Second half escapes WildcatsFebruary 5, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
EVANSVILLE - Jasper's team bench and fans erupted when senior Hannah Schwenk, who had a team-high 15 points, drained a three in the third quarter to pull her team within one, a 30-29 deficit against Evansville North.
However, that was the closest the Wildcats (5-12) would get to retaking the lead in the second half of Friday's Sectional 16 semifinal at Evansville Harrison after holding a couple of brief leads in the first half. Things slipped from Jasper's fingers. The Huskies went on a 12-1 run after Schwenk's three, and the Wildcats never recovered, dropping a 59-40 loss to North.
"We have to have 32 minutes of basketball to beat a team like that," Wildcats coach Jessica Mehringer said. "And we had about a three-minute lapse where we turned the ball over, we didn't get good looks - we just didn't get a look. They came out and pressured us a little bit more. (Sophomore Jasmin Mehringer is) really our only ball handler.
"The other kids tried to step up and help, but when she was getting pushed so far away from the basket to make entry passes, that makes it tough to get anything going offensively," Jessica continued. "We just didn't execute offensively like we needed to be able to stay in the game."
The Huskies got offensive rebounds, got to the free throw line and found their players inside during the second half. Their balanced scoring made them hard to guard when sophomore Jalyn Shelby went for a game-high 16 points, junior Jaidn Green for 14 and fellow junior Kaylee Martin for 12.
Jasper, meanwhile, had challenges protecting the basketball at times in the second half, perhaps by throwing the ball away or not being able to get in a pass in from some of North's defensive pressure. The Wildcats increased their production with 10 points in the fourth quarter, but the Huskies kept their foot on the gas by finishing the final quarter with 17.
It was a competitive first half when Jasper trailed, 30-26, going into the locker room. The Wildcats fought back after trailing, 10-3, and the Huskies went on an 8-0 run. Schwenk, junior Izzy Hopf and Jasmin helped fuel an early comeback. The Wildcats outscored the Huskies, 9-6, after being down, 10-3.
"We told them that they were going to make runs - they're a good team," Jessica said. "We're going to have to do everything we can to stay with them in the first half so that we would have a chance in the second half if it was close."
They continued competing when senior Emma Shelton made a 3-pointer to reduce North's lead down to one at 16-15 in the second quarter; and freshman Emma Schipp, who was inserted into the starting lineup for Friday's game, had a layup to regain the lead for the Wildcats, 17-16. North regained the lead on a triple, but Schwenk propelled Jasper to tie it twice with a bucket to make it 19-19, then making both ends of a one-and-one with 3:18 to go for a 21-21 score.
However, the Huskies went on a 5-0 run after that. The Wildcats allowed some offensive rebounds and did throw the ball away a couple of times, and the Huskies' run didn't end until Jasmin notched two free throws with 1:05 left to go for a 26-23 Jasper deficit. The two teams got some more points to bring it to its halftime score.
Evansville North is scheduled to meet Castle for the sectional championship Saturday.
This game ended a season of adversity for Jasper. The Wildcats were shut down for two weeks, had a tough stretch record-wise in January, but won two of its final four games in the regular season. They competed in close losses to teams like Vincennes Rivet and Evansville Memorial, and fought in the first half Friday against Evansville North despite having graduated a lot of experience in 2020.
"I'll tell you what I told them - that I'm really proud of them, who they are, how they react to every single obstacle that was put in their way," Jessica said. "It was a back down, 'Oh, I can't do that' attitude. It was always, 'I'm going to stick my nose in there. What have we got to do to be in this game, to win, to make our best effort?' Whatever it might be.
"These kids, I credit them, their character is high, and their love for one another is also that way, and that makes it fun to coach kids when you have kids that play for each and play hard," she continued. "You can coach a team if they're playing hard and doing things hard. So, I just couldn't be more proud of this group of people."
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