Jeeps return most of sectional winning team

Photo by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Northeast Dubois' Lane Knies makes a layup during Saturday's boys basketball sectional championship in French Lick. Northeast Dubois defeated Evansville Day 55-51.


DUBOIS — Northeast Dubois broke through in a big way last year, winning its first sectional championship since 2014. The Jeeps have almost everybody back from that title squad, save for the graduated Reece Bauer and Ethan Ziegler.

However, the Jeeps couldn’t play out the conclusion of their season after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the remainder of the boys basketball tournament. They would’ve played Christian Academy in the first round of the regional, and hoped to get to semi-state for the first time since 2000.

“I think they were very disappointed,” Northeast Dubois coach Terry Friedman said. “We were playing at a pretty high level heading into that regional, and the kids were really looking for an opportunity to go over there in the regional and prove themselves. And that opportunity was denied due to COVID.”

Friedman hailed Bauer and Ziegler for being “the engine that drove the team” last year with their leadership. The 15th-year Jeeps coach puts a lot of emphasis on senior leadership, and Northeast Dubois has six seniors this year. However, Friedman said it’s a work in progress right now, but noted this year’s seniors are a very close group.

“Your senior leadership is never always where you want it early in the year, but as the team molds and gels and comes together, I’m very confident that our seniors, too, will assume the leadership roles as we move forward here.”

Bauer left Northeast Dubois as the leading scorer in boys history, and Ziegler had the ability to drain multiple shots from downtown in any given game. Friedman thinks this year’s team has capable scorers coming back from last year’s squad that was more balanced towards the end of the season.

Friedman noted this team has a lot of playmakers, starting with seniors Lane Knies (who averaged 9.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game last year) and Nick Lueken (six points, 3.4 assists) who can make a lot of plays with their shooting range and ability to attack the basket. He’s looking for more from senior big man Logan Mehringer (4.1 points, three rebounds), who can block shots and provide an inside presence. Another senior, Ty Riecker (4.5 points), brings a rebounding and physical presence to the table.

The Jeeps boast two more seniors in Eli Lueken and Dante Miller. The latter played some junior varsity and got sporadic varsity minutes as well last year. Friedman likes the strides that Miller has taken.

“Dante’s made a lot of steps this year in his game this fall,” he said. “We feel like he’s really advanced his game, and he’s going to be fighting for a starting position and also serious playing time out there.”

Friedman said this team’s identity remains to be seen, but the current Jeeps seem to excel in the open court. So, Northeast Dubois will look to create situations where its personnel can succeed and create baskets that way.

The 1977 graduate told the Herald the Jeeps have a lot of length in respect to defensive concepts. He wants them to utilize their length and reach on the defensive end, while looking to use a half-court man-to-man defense. Friedman added they might use some zone defenses, but noted it was too early to tell if one specific zone defense fits his players the best.

Northeast has a pair of juniors this year in Colby Pieper (3.1 points per game last year), who got significant playing time, and also Bryce Merkel, who could be another surprise player looking to make an impact this season. Friedman likes how hard Merkel has worked, and added he needs to create things when he’s on the floor.

“We’ve had some sophomores, too, who will be pushing for varsity minutes this year,” Friedman said. “Peyton Betz is a very high IQ basketball player out front — still kind of learning the speed of the varsity game, but he’s capable of stepping in there. Gaige Schepers is also one who has shown the physicality to play varsity, and he’s working his way into the mix, too, for us right now.

“Other sophomores are Aidan Dodd, Ty Kalb and Noah Betz — our other sophomores pushing for varsity time right now,” he continued.

Friedman thinks this team is capable of running in streaks and putting good streaks together. However, he wants his players to develop a mental toughness when things aren’t going their way out on the court. He thought Bauer and Ziegler were good at keeping the team in games when they weren’t on their game.

Another concern of Friedman’s is rebounding. He’s looking for the team to develop a toughness on the offensive and defensive boards. Friedman knows the height and athleticism to be a good rebounding team is there, but the Jeeps also must stay focused on that.

He notes the Blue Chip Conference will be strong this year with Loogootee returning everybody from last year, and Barr-Reeve went 25-1 last season — losing only to the Lions. Friedman thinks, though, that the Jeeps can be right there if they compete at a high level every night.

Friedman added this team is capable of going on another sectional run, but it’s a process and they must guard against complacency. The goal is to show progress throughout the year, and avoid the virus, if possible.

Northeast Dubois is scheduled to open the season Wednesday at Pike Central. The Jeeps have opened against the Chargers every year since the 2014-15 season, and have won three season openers in a row.

“I think I’m most pleased as to how this team does get along,” Friedman said. “They work together, they look very good in practice when they’re very unselfish — when they share the basketball, not so much when we don’t share the basketball. I’m very pleased with that when we are able to share the ball and really do things together as a team, accomplish a lot.

“I’m also pleased with our athleticism,” he continued. “We have some kids capable of getting to the rim and finishing shots at a high level. So, we have to try to utilize those talents.”

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