Jasper honors five senior playersFebruary 19, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — It was anything but a certainty on Wednesday afternoon that this night was going to happen.
Jasper was originally supposed to play Pike Central Friday evening for the team’s annual senior night, but when the Chargers backed out of the game due to the weather, the Wildcats suddenly had a void in their schedule — not knowing what would transpire next with the need to get a replacement opponent.
That’s where Jeffersonville came in, and senior night had been salvaged. Jasper honored its five seniors Friday night: Caleb Burger, Isaac Heim, Andrew Wallace, William Schmitt and Jace Goodhue, and they’ve relished taking their home floor as Wildcats.
“It’s been a blast and a dream come true, pretty much, because I’ve always wanted to play in here, and just that I’ve gotten to means a lot,” Goodhue said on Wednesday.
“I remember watching games as a kid and thinking it would be great to play here someday,” Heim later said. “So, it’s pretty amazing to actually do it.”
Wildcats coach John Goebel said there isn’t a senior he’s had during his 19 years as a head coach that he doesn’t specifically remember. It’s been a tough go round for this particular senior class, from entering this game with a 5-14 record to being shut down a couple of weeks in December to the recent weather conditions having an impact on local sports.
“They’re like family to me because I’ve watched them grow up,” Goebel told the Herald on Wednesday. “I watched them competing in our third and fourth grade leagues and middle school, then our freshman team and JV team. I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know them and being with them every day throughout most of the winters. I think that’s the one thing that I wasn’t ready for when I was a young coach that I appreciate more now is by the time they graduate how much you do care about them.”
The five of them are trying to be senior leaders for a team that hasn’t always seen things go their way this season. Burger said that the senior group is trying to show the rest of the team what leadership means these last five games. He knows the responsibility of trying to lead the way because of the experience he got as a regular last year while the others graduated.
“I try to teach these younger guys things that I’ve learned that people above have taught me,” Burger said. “It’s necessarily winning the games, it’s about getting better — and I think these four guys can say the same as well.”
Goebel, meanwhile, had nothing but good things to say about the senior leadership they have shown.
“We hadn’t missed a beat,” he said as the team returned to practice after the weather caused a four-day layoff. “The energy was good, the excitement to be here was good and they don’t act like a team that’s 5-14. They haven’t let that get them down, and they’ve continued up and be positive.”
Some have had the task to stay positive regardless of their role on the floor. Burger, Goodhue and Heim have all started for Jasper this year. The three of them see the floor often, but Schmitt and Wallace don’t have the luxury of getting into the games as much, though all five started as a unit on Friday.
Wallace has still made the effort to encourage his teammates, to be there for them or maybe point something out if they made a mistake. Schmitt also tries to pick the other Wildcats up during the games.
“These guys are our best friends, and any way we can help them out throughout the games, we’re going to do that,” Schmitt said.
Goebel praised Schmitt and Wallace for being selfless — that they have sacrifice their time, energy and effort for the good of the team, which makes them valuable.
“What we’ve asked them to do is very, very difficult — to practice and to work and do everything everybody else is doing, but not being rewarded with playing time,” Goebel said. “But I think it was important enough to them to be a part of Jasper basketball, and I think that just says volumes about their character.”
A tough season hasn’t been without some fond memories, however. The Wildcats played most of their season without fans, but Jasper Athletics has eased some restrictions that made way for a limited socially distanced crowd to watch the team play. The student section, pep band and cheerleaders all returned Feb. 4 against Barr-Reeve, which saw Jasper nearly upset the top team in Class 1A.
“If you look back at the Barr-Reeve game when we had some fans in here, it really picked up the energy for us, and it’s just a great place to play,” Schmitt said.
The seniors will hope to make some final memories and finish the season strong by potentially making some noise in the sectional tournament.
"I think we just need to learn how to win close games, and I think we'll be ready to go," Wallace said.
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