Lead fades, but Jeep growth shows

Photos by Matthew Busch/The Herald
Northeast Dubois coach Terry Friedman hugged his son Wade, left, and Cameron Riecker as they exited the game in the final seconds of Saturday’s Class 1A regional at Loogootee. The Jeeps maintained a lead on third-ranked Barr-Reeve until the game’s final seven minutes, when the Vikings pulled away to a 49-41 victory. The Jeeps finished with a 12-13 record after capturing the program’s eighth sectional championship. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

LOOGOOTEE — Minutes after his team’s tournament run came to a halt Saturday, Northeast Dubois coach Terry Friedman sat alone in an empty locker room and surveyed the scoring book that sat in his hands.

The names and numbers told a story. One in which the Jeeps, once overlooked as postseason potentials, not only competed but gripped a strong chance of extending their hardwood glory.

Confronting a Barr-Reeve team that had handily dismissed them in a regular-season bout, the Jeeps appeared capable of capturing victory for the better part of four quarters in the Class 1A regional semifinal in Loogootee. Yet in the end, a fourth-quarter Viking surge proved the difference, catapulting No. 3 Barr-Reeve to a 49-41 win and concluding the Jeeps’ tourney run.

When looking over the pages, Friedman described a mental limbo of delight and disappointment.

“I just couldn’t be prouder of them,” Friedman said. “We walk out of here sad that we lost but with our heads held high that we did the best we could.”

It almost was enough.

The Jeeps (12-13) maintained a lead over the Vikings (24-2) from the game’s opening minute until the 6:51 mark of the fourth quarter, handling pressure well when the Vikings looked primed to make runs. Ultimately, what will be remembered was that the Jeeps, despite battling one of Class 1A’s top dogs with the state’s third-best defensive average, earned an opportunity to win.

“We answered everything that they threw at us. We were totally a different team than we were Dec. 20 whenever we played them, and it showed out there,” said Jeep guard Bryce Huebner, referencing the Jeeps’ 72-55 loss versus the Vikings. “The score was a lot closer, and the most important thing was we had that chance. We had that chance to win, we just came up a little short.”

The fierce rematch came as no surprise to Barr-Reeve coach Bryan Hughes, whose squad later fell 43-42 to Borden (22-3) in Saturday’s regional championship. With a team of the Jeeps’ moxie, Hughes said, it was simply a matter of time before they overcame their early-season plight.

“It didn’t surprise me at all,” Hughes said of the closely contested rematch. “Terry does a nice job. And (Northeast) Dubois is always a program that has hard-nosed kids, and their struggles early (in the season), there’s too good of players on (the team) for that to continue.”

Jeep guard Jace Terwiske split the defense of Barr-Reeve’s Brandon Wagler, left, and Micah Bullock. Terwiske fought through an ACL tear to play all four postseason games for Northeast Dubois, and another story from the regional that includes Terwiske’s injury comeback is on DuboisCountHerald.com as well.

Tyler Haas paced the Jeeps with a team-high 17 points and 10 rebounds, Cameron Riecker notched 10 points and eight boards and Huebner tallied 12 points for the Jeeps, including a pair of fourth-quarter free throws that propelled the senior to 1,000 career points. A pair of free throws by Jace Terwiske rounded out the Jeeps’ scoring.

Addison Wagler stockpiled 17 second-half points to finish with a game-high 23 for the Vikings, who outscored the Jeeps 24-15 in the final period. Micah Bullock was the only other Viking to reach double figures, netting 13 while draining a trio of 3-pointers.

For Friedman, limiting Wagler was a top priority after he erupted for 31 points against the Jeeps in December. So Friedman tweaked the defensive scheme a tad by having Riecker front Wagler while a lengthier Haas, who guarded the burly forward in the teams’ first meeting, roamed behind in support.

The plan worked early. Wagler connected on just 3-of-11 shots in the opening half and missed eight straight attempts at one point, while the Northeast Dubois duo collaborated for 12 first-half points and sent the Jeeps into the break ahead 14-10.

“They were outstanding for us tonight,” Friedman said of Haas and Riecker. “We wanted Tyler to be the one blocking the shots. And that’s what he did. He came over and he disrupted Wagler and he made him work for everything he had.”

The game’s pace accelerated in the third quarter, as did each team’s offensive rhythm. Yet with each Barr-Reeve score, the Jeeps handled the Vikings’ full-court pressure with poise, committing just two turnovers in the quarter. They committed 11 in the contest, while the Vikings gave the ball away just six times.

Haas accrued nine points in the third quarter, including a two-handed throwdown with a minute to play, sending the Jeeps ahead 26-23 and the frenzied sea of blue in Jack Butcher Arena to its feet. Haas then closed out the quarter with a block-and-board combo and swatted his third block out of bounds on the Vikings’ first possession of the final period.

Yet the extended possession culminated with a 3-pointer for Logan James, giving the Vikings their first lead of the contest at 28-26. Bullock hit 3-pointers on Barr-Reeve’s next two possessions, and the lead suddenly ballooned to eight at 34-26, capping an 11-0 Viking run.

From there, Barr-Reeve connected on 15-of-20 free throws. And despite 10 points from Huebner in the final 4:24, the Jeeps pulled no closer than four at 45-41 with 47.5 seconds remaining.

Final score aside, contending late was a testament to everything the Jeeps had accomplished in the season’s latter half, when they won nine of 12 games before bowing out to Barr-Reeve, Friedman said.

“I think it’s just a conglomeration of everything that we’ve seen come together the second half of this season,” he said. “The kids developed the confidence they needed to in each other. They trusted each other.

“Right now, the toughest thing for me is our seniors. We had such a great senior class this year. This team has come such a long way. If you looked at our team back in November and December, you would have said there is no way we would have hung in in a game like this here. And today they proved that, No. 1, we belonged here. We belonged in this regional. And No. 2, we’ve come such a long way as a team.”

The coach lauded the persistence of Terwiske, who continued playing even after learning of a partial tear in his right ACL, as well as Huebner, Wade Friedman, Chad Hoffman, Austin Kunz and Matt Betz who together will serve as “an example of handling adversity.”

Haas furthered the point.

“They helped us regroup when we were in a tough time,” he said of the senior class. “When we were 3-9, we got together and they helped us through it and started playing more like a team.”

Added Terry Friedman: “I’m just proud to be able to coach these kids. I couldn’t be prouder of any team I’ve coached in my seven years at Northeast Dubois. I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of this one,” he said. “They came from a 3-9 team to finish the year the way they did; it’s pretty amazing.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.

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