Malady aside, Jeeps’ split stresses effort from allDecember 28, 2013
By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer
FRENCH LICK — Any flu antidote consists of a couple basic elements: hydrate and don’t overexert yourself.
While two basketball games in a five-hour period would probably fit the bill, it wasn’t all that bad for Northeast Dubois’ Cameron Riecker and Tyler Haas, who both were struggled with said fever as the Jeeps toiled through a doubleheader Friday at the Springs Valley Tournament in French Lick.
Thankfully for the pair of sickly seniors, the energy shortage was boosted by a remedial blend of contributors — both predictable and pleasantly surprising for Jeep coach Terry Friedman.
Sure, the two dozen turnovers in their 69-51 stumble against Lanesville caused angst amid heavy exhale after struggling to solve the stifling full-court pressure the Eagles applied for 32 minutes, even when leading by 18 points with less than a minute to play.
But there’s also the flip side. Like Northeast Dubois’ climb from a 12-point hole midway through the third quarter against West Washington, culminating in a 49-48 trimming of the Senators when Jeep reserve Luke Kerstiens, who hadn’t attempt a shot all game, buried a free throw with 3.7 seconds remaining to seal the comeback.
“The good news is, we got to play two games today and we found out some things about some of our kids ... we’ve got some kids that stepped up and played well for us. So we’re developing some of that bench that we need to be better down the road,” Friedman said. “And like always, we’re going to learn from this and try to get better. And right now, I guess our No. 1 goal going into the New Year is to try and get everyone healthy.”
Ah yes, the unwell. Kerstiens mentioned a few players even overheated during the Jeeps’ trudge past West Washington, in which the two squads exchanged the lead four times and were tied another three times in the final 3:36.
With Friedman affording Haas and Riecker respite whenever possible, the Jeeps’ quintet on the floor was a constantly revolving group of players through both games. And at various points, it was a different Jeep who accepted the brunt of the load.
With Northeast Dubois guards being smothered against Lanesville (4-2), the most effective medicine was found on the interior, as Eric Dodson collected 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting to complement his game-high nine rebounds. Haas proved potent as well, notching a game-high 16 points, including a baseline throwdown on a pass from a penetrating Riecker — one of the seldom occasions the Jeeps (2-5) could create an incision off the dribble in their second skirmish of the day. Jeep guard Jacob Gress added punch in the paint as well, ripping down six rebounds in each game, including five offensive boards against the Senators (1-4).
Yet by Friedman’s assessment, the key stimulants to Northeast Dubois’ second-half charge against West Washington arrived from its reserves, namely Kerstiens and Tristan Linne. Down by four points with five minutes to play, Linne canned a 3-pointer to bring the Jeeps within 40-39, the closest Northeast Dubois had been to the Senators since the 3:45 mark of the first quarter. Two Jeep possessions later, Linne connected on a pair of one-and-one free throws before sinking his second 3 of the contest the Jeeps’ next trip down the floor. The trey gave Northeast Dubois a 45-43 edge — its first lead of the game — with three minutes remaining.
“I’ve always been told I was a shooter,” said Linne, who also managed playing with a malady. “So I just shot the ball and got back on defense. We’ve got to play defense now.”
After a couple minutes of back-and-forth commotion, Gress pulled down his fifth offensive rebound and got fouled with 15 second remaining and the Jeeps trailing by a point. He hit one free throw, the Senators faltered on the other end and Kerstiens took an outlet pass and was inexplicably fouled with less than four seconds left in a tied tilt.
“That was pretty nerve-racking,” Kerstiens admitted. “My legs were shaking but I just took a deep breath and shot it.”
The victory and second-half verve contrasted with the Jeeps tepid start in the game, which had Friedman griping at first quarter’s end, “I’m tired of being out-hustled!” to his players on the bench.
And while the messaged seemed to be absorbed as the opening game matured, it also set the tone for Friedman’s main critique after Lanesville’s runaway, in which the Eagles outscored Northeast Dubois 42-21 in the middle two quarters.
“We’re just going to have a to get a little bit tougher. Handling the basketball, defensively, we’re just not where we need to be yet,” Friedman said. “We’ve got time to get there, but right now we’re just not as tough as we need to be. And some of that may be we’re sick. I know that’s part of it. But other teams are sick, too.”
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