Kahle’s high gear hardly takes a rest

Alisha Jucevic/The Herald
Jessica Kahle (23) is the leading scorer and hustle pacesetter for the Northeast Dubois girls basketball team, which is one win away from matching last year’s win total with at least six games remaining. Kahle averages 10.3 points and three steals this season, and she’s translated her high-energy style into being a standout on the cross country and track teams and a school record holder in the 800 meters.


Jessica Kahle hasn’t broken or snapped or torn anything yet playing basketball. Yet, the Northeast Dubois senior says with emphasis, scanning the area for the nearest wooden thing to rap her knuckles on.

But there was that Jasper game a month ago when Kahle could scarcely walk earlier in the day but wound up soldiering through the game with a deep knee bruise. And has Kahle told you about the time in grade school she broke her arm? Left arm, to clarify. She’s broken both.

“That was when I fell off monkey bars trying to jump to the fifth bar,” Kahle says. “I knew I could jump to the fourth, but I didn’t know about the fifth. So I tried it.”

Kahle is of the mind that everything is within her grasp. It’s how she gathers just over three steals per game, a hefty average at the high school level. It’s how she set the school record in the 800-meter run her sophomore year in track, as she tried the race for the first time at the beginning of the season and trimmed 20 seconds off her time by the end. It’s also why she contends that “I haven’t been having a good season,” even though her team-best scoring average of 10.3 points, 37 percent 3-point accuracy and 74 percent free throw shooting would indicate otherwise. Something bigger and better is always within reach.

“She does things that most high school kids don’t do,” said Northeast Dubois coach Andy Chinn, who’d just gotten done watching game film from the Jeeps’ Saturday win at West Washington that included the latest installment of Kahle’s one-woman whirlwind show.

“She tipped a pass, dove on the floor, didn’t get it, pops back up, deflected it again, dove again. All in the span of 15 seconds,” Chinn adds. “It’s crazy sometimes, the things she does.”

With the sass to match her scrapes, Kahle packs a punch that often doesn’t stop until her close encounters with immovable objects — bleachers, scorer’s tables, etc. “I love running into walls and slamming myself into walls and getting on the floor, and I love doing that,” she says. “And whenever I’m not doing that, I feel like I’m not at my best performance that night.”

If Kahle had her way, every practice would probably feature the rough-and tumble drill the Jeeps do every so often: one girl takes a charge on another player rumbling toward the basket, then the one who falls down gets up, sprints to the opposite end, dives on a loose ball and retrieves it for a layup.

“It’s actually really fun, and it sounds not-so-much fun because you think you’re going to get hurt, but I like it,” Kahle says. “I absolutely love doing that. Like, I want to do that multiple times more than what (Coach Chinn) actually wants to do.”

Kahle acknowledges there are “some times when I overdo it,” but she’s not one to tap the brakes. That recent wicked knee bruise was acquired when Kahle attacked the bucket in practice and made a horizontal landing on the floor. That Thursday night and on game day Friday, she couldn’t bend her leg and was relegated to a slow limp.

“I looked like a dummy walking around, I tell you that,” she recalls with a laugh.

Yet even after Chinn met up with Kahle about seven hours before gametime and she dropped hints that she doubted she could play, the Jeep coach tossed her a volleyball knee pad after school and told her to let him know before the game. Kahle played practically the entire contest that night.

“Just how I knew it would happen,” a smiling Chinn recalls.

Chinn and Kahle have crafted a mutual respect toward one another, and it’s sturdy enough that both of them matter-of-factly explain it’s no big deal when the two of them lock horns. Sometimes, it’s merely competitive banter, such as when Kahle got the better of her coach during a series of sprints.

I wasn’t even trying.

I’m sure you weren’t.

And sometimes it’s more contentious, though it hardly lingers.

“It’s really no secret that Jessica and I have strong personalities, and we might clash every once in a while, but I tell this to her, and I love her as a kid and as a person,” Chinn says. “Friday at practice, our personalities clash, and we let it go, and we got to the bus Saturday (to leave for a road game), the first thing she did was came up and gave me a hug. And said, ‘We’re good.’”

Kahle’s comfortable with the dynamic, partly because it surrounded her growing up. Her father, Jody, has helped mold her hoops game, with everything from her shooting form to forcing her to drive to her right more. She began favoring drives to the left after she broke her other arm when she and one of her brothers collided bicycles and Jessica went flying. Just part of the rough-and-tumble culture of growing up the lone girl with three older brothers, Jace, Justin and Jordan. Jessica, predictably, took her fair share of bedevilment: “They would actually call me ‘Caveman,’ because of the way I screamed at them” with a guttural-sounding tone, Jessica says. “And then they would sit there and laugh. And then I got even more mad.” Yet Jessica’s positioning in the family had perks.

“They actually helped me a lot with just all my sports, and just how they encouraged me,” Jessica says of her brothers. “Jace, he would come home from college and watch me run cross country, and Justin came to (cross country) semistate. It doesn’t seem like it would help but it really does, because after not seeing them for like three, four weeks at a time, you’re just kind of like, ‘Oh, hey, I can run for you today.’”

Cross country courses with mud and puddles? Bring ’em on. Kahle loves them. She’s also a football fan who always campaigns to play football or ultimate Frisbee when her class gets to choose a game in advanced PE class at school. That’s where Kahle dinged up her foot last week getting tangled up with someone in “Blocker,” a hybrid of basketball and soccer.

If you’re inclined to label Kahle as a spitfire type, someone else attached that nickname long ago. One of Chinn’s family friends from his native Tell City who’s attended every Northeast Dubois game the last few years since Chinn started as the JV coach noticed a spunky little girl who started sprouting from a JV player to a varsity contributor. He started referring to Kahle as “Spitfire.” She’s been fanning the flames of her energy and hustle ever since.

“What’s great about Jessica, we’re trying to instill in our younger players that this is what you need to bring every game,” Chinn says. “Every practice, your energy has to be like that. But it’s really rare to see. That’s what makes Jessica a special player.”

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