Wildcats claw their way to comeback victory

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Jasper's Reece Milligan fires up a three-point shot during Friday's boys basketball game in Dubois. After trailing by nine points at halftime, Jasper rallied and defeated Northeast Dubois 32-25. The Wildcat defense held the Jeeps to just four points in the second half while players such as Milligan, Caleb Burger and Jackson Kabrick got things rolling after halftime. For more photos from the game, click here.


DUBOIS — You never do yourself any favors by lurching out of the gate and the Jasper Wildcats were reminded of that lesson when they took on the Northeast Dubois Jeeps on Friday night. The Wildcats found themselves looking up at their cross-county rival for most of the game, however they somehow found a way to dig themselves out of the hole and rally back to defeat the Jeeps 32-25.

Wildcats coach John Goebel didn’t like the way his team looked as they struggled to gain a foothold in the game during the first half. But sometimes a strong finish can overcome a bad start, and to that end he was proud of the way the players bounced back.

“I thought we hit the floor flat tonight and not very sharp, and on top of that we weren’t executing very well. The thing that’s frustrating about that is waiting until the second half to play like we care," Goebel said. “But I am proud of the way we responded and fought our way back in it. Holding Dubois to four points in the second half was obviously the difference maker.”

The Jeeps (5-8) took it to the Wildcats (10-4) early, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Senior guard Logan Dodd sparked the scoring with a three-pointer on his first attempt from the field, but junior guard Ethan Ziegler would follow up shortly after with a transition layup which was initiated by a steal from junior guard Reece Bauer. The Jeeps used their active hands and uncanny anticipation to flood the passing lanes and force turnovers to create instant offense as they jumped out to an 11-3 lead in the first quarter.

Sophomore forward Lane Knies knocked down a moonshot to start the second quarter and extend the Jeeps’ lead to 13. Junior forward Jackson Kabrick was able to lob one up and over to contain the hemorrhaging for the Wildcats. Bauer kept the Jeeps ahead with his multiple trips to the free throw line in the second, but the Wildcats were quietly used baskets from seniors Reece Milligan and Jared Englert to put together a 7-0 run and cut the deficit to 21-12 at the end of the first half.

Junior forward Quentin Harmon opened the third quarter with a layup as the Wildcats broke out on a 6-1 run to get within four points of the Jeeps. Sophomore guard Caleb Burger hit a jumpshot to make it a one-possession game, but Knies responded with a floater on the other end to keep the Jeeps up 24-21 at the end of the third quarter.

Burger tied the game at the top of the fourth with a three-pointer, and Englert gave the Wildcats their first lead with another layup shortly after. What followed was a final 9-0 run that allowed the Wildcats to complete their climb out of the hole and close out the game 32-25. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Wildcats were able to put the clamps on as they outscored the Jeeps 20-4 in the second half.

Kabrick had nine points, and Englert finished with eight points in the team’s tenth win of the season. Knies led the Jeeps with eight points and Bauer accounted for seven in the Jeeps’ third consecutive loss.

“We just came out slow in the first half, just careless turnovers and a lack of energy,” said Englert. “We picked it up at halftime. We came out stronger and together, we all knew we weren’t playing to our potential. All of us talking to each other and hyping each other up helped us come together and execute and do what we had to do.”

Jasper's Josh Weidenbenner and Northeast Dubois' Ethan Ziegler scramble for the ball during Friday's boys basketball game in Dubois. The Jeeps are stuck in a three-game losing streak but they've continued to show an abundance of fight and heart as they try to break out of the rut. For more photos from the game, click here.

For Terry Friedman and the Jeeps, it was just another heartbreaker that they will have to endure and recover from as they make their way through the back half of their season. Friedman thought the boys executed the game plan to a tee in the first half.

“We played the way we wanted to play,” he said. “We came out and were physical, our defense was outstanding the first half and we were attacking the basket. We quit attacking the basket, I’m disappointed that we didn’t follow through. Our effort was there, but from an execution standpoint we still wanted to attack and score in the second half, we just didn’t do a very good job of it. We have to keep working on that.”

Friedman hopes the boys can take comfort in the fact that they are able to play with anyone because of the fight and grit they bring to their games, but the sting of close games like this have the players frustrated with the trouble they have encountered when it comes to finishing the deal.

“It sucks to lose,” said Ziegler. “We’ve lost a lot of these games where we’ve been right in it at the end of the third quarter, then the fourth quarter just gets away from us. We need to win a couple of these games.”

Goebel hopes that his players will take a more active role in getting mentally and emotionally prepared for their games as they grow and move forward. He doesn't want them to be dependent on the coaching staff riling them up before they play, but he still recognizes the boys for turning it around and finding a way to win despite their early stumbles.

“We want to become more of a player led team instead of a coach led team, it’s got to come from them,” he said. “The biggest adjustment came from the players. They picked up their intensity. The credit for the turnaround doesn’t go to anything Xs and Os, it goes to what’s under the shirt.”

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