Wildcats to evaluate things following Tuesday's loss

Claire Knies 

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

JASPER — Tuesday night’s game must have felt like a Sisyphean task for the Jasper girls basketball team. The Wildcats got close time and again to overtaking the Washington Hatchets, but they couldn’t get the stop, rebound or basket necessary to gain control of the game against their Big Eight Conference rival. The Hatchets, on the other hand, always found a way to create a run when they needed it, as they defeated the Wildcats, 44-36.

Coach Jessica Mehringer thought her Wildcats didn’t play with a great sense of urgency in the first half, and while they did pick it up in the second half, they always seemed to make costly errors that kept them from catching the Hatchets.

“I challenged them at halftime,” she said. “It didn’t feel like we came to play right off the bat. We weren’t too far away from them at halftime. Every time we would work to get it close, we would have some empty possession where we weren’t doing something smart. We came out in the second half and we battled, but we’ve got to have 32 minutes of basketball.”

Senior guard Melida Ajradinoska rang in the game with a 3-pointer, but sophomore guard Aspen Sermersheim struck back with one of her own from downtown. Sophomore guard Jesse Ledgerwood used a fastbreak bucket to ignite a 14-3 run with contributions from Ajradinoska and sophomore forwards Alaina Thorne and Kencia Levasseur. Senior guard Brooke Nottingham got a layup to fall in the closing seconds, but the Wildcats ended the first quarter down 17-8.

Junior guard Hannah Schwenk opened the second with a split at the free throw line, and senior guard Claire Knies made four straight from the line to make it a two-possession game. Back-to-back shots, however, from Levasseur and senior forward Ali Barber added to the Hatchets’ lead before a final shot from Ledgerwood gave Washington a 25-14 advantage at the half.

Junior forward Kylee Vaal got to the rim to start the third quarter, but Levasseur came back with a three-point play. Knies responded with six of the Wildcats’ next seven points, while Nottingham and junior Kendyl Ruhe cut the lead to two points with 2:20 left in the third. However, Levasseur, Ledgerwood and Ajradinoska combined for a 7-0 run to extend the Hatchets’ lead to nine going into the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats (3-6, 0-2) never got that close again. Knies hit a 3-pointer with less than a minute left to cut the lead to seven, but Barber made 5 of 11 free throws to help the Hatchets (7-2, 1-1) close out the game.

Knies had 16 points for the Wildcats. Ledgerwood led the Hatchets with 13.

“The second half was a lot better than the first half,” said Vaal, who finished with five points. “We started executing our plays more and holding their offense, but we still need to work on getting to the basket and getting more shots off. We’re playing good defense, but we’re not getting our shots off enough to up our score.”

Mehringer said this is a “mirror-check” time for the team, which also includes the coaching staff. She keeps seeing the players fall back into the habit of playing rushed and getting down when their shots aren’t falling, and thinks that it may take a trip back to the drawing board to figure out how to get the players in better positions to succeed in the future.

“I think we have too many kids that are trying to do too much,” she said. “That is a learning curve, so you’re going to have some growing pains. Overall, it’s on us as coaches to look and see why things aren’t working like they need to be on the offensive end and make some adjustments.”

The Wildcats will play the county rival Northeast Dubois Jeeps (4-8) on Thursday on the road.

 




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