Jeep twist keeps Spartans zoned out

Ariana van den Akker/The Herald
Northeast Dubois junior Chloe Johnson tracked South Knox ballhandler Sydney Hatton  on Tuesday night in Dubois, where the Jeeps collected a 44-30 victory in their Blue Chip Conference opener. The Class 1A No. 4 Jeeps darted to an 11-point lead after one quarter and held the Spartans to 20 percent shooting on the night.  For more photos, click here.


Herald Sports Writer

DUBOIS — Zone defenses are not normally seen as aggressive, engaging type sets, and the Northeast Dubois girls basketball team has not relied on one in the past. But after losing two speedy guards to graduation last year, Jeep coach Alan Matheis said his team will employ a zone more often that not.


Not a bad idea, if it has the same result that it did Tuesday night in Dubois.

In their Blue Chip Conference opener, the Class 1A No. 5 Jeeps used an active 2-3 zone to suppress a potentially dangerous South Knox attack to less than 20 percent shooting from the field — and 1-11 from beyond the arc — to roll to an early lead and an eventual 44-30 win. After gaining a double-digit advantage in the first quarter, the Jeeps (2-0, 1-0) gripped at least a 10-point lead the rest of the contest.

Their pressure on the Spartans started early, forcing four turnovers in the first quarter on their way to a 17-6 lead — their highest-scoring quarter of the young season. Most of those points came from center Rachel Breitwieser and forward Haley Kinder, who bullied their way to 11 points in the period against a large South Knox front line featuring 6-foot center Lauren Kirk and 5-foot-10 Courtney Copp. Kinder finished as the game’s leading scorer with 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting and Breitwieser finished just one rebound shy of a double-double (12 points, nine rebounds).

“Our shots were finally falling,” Breitwieser said. “We were having problems (during) our first game. We couldn’t get our shots down, but those were falling and our passing was looking a lot better. We like to throw it away more than we should.”

The Spartans (1-2, 0-1) shot just 2-of-13 in the first, and Matheis said the surprise zone may have
been a factor.

“I think we may have caught them off-guard playing that zone,” Matheis said. “The first couple games (we) played man-to-man, and we played them in zone because they were considerably taller than we were and have overall size on us. We thought we needed to do that to rebound a little more than anything.”

That strategy worked. The Jeeps outrebounded the Spartans 30-27 with 14 of those boards coming from Breitwieser and forward Katelyn Helming, who finished with six points.
But after the scoring outburst in the first, the Jeep offense faded in the second, noticeably while

Helming and Breitwieser, Northeast Dubois’ tallest players, sat on the bench with foul trouble. It’s an area Breitwieser — a three-year starter and only player over 5-foot-10 on the roster — and her coach agree needs improvement to log more minutes per game.

“It’s usually pretty important,” Breitwieser said of staying out of foul trouble. “It goes me and Katelyn (in order of height), and (then) the rest of the players are pretty short so when we have tall competitors like (South Knox) it’s really hard for (our team) to take over our spots and try to play down low.”

“I think Rachel and Katelyn need to kind of make an adjustment and instead of trying to block shots, they need to just contest shots,” Matheis added. “It’s a big difference whether you’re right where the ball is or (inches) away, and whether the referee will give you a break on it. We were getting close on trying to block shots, it just didn’t work out and we got in foul trouble.”

In the third, though, the Spartans came out in their own zone defense that slowed the Jeep offense to a crawl.

After getting inside looks in the first half, Northeast Dubois was forced to move the ball around the perimeter and take shots from 15 to 18 feet when South Knox emerged from the break in a 3-2 zone. The Jeeps had just 16 total attempts in the final two quarters compared to 25 shots from South Knox.

“We were able to build a bit of a lead there until the third quarter and they came out in a 3-2, kind of a matchup zone,” Matheis said. “I thought we didn’t do real bad against it, but for six minutes there, we couldn’t make a shot. ... You’ve got to credit that defense that stretch where we didn’t do very much.”

As the Spartans appeared to be gearing up for a late run in the fourth with five consecutive points from Weslee Wilson, Kinder sank two jumpers from the elbow and Breitwieser hit two bunnies from the block. Point guard Emily Lueken finished with six points, Helming grabbed five boards, Chloe Johnson netted four points and Brynn Hoffman tacked on a bucket and four rebounds.

On a night when the offense came and went in spurts, the Jeeps were able to rely on their defense for the second straight game. In eight quarters, Northeast Dubois has held teams to just 57 total points and has allowed double digits in a quarter only once — in Tuesday’s final period when the game was all but finished. The zone has proved effective so far, even if Matheis isn’t quite satisfied yet.

“We’ve still got some work to do on this defense ... but it’s a big thing to get where we could play a pretty steady zone and guard people. Sometimes in a zone, you just guard an area, not guard people, and I thought we went out there and guarded them pretty well and that’s maybe part of the reason they didn’t shoot so well.”

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