Teamwork, adjustments send Cats to third win in a row

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

JASPER — Jasper’s game against the Vincennes Lincoln Alices shared a lot of qualities with a dramatic 4x100 meter relay race you may see during the spring. The start for the Wildcats was not the prettiest, but as the game went on you could see the team start engaging that kick to propel themselves forward, and in the end their second half push was enough to overcome a 13-point deficit and overtake the Alices 58-51 for their third win in a row on Thursday night.

Ruhe

Wildcat head coach Jessica Mehringer said the early mistakes for the team compounded on one another and made Jasper play disjointed as they tried to force up shots to overcome the fact that they weren’t able to get stops at the start of the game. It took the players coming together to dig themselves out of the hole rather than one or two girls looking to play hero ball.

“The first half we really got out of sorts and didn’t do things that help us win games,” she said. “We weren’t playing together. We didn’t execute on either end of the floor. The key ingredient for us is working together. We got a away from that in the first half. I’m really proud of them for coming back and sticking with it. We told them we just have to chip away, you’re not going to get that many points back in one possession. You've got to have stops and good offensive looks and we were able to get those.”

The Alices (7-2, 0-2) were able to get their spark going in the first quarter with junior guard Alanna Green hitting both of her free throws after drawing a blocking foul and three-pointer from junior guard Darrian Carmean. Wildcats senior guard Kortney Ruhe issued Jasper’s response by nailing her first three of the night, but Lincoln was able to build up a quick 11-3 about three-and-a-half minutes into the game. The Alices looked faster and more physical as they worked past the Wildcats’ defense for points in the paint and a load of second chance shot opportunities.

Jasper (4-4, 1-0) meanwhile was limited to the perimeter for a lot of their possessions and were unable to finish or draw fouls when they did work the ball inside. Lincoln was able to use their inside game to set up outside shots and fed off the additional threes from sophomore forward Maycee Lange to build a 18-7 lead by the end of the first.

The Alices started the second quarter with four quick points including a breakaway layup from sophomore guard Marissa Carmean, who was able to sneak behind the Wildcat press. Jasper still struggled to find their rhythm offensively, but they did enjoy buckets from junior guard Brooke Nottingham and Ruhe was able to find her shot from long range once again with another three. Combined with baskets from junior forwards Reagan Egbert and Riley Merder, the Wildcats were able to double their first quarter scoring output with 14 in the second, but still found themselves looking up at a 34-21 lead going into halftime.

During the break the team decided to make a defensive switch to their zone scheme and dusted off a couple of old sets from the playbook in order to create bette shot opportunities in the second half.

“We made some adjustments in what we wanted to do in our offense,” said Mehringer. “We went back to an old offense that we’ve run, and got them out of the stagnant mindset. We got them thinking about what they were doing, and let them get back to where they were running and flowing and hard to guard.”

Nottingham came out and scored the first two baskets for the Wildcats, and junior guard Claire Knies came up with a steal-and-score opportunity to ignite a quick 6-2 run for the Wildcats. Carmean answered back for the Alices with a three, but Jasper was able to get more consistent stops, their shots started falling, and the gap with Lincoln started closing.

Ruhe hit her third and fourth triples of the night and had an additional trip to the foul line to cut the lead to one point with 1:13 left in the third quarter. Carmean came back with another three to try and give the Alices some breathing room, but Nottingham drove in for another layup to bring Jasper within 43-41 as the third quarter ended.

Nottingham tied the game at 43-all with another drive to start the fourth quarter, while the younger Carmean connected from downtown to retake the lead for Lincoln. Knies finished at the rim to get the Wildcats back within a point of the Alices, and Ruhe’s fifth and final three-pointer was able to give Jasper the lead for good with 5:55 left in the fourth. Lincoln tried with all their might to fight back for the win, but timely buckets and free throws allowed Jasper to hang on for the 58-51 win.

Nottingham had 23 points, Ruhe finished with 17, and Knies had nine points in the win. Carmean and Lange both had 16 for the Alices.

“It was a pretty exciting game” said Nottingham. “It didn’t start out how we wanted, but it ended how we did and that’s all that matters.”

“The first half we came out rusty and we weren’t working together like we should have,” added Ruhe. “But when we came out in the second half we knew what it took, and we came together as five and worked together.”

Mehringer has a lot to be excited about with her team putting together good wins against Vincennes Lincoln and Heritage Hills in back-to-back games. She hopes that these wins teach the girls that they have to work together to maximize their collective talents in order to win, and wants them to remain focus as they look toward the next couple of games against their conference rivals.

“Whenever we can get 32 minutes together where we’re finding each other, then we’re going to see something really special,” she said. “It’s a grind right now. Saturday and Tuesday are conference games, so we have to stay focused and understand what we have to do to prepare to win. We have to know it’s got to be from tip-off to buzzer.”




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