Wildcats hang tight for first win

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Junior Isaac Day (5) led Jasper in scoring again on Friday, helping the Wildcats to a 54-46 win at Evansville Memorial, their first of the season. Day had a game-high 13 points. 


EVANSVILLE - They ran into trouble from the get-go, and it didn't always come easy, but in the end, Jasper's boys found their way in their first game back in the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference Friday night.

The Wildcats (1-2, 1-0) held tight for their first win of the season, 54-46, against Evansville Memorial. Foul trouble proved to be a challenge for Jasper, with two players having three fouls, and another finishing with four fouls.

However, the Wildcats distributed the ball, with eight different players getting on the scoresheet, and went 4-of-6 in the final quarter at the free throw line. They scored their first win of the season against the Tigers, just like they did during football season.

"It is possible to lose and still play well, still get better, and we felt like we had done that," Wildcats coach John Goebel said. "So, we knew we were close, but we also knew it would be a challenge to come out and win at Memorial, and it always is. (I'm) very proud of the guys for hanging in there, and staying positive and finding a way to win."

Senior Isaac Heim was issued a technical foul before the game, and as a result, Tigers senior Justin Waiz made two free throws and Memorial was awarded possession in lieu of the opening tip.

Senior big man Lucas Hoffman had an and-one play and went to the line one more, thanks to a foul from senior Jace Goodhue of the Wildcats. Hoffman made his free throw, and Jasper was suddenly in a 5-0 hole just 19 seconds into the game. It was the first of two fouls Goodhue had in his first two-and-a-half minutes into the game.

However, junior Tanner Erny got Jasper on the board with a three, and Heim tied it with a bucket. Some subsequent buckets from junior Isaac Day allowed the Wildcats to create separation. Jasper moved the ball around and had five different scorers in the opening quarter - including Day's eight points and Erny's eight points. The Wildcats finished the first quarter on an 18-2 run after trailing, 5-0, early.

The ball stopped going in for Jasper, however, and foul trouble found some of the other Wildcats as well. Heim picked up his second foul, and sophomore Carter Mundy also fouled twice, forcing Jasper to make multiple personnel changes.

The Wildcats managed to control the boards for much of the first half, but an offensive rebound by the Tigers opened the door to a Waiz three, and Jasper's lead shrank to 27-23. Memorial got one more bucket, and Jasper tried, but could not get bucket in the final seconds of the half, clinging to a 27-25 lead through the first 16 minutes of play.

"We were shooting well in the first quarter," Goebel said. "One thing that we were slow to recognize when the shots stopped going down, we kept taking the same shots instead of maybe slowing down and executing our offense, working a little harder to get the ball inside-out."

Memorial got off to a 7-0 run in the third quarter, but Jasper fought back, and held tightly to a 39-38 lead after three, making it a tossup in the fourth quarter.

"We just reminded our guys to stay the course, to keep defending and to keep rebounding and not give Memorial second chances," Goebel said. "We just had to turn up the gas a little bit defensively, especially. But on the offensive end, Memorial was doing a nice job of making passes, jumping into passing lanes, trapping us and mixing their defenses. And for a long stretch there from the second through the middle of the third quarter, we just didn't handle it very well."

Jasper was able to get the rebounds, and be smart with the basketball towards the end of the game, not managing to turn the ball over. Mundy may have gotten into foul trouble, but he also proved to be a catalyst down the stretch with all seven of his points coming in the final quarter.

Day led the Wildcats in scoring for the third straight game with 13 points, and Erny joined him in double figures with 11. Day went 3-of-4 at the charity stripe in the third quarter, and another junior, Michael Buechler, sank a couple of timely free throws to help put the game out of reach. Goodhue grabbed the board after the Tigers threw up a final desperation shot.

The 14th-year coach of the Wildcats expressed concern about not making timely free throws and giving up offensive rebounds into the young season - but he lauded his team for being smart players that have been playing basketball for a long time.

Goebel told the Herald that his players constantly work on those things, and they know how important rebounding is in the fourth quarter.

Jasper will hope to get to .500 Saturday against Heritage Hills in the River City Showcase at the Evansville Ford Center. The Wildcats will be tasked with trying to stop senior big man Blake Sisley.

"I think the thing that makes Heritage Hills tough is they are more than just Sisley," Goebel said. "Sisley's a load, and it does take more than one guy to guard him, but they also have several more seniors on the floor that have been playing with Sisley for a long time, and they understand their roles, and they're capable of knocking down shots. So, they're a team that can beat you inside and out, and that's what makes them tough to guard."

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