Second half surge powers Cats to victory

Photos by Nic Antaya/The Herald
Jasper's Brooke Nottingham drives the ball up the court during Tuesday's girls basketball game in Jasper. Jasper defeated Heritage Hills 63-49 thanks to a 22-10 advantage in the third quarter and strong shooting from Nottingham (12 points) and Kortney Ruhe (16 points). For more photos from the game, click here.


JASPER — The Jasper girls basketball has already had to face its fair share of tough opponents early this season.

Teams such as Class 3A No. 5 Evansville Memorial, Class 1A No. 2 Vincennes Rivet and perennial power North Harrison have helped prepare the Cats for what they were going to face against Heritage Hills on Tuesday evening — a team coming in with a 6-2 record and three wins by 20 or more points.

While it was the Patriots who held a narrow advantage at the halftime break, Jasper used a 22-10 advantage in the third quarter to carry themselves to a 63-49 victory.

What helped pace the Cats (3-4) to their second straight win?

“I just think sticking together and playing as a team is something we’ve been doing a lot more lately and it’s one of the reasons why we’ve been winning more,” said junior guard Brooke Nottingham who finished with 12 points in the win. “We’ve been staying with things — talking a lot on defense and making sure we play strong on offense.”

From the opening tip-off, it was made rather clear that it was going to be a very physical battle. Bodies went spilling to the floor and fouls were called almost every other second — or at least it seemed.

The Patriots (6-3) started the game off with a three-point bucket from sophomore guard Avery Neff and they’d knock down a few more from downtown in the first quarter courtesy of freshman guard Hadley Lytton and junior guard/forward Brianna Quinn. Jasper was able to get a few as well from junior forward Claire Knies as the Cats found themselves down 17-13 at the end of the first quarter.

Heritage Hills opened up a seven-point lead early in the second quarter thanks to a three-pointer from Claire Heckel and a bucket from Lytton but Jasper quickly closed the lead as senior guard/forward Kortney Ruhe knocked down some foul shots. Knies eventually tied the game back up on a three-pointer, 24-24. However, Heritage Hills went on a 5-0 run thanks to another three from Neff and another layup from Lytton. Jasper trimmed the gap to one point late as Heritage Hills led 29-28 at the break.

The Patriots had nine three-pointers in the first half as they were able to stretch the floor efficiently.

“It’s not necessarily something that we look for but we take them when we can get them,” said Heritage Hills head coach Kim Brown. “I wish they would’ve kept going in the second half.”

Things did indeed start to change in the second half. While the first few minutes of the third quarter were rather back-and-forth, things started to change when Nottingham hit a big three-pointer with five minutes to play that saw a two-point lead for Jasper become a five-point one.

For the remainder of the quarter, the Cats remained aggressive as Ruhe drew several fouls and knocked down her shots from the charity stripe while Jasper also took a big advantage of an and-one opportunity from Knies. Jasper closed the quarter impressively as well as Nottingham nailed a point-blank three just seconds before the buzzer went off, pushing Jasper up 50-39 heading into the final quarter.

“Anytime you get shots to start going down it definitely lifts your spirt, intensity and confidence,” Jasper head coach Jessica Mehringer said. “We always talk about the first few minutes of the third quarter and how they need to be great and the girls did a great job of executing what we talked about. They’re growing and maturing a lot.”

For Brown, once the tied started to turn in Jasper’s favor it was hard to swing the pendulum back in the Pats direction.

“It was a big momentum swing — we started to foul more and they got some points on the board from the free-throw line which started to dig (us) a hole,” Brown said. “Then, we started to lose some defensive assignments and (Brooke) Nottingham lit us up for a few threes. We battled back-and-forth but it seemed like they were just able to keep getting to the free-throw line and spread the lead.”

Heritage Hills' Avery Neff and Jasper's Kortney Ruhe reach for a loose ball during Tuesday's girls basketball game in Jasper. The battle between the Cats and Pats was very physical right away from the opening tip as bodies spilled to the floor early and often and fouls were called almost every play. For more photos from the game, click here.

Heritage Hills never got any closer in the fourth quarter as Jasper once again was able to knock down their foul shots while also forcing some more Patriot turnovers en route to the 63-49 victory.

Ruhe led Jasper with 16 points (10-of-12 from the charity stripe) while Nottingham (12, 3-of-5 from three-point) and Knies (11) also finished in double-digits.

Lytton led the Patriots with 12 points while Neff (11, 3-of-4 from three-point) and Gordon (11) also had solid scoring nights.

After losing three straight games, the Patriots will be searching for a big bounce victory in their next game at home against Forest Park (Thursday). Brown says the biggest key for the Pats is to continue to focus on their strengths.

“We’re a good defensive team so we just have to keep playing our type of defense,” Brown said. “That will get our offense turned around and then we’ll get it rolling and (we) should be alright.”

For Jasper, the Cats will use the victory as a stepping stone to potentially recording more victories against other tough opponents.

“We know what we’re capable of doing,” said Ruhe. “We know we want to win, we just have to want it more than our opponent. If we can do that, I think we’ll keep it going.”

Mehringer added: “One of the things I’ve talked to them the most is about the fact that when they play together, they’re going to be hard to beat. I’m really proud of the way they’ve kind of wrapped everybody up in this and everyone is working hard to get things done — that’s the difference for us.”

More on