Jasper's season comes to an end at regionalMarch 11, 2019
By JONATHAN SAXON
SEYMOUR — All great rides come to an end in due time and for the Jasper boys basketball team, the final stop came in the 4A regional round. The Wildcats were defeated by the Center Grove Trojans, 65-40.
Jasper head coach John Goebel said his boys gave it everything they had on the court, holding the Trojans to 15 points in the opening quarter and limiting senior forward and future IU Hoosier Trayce Jackson-Davis to 10 points in the opening half.
But Jackson-Davis was able to work his way through the defense for 10 of the Trojans' 22 points in the third quarter, which allowed them to pull away and take the victory. While everyone wished they could have moved forward in the postseason, Goebel didn't think the Wildcats (16-10) should feel ashamed with how they played on Saturday.
"I thought we played our hearts out," he said. "I thought we defended (Trayce Jackson-Davis) great in the first half, Center Grove had to work for every point that they got. That's all we can ask for.”
Jasper came out tough against Center Grove (20-8), throwing multiple defenders at Jackson-Davis to discourage his offensive effect. But it was senior guard Spencer Piercefield who got things started for the Trojans, scoring their first bucket with a foul line jumpshot. Senior guard Reece Milligan was able to draw a foul going to the basket and hit both his free throws for the Wildcats’ first points. Senior forward Lucas Doyle backed his way into a score, but senior guard Josh Weidenbenner responded right back with a midrange strike.
Both teams would trade baskets as they fought for control in the early going, and Jasper was able to take a brief 11-10 lead after a drive from Milligan with about two-and-half minutes left in the first. But a three by junior forward Justin DeGraaf reclaimed the lead for the Trojans, and Jackson-Davis was able to lay in one final turnaround shot as the first quarter came to close with a 15-10 advantage for Center Grove.
Jackson-Davis was able to draw contact and went 1-for-2 from the free throw line to start the second, while junior guard Jackson Kabrick struck back with a jumper on the other end. A three from senior guard Ben Nicoson extended the lead, and Jackson-Davis got to the rim once again after a pair of free throws from Milligan. Senior forward Jared Englert was able to get to the line and split his free throws, but the Trojans finished the half with a three from senior guard Spencer Piercefield and another layup from Jackson-Davis, which gave Center Grove a 26-16 halftime lead over Jasper.
The third quarter proved to be the tipping point for the Wildcats. Jackson-Davis started off with back-to-back putback plays for four quick points, and senior guard Ben Greller made it a 6-0 run after cleaning up Jackson-Davis’s first dunk attempt. Englert was able to fight inside for a basket and a Kabrick floater cut the gap to 32-20. But the Trojans would go on an 8-0 run after an Englert layup, which included a dunk from Jackson-Davis, to take a commanding 42-22 lead with 2:19 left in the third. Weidenbenner went 2-for-2 at the line to try and stop the run, but Center Grove finished the quarter with an 7-0 stretch to take a 49-24 lead into the fourth.
At that point the game was decided, even with a quarter left to play. Both teams scored 16 points in the final minutes to bring the game to a close, and each gradually pulled their starters when it was clear where the game was headed. Still, the lineups for both teams gave it all they had as the clock wound down for the morning, as Center Grove was able to win it 65-40 and slot themselves into the regional championship game. They defeated the Bloomington South Panthers 64-41 in the regional final later that evening to advance to the semistate round.
Milligan finished the game with 11 points, while Englert and Kabrick finished with seven points each. Jackson-Davis, who didn’t play in the fourth, finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds. DeGraaf also had 11.
"Give Center Grove a lot of credit, they're obviously a great team," said Milligan. "I'm not mad with the way we played, I thought we played really well."
"We knew Center Grove was going to be a tough matchup coming in," added Kabrick. "We wanted to come in and try our best to get some stops and put more points up on the board. We ended up taking a loss, but we're going to come back ready next season."
Despite the disappointment that came with seeing their season come to an end, the Wildcats reflected back on their season and considered how a lot of people counted them out when the sectional tournament started. They were proud of thriving in the underdog role and making it as far as they could. They still have a sectional title to their claim and they believe this season can serve as a lesson as to what a small school can do in the big 4A basketball pool.
“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” said Milligan. “I love these guys, coaches, and everything about this program. No one gave us a shot going into this season. No one gave us a shot going into the postseason. I’m glad we were able to prove a lot of people wrong.”
“The seniors that we had refused to quit, even when times got rough they kept working and they stayed positive. They kept the team together,” added Goebel. “Our underclassmen that are back next year, hopefully that puts a good taste in their mouth. Hopefully winning that sectional is a good experience for them, enough for them to want to do it again.”
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