Jeeps 2000 semistate team to be honoredJanuary 9, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
DUBOIS — Northeast Dubois fell to 2-7 on Jan. 11, 2000, when it lost, 80-69, against Southridge. The next couple of weeks weren’t much better for the Jeeps, who dropped to 4-11, well on their way to a fourth straight losing season.
“I remember someone kind of jokingly said that we were going to have to go to regional to have a winning record that year,” recalls A.J. Voelkel, a senior center on that team.
What happened next was a complete 180, an in-season turnaround for a program that hadn’t seen a winning season since the 1995-96 campaign. Northeast Dubois went from seven games under .500 to becoming the most recent boys team to make an appearance at semistate. That team will be honored before Saturday’s game against those same Raiders they lost to exactly 20 years ago.
Northeast Dubois started off losing its first three games of the 1999-2000 season. The Jeeps lost four in a row after their first win, another two in a row after their second win and back-to-back losses after stringing together two consecutive wins. Voelkel said the Jeeps never gave up and never doubted. It was all a matter of a team that got along really well overcoming their ups and downs.
“We kind of figured out our roles,” he said. “I remember towards the middle of the season, me in particular, just kind of understanding what a big man does.
“Coaches worked with us and pushed us and stuff like that,” Voelkel added. “I really think it’s just we started to mature.”
Justin Tedrow, a senior forward from that team, described coach Rob Haworth as someone who never backed down. Tedrow said Haworth told the Jeeps from the beginning of the season that they were a good team and they were going to get where they wanted to be by the end of it. He said Northeast Dubois began to buy into Haworth’s message as the team got better during the season.
“He really was what we needed at that time,” Tedrow said. “He was an intense guy.”
The season was a test, an opportunity for some to prove their worth. Robert Weyer was a junior varsity player as a sophomore who didn’t get varsity time, but he stepped into a starting role his junior year. He said he did well in JV and had confidence as a player, but it took about a quarter of his junior season to get fully adjusted to the varsity game with the competition being faster and more experienced.
Then there’s Mark Gadlage, who was a junior point guard for the Jeeps. Northeast Dubois relegated Gadlage to junior varsity, something he wasn’t happy about.
“I think that the coaches were just expecting a little more from me,” Gadlage said. “They were probably expecting me to score a little more, take advantage of my speed and getting to the basket. I think I was just a little too passive. By putting me down to JV, it put spark in me. I’m a very competitive person — still am to this day — and I think that, just due to my competitive nature, I was like, ‘I’m not going to let this stand. I’m going to prove to them — prove to the coaches, prove to my team — that I have a lot to offer.’”
However, Gadlage suddenly found himself playing on varsity again after sophomore Cole Harris suffered a wrist injury Jan. 14 in a 71-61 loss at Paoli. He returned later.
“I took a charge and landed awkwardly, I guess on my wrist,” Harris recalls. “That’s the game my hand got broke.”
“It was going to be difficult to fill Cole’s shoes because he could shoot the three, he could drive to the basket — just a versatile player,” Gadlage said. “I didn’t try to be like him. I just knew what my strengths were, and I tried to use my strengths make the team better.”
Northeast Dubois was locked in a tight affair Feb. 8 against Springs Valley. The Jeeps were down, 63-61, with seconds remaining on the clock. Gadlage, who was more of a passer, had two points in the game. One of his shots against the Blackhawks was nowhere near close to falling. The Jeeps needed something. Gadlage wasn’t the first option, or the second, but Tedrow threw Gadlage a pass in the corner for a 3-pointer. It was his first game-winning shot at any level.
Gadlage broke down to The Herald what he was thinking during all of that.
“I can remember Justin taking the ball out right in front of our bench, and I remember it was a bounce pass,” he said. “I went down to the corner after I tried to set a screen for Robert because he was our first option. I could just remember that my man, who was supposed to guard me, kind of went after Robert real quick until the pass was thrown to me, and I saw him just hustle back. After I caught the ball and got behind the 3-point line, I could remember just seeing him flying through the air trying to block the shot. So, I gave a pump fake."
Gadlage continued: “I was like, ‘Well, if I shoot now, I ain’t going to get it. It’s going to get blocked. So, I may as well do a pump fake,’ and he went flying past and I just settled in and shot it.”
Gadlage thought to himself how good it felt after he won it for the Jeeps. His shot had the home fans jumping out of their seat. He recalled Voelkel ran to him, picked him off the ground about three feet and gave him a bear hug.
His buzzer-beater jump-started the Jeeps’ nine-game win streak. Northeast did not lose for the next month, scoring double-digit wins against its opponents in each of the next eight games.
“It changed everything,” said Tedrow, who does not recall making the pass. “When you’re 2-9 and you’re losing a bunch of games, you just need something good to happen and something to kind of turn the team around, and that was it. It was huge. You can see what it did for our season. It was the season-changer, I guess.”
“This team was such hard workers,” Haworth said. “You knew at some point, that had to be rewarded and the basketball gods would have to bless our kids in some form or fashion, and about halfway through the season, the basketball gods blessed this team.”
The Jeeps got their rematch against the Blackhawks on March 11 in that year’s sectional championship. It wouldn’t be close. The Jeeps rolled to a 71-46 win for their first boys sectional championship since 1988.
“I remember when we played them in sectional, they were really talking smack, saying that we beat them on our home floor,” recalls Dustin Wolf, who was a sophomore forward. “‘There’s no way that you’re going to beat us on a neutral floor.’
“That was one of those things where they just kept on talking,” Wolf continued. “We kept on hearing their talking smack about us, about how they’re going to beat us, and we just used that as momentum and more of a drive to beat them even more.”
Haworth had coached the likes of Voelkel and Tedrow all four years. He was there on that journey with them. Northeast Dubois went a combined 25-39 in Haworth’s first three years, but on that date, he cut those nets down after the Jeeps won their first sectional crown in more than a decade.
“It demonstrated that all of those open gyms, all of those practices, all the game planning, the scouting, it all came together,” he said.
Northeast Dubois saw its run come to an end March 18 in semistate against Jac-Cen-Del, 69-66. The Eagles adjusted to Tedrow in the second half. Tedrow scored 11 points in the first half, but finished with 13. They stuck Chad Pindell on Tedrow, and he could only tack on one more bucket. Other Jeeps stepped up. Voelkel, Gadlage and fellow junior Todd Senninger all scored double digits, but the Eagles also went on a 7-0 run the final 58 seconds. The Jeeps also had no answer for Ryan Dodson, who banked eight shots from downtown.
Voelkel thought the Eagles out-toughed the Jeeps toward the end of the game.
“There was a couple of times that I don’t think we were ready for their pressure towards the end of the game,” he said. “They started to press us a little bit more. We had a couple of turnovers just at the wrong time, and that was kind of the difference, it seemed like.”
That game was the end of the line for not only Voelkel and Tedrow, but also for Haworth, who went to Springs Valley both to coach and be an administrator. It also was the end for Josh Nolan, a senior who didn’t get as much playing time as some of the others did, but still served as a vocal leader. Nolan didn’t take what unfolded into perspective until after the season ended that the Jeeps started where they did and finished where they did. The run was remarkable to him.
“We became a really good, cohesive team as the year progressed,” Nolan said. “It was just kind of an amazing thing.”
The players don’t remember everything from 20 years ago, but they haven’t forgotten the love and support the community gave them during their run..
The Jeeps played New Washington on March 14 on the Mustangs’ home floor for regionals. However, the Mustangs had no such home court advantage. The Jeeps enjoyed vocal crowd support that night. The amount of fans Northeast Dubois had for that game, with some decked in their Jeeps gear, roared as the Jeeps stormed to victory. Gadlage told The Herald in the March 15, 2000, edition that it felt like a home game.
“I think that just goes back to how much basketball meant to our community,” Gadlage said. “One thing that everyone looked forward to on the weekends was going to the basketball game. Just the support that the community had for us was pretty incredible.”
“It was pretty crazy,” Weyer said. “We got back from sectional, the whole gym was just packed. The people waiting for us to come back to cheer us that we had won. The same thing with regional. I’m pretty sure we came back. We went to the gym and everybody was sitting there waiting for us. It was a big thing in town.”
A complete reunion won’t be possible. Gadlage won’t be able to make it. United States Marine Corporal Eric Lueken, another junior on that team, lost his life on April 22, 2006, while serving America during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Others have kept in touch through the years, though it’s been a long time since some have seen one another.
“A couple of them I’m still pretty close friends with, but most of them, probably over half of them, I’ll see them every once in a while, occasionally, at a store or something like that,” Weyer said. “A.J., I probably haven’t seen him in, I don’t know, 10 to 15 years.”
“It’s going to be exciting to come back and see all the guys that were on the team and just to be back in the gym and see all the fans that were there when we went on that run,” Tedrow said. “So, it’ll be a good time.”
When they see one another for the first time in a long time, none of them will have believed it’s been 20 years since they went on that run.
“I hope there’s a lot of story-telling, maybe a tear or two, but hopefully, more laughter and just a great chance to get to see everyone,” Haworth said.
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