Jeeps had room to grow; now it’s time to goNovember 21, 2017
BY JONATHAN SAXON
Some of the best things in life, such as gaining your first car or going off to college, come after reaching a certain point in one’s maturity.
Northeast Dubois basketball coach Terry Friedman is hoping that growth process translates into continuing on with the success that the Jeeps saw last season, when they won four of their last six games, including sectional victories against Cannelton and Tecumseh.
“If we jump back to last year’s team, we were pretty young and inexperienced. We only had one senior on the team,” he said. “We were still trying to mold ourselves and figure out who we were as a team, but we also knew had some pretty good young talent. I really felt like last year around midseason we started to play pretty well as a team, and for that team to go 14-12 was a pretty good accomplishment.”
This season, which opens Wednesday at home against Pike Central, Friedman will see the return of almost everyone from the prior year, with the exception of Scott Betz, who graduated. He said it is the first time in his 12 years as a coach he has enjoyed that luxury.
“We return our top five scorers, so with that comes higher expectations of this group,” Friedman said.
Friedman envisions running a quick-pace offense behind his guards sophomore Reece Bauer (7.3 points per game) and junior Logan Dodd (7.3 ppg,) and Friedman said a higher tempo is a strength the Jeeps can exploit against their opponents this season. But the Jeeps should also be formidable inside with the presence of 6-foot-5 senior Griffen Bauer (7.1 ppg, 6 rebounds per game). They can all lean on the team’s top two scorers from a year ago, as Alex Harder (9.5 ppg) and Alan Kerstiens (12 ppg) both return for their senior season.
One of the challenges Friedman thinks the team will go through is learning how to balance athleticism and outside shooting with the half court, inside-out oriented offense. He does not want to encounter a situation on the court where the team has fallen in love with the 3-pointer, with the offense becoming impotent on nights when the shots are not connecting.
“In order for our team to be successful, we’re going to have to find that balance,” he said. “We do have good outside shooters, but we have to be able to attack the rim and get to the basket.”
Friedman will also look to stay true to the defensive principles from last year that allowed the Jeeps to hold their opponents to 53.2 ppg.
“Last year, it was our defense that carried us,” he said. “Traditionally we had been more of a zone (defensive) team. Last year, we were a lot more man-to-man and we intend to carry that over into this year.”
“Last year, we were strong. That’s going to come out this year, too,” added Kerstiens. “That’s what wins games. You have to play good defense before you can score.”
Kerstiens thinks the Jeeps should be able to pick up from where they left off last season without a hitch because the players are so familiar and comfortable with each other. He can see the team getting stronger now that they will have Harder for the entire season after he missed part of last season with a broken hand.
“We did lose Alex for half the season, but this year we have him back,” he said. “We just got to prove ourselves and keep working hard each practice and get better.”
Harder thinks the chemistry the developed last year will give the Jeeps an early edge.
“We have six seniors on the team this year. I see us all on the same page and (going) up and down the floor really fast,” he said. “We did have a few sectional and Blue Chip (Conference) wins which will carry over for this year, considering we only lost one guy from our team.”
In addition to getting strong productivity on the perimeter, Harder has also said the team is looking to cut down on its turnovers in an effort to maximize each possession and limit opponents’ scoring opportunities.
“One of our weaknesses we have now is keeping control of the ball,” he said. “ (We) need to value the ball when we have it.”
If Northeast Dubois can take care of the ball and allow the team chemistry to flow through their offense, Harder thinks the Jeeps have developed enough to make some Blue Chip noise. He also gives the team a good chance at beating a nemesis come sectional time.
“Over the past couple of years, we’ve had a rivalry with Wood Memorial for the sectional,” he said. “This year will be one of those years we can knock them off.”
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