Wildcats hope to play well at right timeFebruary 23, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — One thing that Jasper coach John Goebel has learned this season is that he can’t take winning for granted.
Goebel has won nearly 200 games in 14 seasons as Jasper’s coach, including two of the six sectional titles he’s won in his career, plus a Class 3A state championship with Evansville Mater Dei in 2004. This year, however, has brought about Jasper’s first losing season in 10 years, and just the third he has had at the helm.
“We’ve done a lot of winning this program over the last several years, and I think maybe in the back of our mind, we thought that it would just continue like that this season,” Goebel said. “You just can’t ever take that for granted. It’s always difficult winning basketball games on our schedule against the competition we play is always difficult.”
Yet, he’s also learned that things aren’t always about wins and losses — it’s about the process, getting better and getting the most for a team to play to its potential. Goebel’s found it disappointing, though, that there’s been so many losses in so many close games — citing either tough breaks or that the Wildcats haven’t made plays.
Still, he told the Herald that he’s seen other teams in the past have the kind of record that Jasper has had this season, and then give up on the year — which is something the Wildcats haven’t done.
“I think it’s just more of an environmental thing than anything,” he said. “They just come from a good community, good families and we have a good program. And I think they believe.”
Different things have plagued the Wildcats this year, such as turnovers, allowing offensive rebounds and not finishing at the rim. However, Goebel said at the beginning of the year that they have around 10 or 11 players that can give depth and get buckets, and that’s exactly what they’ve done.
Jasper has demonstrated the ability to share the basketball, and can get around eight or nine players on the score sheet on a given night.
“It’s some of the same characteristics that they all have that has helped us not to give up are the same reasons we share the basketball — we don’t have selfish players,” Goebel said. “I don’t think we have anyone going into the game thinking they’re going to get 20 points. They’re thinking, ‘What can I do to help the team win?’ So, I think that’s a big part of it.”
The Wildcats have had players step up this season in juniors Isaac Day and Tanner Erny, but some others have come along during the season. Juniors Connor Foley and Gus Heichelbech have brought some size to the team, while sophomore Carter Mundy emerged in late January and February as somebody who can shoot and score for Jasper.
Goebel credits Mundy’s recent elevation to the experience he’s gotten.
“The varsity basketball game is just a different level of physicality and speed,” he said. “Sometimes, it young kids time to catch up. So, it’s just been a process for him as game experience. Now that he’s getting acclimated to the speed of the game, the physicality of the game, his confidence has improved with that.”
Another challenge for Jasper this season has been free throw shooting. For example, missing some timely free throws prevented the Wildcats from escaping Linton-Stockton with a win Dec. 4 on the road, or going 10-of-18 at the charity stripe when they nearly upset Barr-Reeve on Feb. 4.
Sometimes, they’ve had trouble getting to the line, as evidenced by going 1-of-3 in their free throws in a 50-49 loss Feb. 9 at Evansville Mater Dei.
“I wouldn’t say I’m worried about it, but it’s obviously something that’s cost us dearly several times this year,” Goebel said. “So, it’s something we continue to strive to improve.”
Given that this is the sectional, however, anything can happen. Some of the close, competitive losses the Wildcats have had this season have come against sectional opponents — leaving the possibility that Jasper could surprise somebody in the tournament. The Wildcats are scheduled to meet Evansville Central in their first game of the Evansville North sectional.
He looked at some of the teams they’ve competed with, and doesn’t think anybody is going to say that Jasper can’t win. Goebel cited the Wildcats team that won the sectional championship in 2019 after going 13-9 in the regular season.
“It’s not like we dominated the entire season, but we played well at the right time,” he said.
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