Stylistic clash defines rematch

Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald
Northeast Dubois reserves rose to their feet as the Jeeps finished off last Saturday’s sectional championship victory against Tecumseh. The Jeeps are back in the Class 1A regional at Loogootee for a second straight season, and their first obstacle in the semifinals will be a Lanesville team that hung a 69-51 loss on Northeast Dubois two days after Christmas in the Springs Valley Tournament.

Herald Sports Writer

When Northeast Dubois junior Tristan Linne thinks back to the Jeep boys basketball team’s matchup against Lanesville in late December, the first thing he remembers is the Eagles’ quickness and ability to run the floor.

And when Lanesville coach Mikel Miller reflects on that contest, his first recollection is of the Jeeps’ big, bruising frontline.

It’s no coincidence, then, that the likely difference between Northeast Dubois (11-12) and Lanesville (15-8) in Saturday’s Class 1A regional semifinal at Loogootee, set to tip off at approximately noon, will hinge on those two distinctive team traits: the Jeeps’ size versus the Eagles’ speed.

The contrast didn’t favor Northeast Dubois on Dec. 27 at the Springs Valley Tournament, when the Jeeps, down by eight at the half, were outscored 21-9 in the third period and fell 69-51 to the Eagles.

For the Jeeps, there are more than enough reasons to be optimistic about the rematch. Northeast Dubois was on the latter half of a doubleheader that Saturday and had finished up a one-point win against West Washington only two hours before while Lanesville was playing its first game of the day. It was also in the midst of the Jeeps’ mini flu epidemic. Leading scorers Tyler Haas and Cameron Riecker weren’t 100 percent, with Riecker playing only limited minutes.

“Do we think we were at our best that game? No. But we learned a lot,” Jeep coach Terry Friedman said. “Lanesville is a very, very quick and athletic team. They get up and down the court and they press a lot and do a lot of full-court stuff against you.”

That pressure tilted a 26-8 turnover margin in favor of Lanesville. And if Northeast Dubois expects the Eagles to back off their press, the Jeeps’ recent track record won’t help. In their sectional championship win against Tecumseh, the Braves’ full-court pressure for most of the second half contributed to the Jeeps’ 22 total turnovers.

Much of the focus this week for Northeast Dubois has been trying to simulate the speed of an Eagle defense that averages 11 steals per contest. Friedman has challenged his varsity unit by conducting 5-on-8 drills.

But the key to Jeep success, besides taking care of the ball, will be sticking to their gameplan, meaning a heavy dose of the 6-foot-5 Haas and 6-7 Eric Dodson. In December against the Eagles, whose tallest player is 6-3, Haas and Dodson combined for 29 points and 15 rebounds.

“We’ve got to feed it inside and get them working on those (smaller) guys,” Linne said. “So we’ve got to work on dribbling inside, kicking it out and making them spread their defense and then re-posting, kicking it back in.”

But Lanesville will be prepared for the size disadvantage. It’s something the Eagles have battled all year, especially in their two sectional matchups last week when they used a 31-point fourth quarter to fight back from 13 points down in a 63-61 win against Christian Academy and swiped a 68-65 victory against Rock Creek Academy in overtime.

“When we’ve played teams that are bigger than us this year, we kind of know going into it that there’s a good chance that we’re not going to win the rebound battle, but we want to keep it close,” Miller said. “In the (sectional) championship against (Rock Creek), they were 6-7, 6-5, 6-2; and our tallest guy was (6-3), but I think we only got outrebounded 38-30. We were able to stay close enough that that kept us in the ballgame.”

And as much as the Jeeps were hurting back in December, the Eagles weren’t that far off. Second-leading scorer Jack Ferree (13.9 ppg) was playing his first contest after a five-game absence for disciplinary reasons and reserve Matt Husband (10 ppg) received limited minutes in his first game back from a concussion.

The Jeeps will also be wary of Jack’s younger brother, Joe, a sophomore guard who leads the Eagles with 14.2 points per contest and has also collected a team-high 65 steals.

Both Friedman and Miller recognize anything can happen, as was the case the last time the Jeeps and Eagles met in the postseason. In 2010, the last year the Eagles won a sectional title, Lanesville used a 19-6 fourth-quarter run to flip a Northeast Dubois lead and grab a 55-46 win.

That Lanesville squad lost its next game against eventual state runner-up Barr-Reeve. The top-ranked Vikings (23-1) are back in the regional and will face Trinity Lutheran (16-6) in the morning’s first contest at 10:30.

A potential semistate berth will likely go through Barr-Reeve for both the Jeeps and Eagles, but each team has more pressing concerns. For Northeast Dubois, Saturday’s contest is another step for a team riding a five-game win streak since the middle of February and hoping to make it at least one more.

“Our kids are very confident going into the regional. They’re not satisfied yet. They want to continue to try and make a mark here and we kind of like our chances going into the game against Lanesville,” Friedman said. “But it’s going to take a really good effort on our part, I think, to pull this one off.”

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