Jasper’s post presence too much for Washington


JASPER — When any player on the Jasper boys basketball team converts on an and-one opportunity, it’s a play that will bring a spark of energy to everyone on the team — from the five players on the floor to the bench unit on the sidelines.

But when senior Ben Elliott converted his chance at an and-one with 5:41 left in the fourth quarter of Jasper’s 56-39 win over Washington on Saturday, the crowd may have been just a bit louder than usual.

“And-ones are one of the most exciting plays in basketball in my opinion,” said Elliott with a laugh following his seven-point performance (career-high). “Everyone likes seeing them and we just make sure whenever anyone gets one we get them hyped up and let them know they did a good job.”

The senior big man also saw a career-high in minutes played in his final game at his home gymnasium, as the Wildcats (10-8, 5-0 Big Eight) will end their season with four straight road games.

After junior Jared Englert got in some foul trouble early, Elliott was the first man called off the bench and what he provided in the rest of the game helped the Cats win their third straight.

“One of the things that Ben waits on is for someone to get into foul trouble,” Wildcat head coach John Goebel said. “After Jared had a few early ones, Ben came in and defended (Washington’s Gage) Latham who was starting to have a nice game against us, but Ben came in and worked hard on defense.”

Latham had six points in the first quarter for the Hatchets as they opened up the game with a 13-12 lead in the first quarter.

Washington built up a 17-12 lead midway through the second period, but consecutive baskets from Englert, Austin Simmers and Reece Milligan gave Jasper the lead back at 18-17. However, the Hatchets marched back once again to tie the game at 20 at halftime.

But as the second half got going, it appeared there was a different energy surrounding the Wildcats.

The beginning of the third quarter was still back-and-forth with neither team gaining more than a four-point lead. But after Washington called a timeout at the 4:50 mark, Jasper went on a 10-1 run to take a 40-25 lead. While everybody was pitching in to help, Englert stepped up in a major way as he scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half and also added 10 rebounds — a majority of those coming in the second half as well.

“When Jared is rebounding well and deciding to take the ball to the rim, there’s not a lot of people that we see that can deal with his athleticism,” Goebel said.

A lot of Englert’s boards followed shots that he missed himself, as he was often the first one to race under the bucket after putting up a shot and grabbing the offensive board for the second chance bucket.

“You just have to always go for the rebounds,” Englert said. “Especially on the offensive end because those second chance points are what get you ahead in the game.”

Washington closed the third quarter on a little run to bring it within 10 points and they cut it to nine at the beginning of the fourth but didn’t get any closer than that as the Wildcats outscored the Hatchets 14-7 in the final period with Jackson Kabrick making a few shots late in his 11-point outing to clinch the victory.

What was different for the Cats in the second half? Post play. Jasper scored 42 points in the paint and shot 55 percent in the win. It was important for the Cats to make their play in the paint a primary factor after shooting just 10 percent from beyond the arc.

“In the first half, we were 0-for-7 from three-point and I thought in the second half we did a much better job of getting the ball to Ben, Jared and Eric (Nordhoff) in the paint instead,” Goebel said. “Our determination on offense to get the ball into the interior turned the tide in our favor. Once we did that, we started to build the lead and we didn’t look back.”

While the play in the paint was the main reason for success in the second half for the Cats, those offensive possessions wouldn’t have been there without the play of Jasper’s defense which held the Hatchets to just 19 second-half points.

“I thought our defensive energy was good because we got some easy buckets off of defensive pressure and steals,” Goebel said. “Our confidence started to increase off of the defensive intensity which caused our momentum to increase as well.”

The Wildcats love to play fast in transition after missed buckets on the other end, which is the reason why Elliott thinks the Cats hustle so quickly to grab rebounds — they outrebounded the Hatchets 25-11 on Saturday.

“We do a thing called four seconds which is where if we get a rebound, we want to the have ball down in our offense in four seconds,” Elliott said. “For the offensive boards, it’s just easy buckets — I mean, when you can get those offensive bunnies it’s just great.”

With their home schedule wrapped up, the Wildcats will finish the season with four road games starting with an important matchup against Class 3A No. 8 Princeton on Tuesday that will decide the regular season Big Eight Conference championship — a title that Jasper hasn’t won outright since 1996 (they’ve been co-Big Eight champions in 2016, 2014, 2000 and 1999).

What’s the key for Jasper to end the season on a high note?

“We’d like to see more of what we saw this week. We’d like to see our guys zeroed in and focused on defense and find a way to manufacture wins even when the shots aren’t going down,” Goebel said. “It can’t always be about shooting, it has to be about defense. Whether it’s deflecting passes and getting rebounds or sharing the ball and scoring, those things have brought us success and hopefully we can continue to see those as we head to the tournament.”

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