Rangers top Wildcats on Jasper Senior NightJanuary 7, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — As they got ready and chatted before practice Wednesday afternoon, Jasper’s seniors could not believe that Senior Night would be upon them Thursday evening.
Hannah Schwenk, Kendyl Ruhe, Jaycie Hooten, Emma Shelton and Ava Noblitt all had their turn to be honored Thursday evening for Jasper’s annual girls basketball Senior Night, but like many things in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it was no ordinary Senior Night for the Wildcats (2-5), who lost to Forest Park on Thursday, 47-33. It was the second straight win for the Rangers (10-3).
Extended family members and friends couldn’t fill the bleachers because of restricted attendance, and it wasn’t long ago that the seniors couldn’t even take the court because Jasper athletics was shut down for two weeks. They knew they were going to be emotional upon being honored before the game, with some vowing to cry.
But even though they didn’t have a large audience, these circumstances have brought them all together.
“I think it’s going to be more of an emotional connection between us five than what it normally is because I think normally, we have more of like a deeper feeling with our families and our friends,” Ruhe said on Wednesday. “But now, we only get to have our parents and our immediate family in the standings watching us. We don’t get to have our friends there to support us. So, it’s definitely going to be more of a bond and relationship between us five and seeing that having to go so soon, rather than everything in general.”
Shelton, who is set to continue her career at Ohio Christian University, agreed upon Ruhe’s sentiments.
“Even though COVID is all bad and stuff, it’s gotten all five of us really close because we’re just like a big family,” Shelton said.
All five seniors started the game. Jasper got off to a 6-0 run Thursday evening, thanks to the buckets of Schwenk, who had a team-high 11 points, and also Hooten, but Forest Park came right back, and the Rangers were the heels of the Wildcats in an 8-7 deficit after the first period.
Sophomore Lydia Betz gave Forest Park its first lead on a 9-8 bucket, and the Rangers held an 11-8 lead off of a 7-0 run. The Wildcats were out in front for much of the second quarter, but it was a close one, and a three from Betz in the waning seconds gave Forest Park a 19-18 halftime lead. Betz notched eight of her 10 points in the first half, and sophomore Amber Tretter scored a game-high 13.
It was in the third quarter, however, when the Rangers separated themselves from their county rivals, going on an 8-0 run to start the quarter, and the Wildcats could not manage to break even or retake the lead. Jasper made it single digits at one point in the fourth, but the Rangers closed it out with a 14-point win.
"We just went over some of the rotations and assignments on the press," Rangers coach Tony Hasenour said. "We changed up a couple things defensively that we thought could be tightened up a little bit.
"There's a lot of things in the game that are just contagious," Hasenour continued. "Bad shooting's contagious, good shooting's contagious and when you start playing good defense, that's contagious as well. Once one girl gets a steal or two girls gets a steal and then we hit some buckets - everybody gets amped up, and (we were) able to capitalize on those."
Wildcats coach Jessica Mehringer talked to her team about executing after Thursday's game, because she noted the team is a few possessions away from getting wins.
"It's frustrating for us as coaches to see these guys work their butts off so much and a few bad decisions being the difference between them getting the victory - or at least feeling good about how they finished the game," Mehringer said. "That's frustrating for us, it's frustrating for them. So, those are things that we're going to be looking to continue to watch on film and talk to them about - so that we can get better at doing those things down the stretch here."
Though they didn't get the win on Senior Night, Jasper's five seniors have the distinction of being the first ones to go through all four years with Mehringer as the team’s head coach, and Mehringer reflected on what this specific group means to her.
“They’ve just been a great group of girls,” Mehringer said. “They’ve been great teammates of each other and the rest of their team the entire time they’ve been a part of our program. They’ve always put other things first. They’re not a ‘Me, me, me’ kind of group, and that’s kind of special, too, that you don’t get that all the time. I think that’s a reason why they do play so well together, but it’s just a fun group.”
Forest Park and Jasper are both slated to be back in action Saturday on the road, and both games will be against conference rivals. The Rangers will get a look at Pocket Athletic Conference foe Pike Central.
"Historically, we've always kind of come out flat in that game," Hasenour said. "I think it's after playing two county rivals, and we talked about that in the locker room tonight that we're going to have to come out and bring the same intensity and energy we do when we're playing a Dubois or a Jasper. And if we do that, we feel like we'll have a good chance, but going on the road and conference opponent - it's never going to be easy."
The Wildcats will do the same for Southern Indiana Athletic Conference rival Evansville Mater Dei.
"We're probably going to watch some film (today in practice), and we're probably going to get some shots off and talk a lot about Mater Dei and we specifically have to do defensively against them," Mehringer said.
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