Wildcats drop first home lossFebruary 6, 2020
By JONATHAN SAXON
JASPER — The Jasper boys basketball team had done a stellar job of protecting the fort and boasted a 7-0 home record going into Thursday night’s game against Class 1A No. 2 Barr-Reeve. However, the adage about good things having a limited shelf life came true against the Vikings, as the Wildcats (12-4) dropped their first home game of the season, 54-38.
Wildcats coach John Goebel acknowledged it was a tall task to come up with a defensive strategy that accounted for all of the Vikings’ (16-1) strengths, but what disappointed him the most was how the boys seemed to let their spirits fade when they missed shots, which in turn created a snowball effect they couldn’t overcome.
“We let that deflate us,” he said. “You should get excited about defense first, and when the shots weren’t going down early, it was an emotional letdown. You have to be tough enough to fight through that.”
The game started well enough for the Wildcats with junior guard Caleb Burger knocking in a three and senior forward Quentin Harmon scoring through contact to give Jasper a 5-0 lead. The Vikings fired right back with threes from senior guard Jacob Wagler and supporting buckets from junior guard Brycen Graber. Sophomore forward Hagen Knepp also got in on the action, and Graber closed the 15-0 run with a three. Senior guard Carter Stamm hit a couple free throws near the end of the first, but the Wildcats were down 16-7 going into the second.
Stamm and senior forward Elliot Hopf kicked in four points to try and spark the Wildcats, but Graber, Knepp and senior center Keegan O’Neill stormed back to give the Vikings a double-digit lead. Stamm, Hopf and junior forward Jace Goodhue drew the Wildcats within seven, and also got contributions from Stamm and senior guard Jackson Kabrick. Baskets from Knepp, junior guard Jamison Miller and junior guard Devin Graber allowed the Vikings to maintain a 28-21 at halftime.
The Vikings used the opening half of the third to etch the game’s conclusion in stone. Knepp, Brycen, Graber and O’Neill strung together an 8-0 run before Harmon tried to put a pause on the action with a putback. Brycen and O’Neill responded with another 7-0 run, and Knepp used a second-chance shot to put the Vikings up 45-24. Hopf and Kabrick made a couple shots drop, but the Wildcats were on the wrong end of a 17-point hole at the end of the third. Brycen and Devin Graber put the finishing touches on the game with consecutive and-one plays, and soon both teams emptied their benches to let their reserves finish the game.
Stamm had eight points while Kabrick, Hopf and Harmon finished with six each. Brycen Graber paced the floor with 17 points. Knepp and Devin Graber both finished with 10. Knepp and O’Neill also had nine rebounds each.
“We didn’t come out with the energy we’d like,” said Kabrick. “We showed a little bit of fight in the game, but we're looking to come back next game and show our fans we’re better than that.”
The next outing doesn’t get any easier as the Wildcats are set to play the Class 3A No. 3 Heritage Hills Patriots (14-3) at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday Cabby O’Neill Gymnasium. Goebel knows the Patriots present challenges all over the court, but the Wildcats can’t develop a habit of backing down from good teams when their offense is struggling.
“We’ve got to find a way to be more confident and execute better on the offensive end,” he said. “Hopefully we have a better mental approach on Saturday. Hopefully we hit the floor like a team that believes they belong there.”
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