'A little scattered,' Wildcats drop home opener

Photos by Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald
Jasper's Brooke Nottingham moves the ball down the court during Thursday's basketball game in Jasper. Evansville North defeated Jasper 56-36.


JASPER — Basketball is a game that’s meant to be played with pace. But sometimes that pace needs to be measured instead of an all-out sprint to the bucket. That’s what Jasper coach Jessica Mehringer hopes her team learned Thursday night as the Wildcats (1-1) dropped their home opener against the Evansville North Huskies, 56-36.

Mehringer saw the way her players got flustered and started rushing their offense to make up the distance with the Huskies. While Mehringer understood their urgency, she also thought the Wildcats, in their haste to score, didn’t give the offense a chance to work and create the best possible shots for them to take.

“When they got on a run, I think they tried to get it back too fast,” she said. “That’s a natural reaction for teams to have. We tell them you have to be patient, you have to get stops and scores. There’s no 15-point shot in basketball, so we have to be more patient and trust the offense.”

The first quarter was slow-going for both teams. Evansville North sophomore center Kaliah Neighbors scored the first points with a pair of free throws, which were followed by a score from senior forward Kenna Hisle. Senior guard Claire Knies notched the first Wildcat points with a jumper, and senior guard Brooke Nottingham sunk both her foul shots to tie the game at 4. Huskies senior forward Gabby Joyner broke the tie with a three-point play, but Nottingham found the rim on a fastbreak to bring the Wildcats within 7-6 as the first quarter ended.

Both teams exchanged buckets at the start of the second quarter, but North started to open up a lead after a three from senior guard Maddie Haynes and a Neighbors layup. Senior guard Lexie Jerger responded with a scoring drive off the pump fake for the Wildcats, but shots from Joyner, Hisle, freshman forward Jalyn Shelby and sophomore guard Kaylee Martin stoked a 9-0 Huskies run. Knies scored the last three points for the Wildcats, including a final jumpshot with less than five seconds left, but Jasper trailed North, 28-16, at halftime.

Junior guard Hannah Schwenk opened the second half for with a 3-pointer, but the Huskies responded with a 16-4 run to sink their teeth into the game. Knies used a three to try and stiffle the Huskies’ run, but the Wildcats struggled to get into a steady flow on the floor, and could not get the desired looks they needed to close the gap. North led, 46-25, by the end of the third.

Jasper's Hannah Schwenk passes the ball during Thursday's basketball game in Jasper. Evansville North defeated Jasper 56-36.

Things slowed down in the fourth frame, as both teams took turns sending each other to the free throw line. North wound up going 6 for 11 from the line as Joyner and sophomore guard Malaya Mattingly scored the only floor shots for the Huskies. Jasper was 5 for 6 from the charity stripe, and got shots from Nottingham and junior forward Ava Noblitt as the game came to a close.

Neighbors and Hisle each had 14 points, while Joyner chipped in 13. Knies led the Wildcats with 12, while Nottingham finished with 11.

“I thought we played good defense,” Knies said. “We needed to get back faster on transition D, but halfcourt D was good. When North went on that run, [we were] being impatient with the ball. That’s something we can learn from. It doesn’t matter how much we’re down, we still need to be patient with the ball and get good looks.”

In addition to developing more patience with the offense, Mehringer said the team also needs to look at how it defends the post, and get tougher when it comes to rebounding so the Wildcats can get more than one shot in a possession. However, she thinks a game like this against an opponent the Wildcats could see in sectional is good for the team, especially players who are new to playing at the varsity level.

“It’s November, so we can watch film and talk to a lot of these kids that haven’t played a whole lot of varsity yet,” she said. “To play a game like this, it’s a great learning experience for those guys. We got a hundred percent effort on the defensive end. We were just a little scattered on offense. We’ll look at and improve on those things.”

The Wildcats head back to their home floor to play the Evansville Memorial Tigers (1-0)d on Saturday afternoon.

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