' run to 7-0. Junior forward Jackson Kabrick hit a three-pointer to show signs of life for the Wildcats, but Wininger and junior forward Kirk Wagner scored during the Cougars’ last two possessions to give North Daviess a 24-16 lead at halftime.

Berry started the third quarter with an and-1 play to extend the Cougars’ lead to 11 points. Englert fired back with a tough bucket in the post after beating the double team. Kabrick drove to the basket and Englert scored on Jasper’s next two possessions to cut the gap to 31-24 at the end of three quarters of play.

Berry once again opened the fourth quarter with a basket for the Cougars, but Englert comes back with a baseline jumper. Sternberg created a transition score off of a turnover, and Englert hit a layup, got the foul and completed the three-point play during the Wildcats’ next possession. Senior guard Josh Weidenbenner, who had been quiet up to that point, managed to draw a foul and hit both free throws to cut the Jasper deficit to 35-33 with 3:25 left in the fourth quarter. Berry and Townsend combined to make three of the Cougars’ next four free throws, but Weidenbenner and Milligan hit consecutive three-pointers to finally reclaim the lead for Jasper, 39-38, with 1:33 left in the fourth. However, Wininger and Berry hit three of four free throws late to put the Cougars ahead once again with less than 30 seconds left. But on their last possession of regulation, Kabrick took his dribble from the top of the key, found daylight in the paint and laid it in to tie the game at 41, forcing overtime.

Jasper seniors Corbin Libbert, left, Grant Ahlbrand and Brianna Mehringer react as Thursday's boys basketball game comes down to the wire. Jackson Kabrick hit a shot to force overtime, but the Wildcats were unable to produce a second rally. For more photos from the game, click here.

But that was it for the Wildcat heroics. Berry opened the overtime period with a steal that turned into a transition score, and Wagner followed with a layup to put the Cougars up 45-41 with 1:40 left in the game. Weidenbenner and Milligan were each able to put one in during OT, but the Cougars made five of their eight final free throw attempts to seal the deal, 50-46.

Englert finished with 13 points, and Milligan had 10. Berry led all scorers with 14, Riggins had 12 and Townsend finished with 10.

“I thought we came out and played hard, that’s all I can ask from everyone,” Englert said. “We just have to keep playing hard and together for each other. I think that’s what it’s all about.”

While Goebel and team had hoped for a better outcome to end the regular season, he acknowledged they can’t afford to dwell on the loss as they look forward to sectional. They still have the momentum from winning three of their past five games, so now it’s all about flipping the switch as they get ready to face Evansville Harrison on Tuesday.

“They’re smart kids and, fortunately, I didn’t have to say much. They’re disappointed because they really wanted to go out on Senior Night and win,” he said. “They also realize we can’t afford to hang our heads down. We have to get back up tomorrow, get to practice and get prepared for Evansville Harrison.”

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