Pats second half surge knocks Cats out of syncDecember 6, 2017
BY JONATHAN SAXON
LINCOLN CITY — Life is what you make it, but sometimes what’s more important is how you adjust to it.
That is the lesson that the Heritage Hills girls basketball team put into practice against Jasper on Tuesday night, which featured the Patriots overcoming a 25-20 first half deficit to earn their fifth win in a row and remain unbeaten at home by defeating the Wildcats 52-36.
Both teams started out the game pretty even, with Jasper (2-5) attaining a slim 13-12 lead behind a three pointer from Summer Herzog. But the Wildcats started to pull away in the second quarter, outscoring the Patriots 12-8.
Heritage Hills (7-1) struggled to move the ball efficiently inside to feed senior center Abby Wahl in the post, which lead to sluggish offensive possessions that ended in bad shots. The Patriots were able to close out the second quarter with a small 4-0 run, but they found themselves down by five points at the end of halftime.
It was during halftime that Patriots coach Kim Brown and her team came up with a different strategy to inject some life into their offense: instead of posting two girls in the lane, move one out to spread the floor and facilitate more passes around the court.
“In the first half we were in a three-two (set) for awhile, and that kind of just clogged everything up,” said Wahl, who finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. “So in the second half we went into ‘41’. We just had one person in the inside, and it opened it up for us to run inside-out a lot more.”
“We needed more movement, we were very stagnant the first half,” added Brown. “I think it caused a little confusion on their part and we were able to find the open girl without pressing and forcing a bad pass.”
The difference in the team’s performance was staggering. Heritage Hills opened up the third quarter on a 10-1 run to erase their first half deficit, and buried Jasper under a 19-3 scoring barrage that the Wildcats would not recover from.
“They made an adjustment. They started getting the ball inside to their stud Wahl, and we just didn’t respond,” said Jasper coach Jessica Mehringer. “We talked about the adjustments they would make at halftime, and defensively we didn’t do those things. We didn’t come out and execute in the second half like we did the first half and that’s the difference in the ball game.”
And it was not just the Patriots offense that saw a renewed spark.
Heritage Hills’ inspired efforts to clamp down on defense and crowd the paint stifled and frustrated Jasper’s motion, which caused their sets to breakdown and turnovers to manifest. The Wildcats committed 14 turnovers during the game, with the majority occurring in the second half.
“Our game plan was to keep (Brooke) Nottingham and (Claire) Knies out of the lane,” Brown said. “In the first half I don’t think we did a great job of that. They were able to get in there and pitch out, and (Summer) Herzog hit a three, (Kortney) Ruhe hit a three or two. They were hitting and we weren’t closing out because they were too far to close out. Clogging the lane is the key; keep them out from underneath the rim and don’t let them pitch. We did a much better job in the second half.”
In addition to Wahl, freshman forward Rebekah Gordon finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Patriots. Ruhe led Jasper in scoring with 11 points, while Herzog and Knies chipped in 9 and 8 points respectively.
As the Patriots get ready to face Forest Park (6-2) on Thursday, Brown is hoping to get her team to adopt a season-long commitment to another in-game adjustment which allowed them to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat. She wants everyone on the team to commit to rebounding the ball and not just leave the task for the bigs up front. She said that the team has the collective size to attack the glass which, coupled with their speed, will allow them to create added possessions and get easy transition baskets.
“In the first half we didn’t rebound well. We were much better in the second half, but it’s got to become instinct and right now it’s forced,” she said. “It’s got to be second nature to all the girls to work on getting the boards. Until it becomes second nature, we still have to work on it.”
For Mehringer, she said this game would be a tough one to review, but there is a lesson for her players to learn: You can be in the best position to succeed, but there must be execution in those positions in order to achieve success.
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