Cobra boys put together strong run in Thunder Classic tournament
Heading into Saturday’s championship game at the Thunder Classic, the cards of fate seemed to be stacked in the Cobras’ favor despite the team entering the game as the lower seed.
The Jackson Heights boys won the very first midseason tournament in Seneca when it was the Raider Classic back in 1981 and the way they were playing it looked like JH was set to take the title at the first annual Thunder Classic (changed following the consolidation of Nemaha Valley and Baileyville B&B).
Somebody clearly forgot to tell Falls City (Neb.), though, as the tournament’s top seed (and runners-up at the past two tournaments in Seneca) dashed the Cobras’ momentum early on the way to a 67-52 victory in the championship game on Saturday night.
Jackson Heights may have been out of gas in comparison to Falls City as JH fought tooth and nail to get into the finals, while Falls City cruised in the first two rounds of the tournament and saved its energy for the title match, though the Cobras gave everything they had left on Saturday night.
“I thought the effort was there tonight from all of them and they still played pretty well, but we just didn’t play at the absolute top level that it takes to beat a team as good as those guys,” JH coach Chris Brown said.
Brown credited the Tigers’ defense for creating some problems and preventing the Cobras from putting together a game like Thursday’s semifinal victory. He said Falls City made it difficult for his team to get into an offensive rhythm, while the Tigers had no problem doing just that early in the game.
From the opening tip, Falls City went on a 10-0 run in the first seven minutes of the game to build a lead it would not give back. The Tigers were hot from three early, missing just one long-range attempt in the opening quarter and Brown noted he should have taken a timeout early and switched out of a zone defense to cool down that hot start, however, that was not the only area in which the Tigers were excelling.
So far this season, the Cobras have normally taken to the role of pushing the tempo, but on Saturday the Tigers pushed back and used their strength against them as Falls City’s transition offense was a big factor in the final outcome.
“We like to run and we like to hit easy baskets and they like to do the same thing and I thought the difference would be the team that got more easy baskets and they certainly did. When we turned it over, they turned it into points very quickly and very efficiently,” Brown said.
Coming out in the second half, the Cobras made some changes on the offensive end and flashed to the middle more to open some things up, while moving to a man defense allowed the team to win some one-on-one battles and force more missed shots and turnovers by the Tigers.
Zane Richter and Wyatt Olberding started to hit some deep threes (on back-to-back possessions no less) as well to get Jackson Heights back in it, but Falls City’s Jack Hartman seemed to have an answer every time as a rally-killer on the other end. Brown credited his defense for the job it was doing, but noted Hartman just hit some tough shots that allowed the Tigers to maintain the upper hand.
Still, Jackson Heights got within nine points on multiple occasions in the third quarter and looked to be making some headway. While it was the Cobras’ best quarter, it wasn’t quite enough to get them back in the game.
“I thought we played lights out in the third quarter, I really did, the unfortunate thing was we played that good and going into the fourth we had only cut their lead by two,” Brown said. “That third quarter pace was the level we needed to play the entire game to win and if we had, I think we would’ve had a great shot, but once again we just didn’t do enough.”
While Olberding opened the fourth quarter with a long three and Richter continued to roll in his record-setting weekend (his 30 points Saturday broke the record for most points in one tournament, giving him 101 over three days), fouls ended up biting the Cobras in the end.
That is another issue Brown credited Falls City for creating. As tough as the Tigers were to guard, it forced Jackson Heights into some difficult situations and they just couldn’t get out of the jam on Saturday as the Tigers pulled away at the line for the 67-52 victory.
It may not have been the ending the Cobras were hoping for, but Brown said that shouldn’t take away from the team’s overall accomplishments in the past week as it picked up two big program wins and gained some momentum going into the second half of the league season despite the loss on Saturday.
“Up until this point, I had told the guys I didn’t think that we played a full game yet and this week we played two of them Tuesday and Thursday,” Brown said. “Unfortunately Saturday we didn’t get the third, but when you look at the grand scheme of things it was a positive week for us coming in here, getting a couple wins, really gelling as a team and starting to play well.”
Jackson Heights (9-2) will look to keep that up in one final non-league game this week as they travel to St. Marys on Friday for a contest at 4:45 p.m. before getting back into NEKL competition.
Jan. 24, 2015
JH: Richter 11 (4) 4-7 30, Olberding 2 (2) 4-4 10, Strube 3 (1) 0-0 7, Slocum 2 0-0 4, Jacobsen 0 1-2 1. Totals- 18 (7) 9-13 52.
FC: Hartman 8 (1) 7-10 24, Stoller 5 (1) 5-6 16, Leafty 4 5-9 13, Witt 3 (2) 2-2 10, Jordening 1 0-1 2, Pentecost 0 2-2 2. Totals- 21 (4) 21-30 67.
Rebounding: JH- 14 (Richter 6, Slocum 4); FC- 19 (Leafty 7, Jordening 5).
Assists: JH- 9 (Strube 4, Slocum 2); FC- 12 (Pentecost 3, Witt 3).
Turnovers: JH- 12; FC- 9.
With apologies to Falls City (Neb.) and Marysville, the Jackson Heights and Nemaha Central boys had the most exciting semifinal of the night at the Thunder Classic basketball tournament on Thursday and, at least according to JH coach Chris Brown, possibly one of the most exciting games that he has witnessed.
“It was a game played at a very high level on both ends. We were playing really well on offense. We were scoring the ball and they’d come right back down and hit a shot on us,” Brown said. “It was a highly skilled game on both ends and we just made a few more plays than them and were able to get out with the win.”
After the dust settled, the Cobras (ranked ninth in Class 2A) were able to walk away with a 71-65 victory over tournament host Nemaha Central (ranked seventh in Class 3A) and once again a strong start helped JH get to that win.
“The first quarter was about as fast a game as I’ve ever seen at the high school level. Both teams were pressing, both teams were breaking the press, which was leading to a lot of shots that we made a bunch of. It was a break-neck pace. It was back and forth,” Brown said.
Nemaha Central slowed things down and switched to a zone in the second quarter, grinding it out inside on offense and using its size advantage, but the Cobras made some key shots when needed to stay out front and held a 41-34 lead at halftime.
Zane Richter hit a lot of those shots as he tallied 16 points in the first quarter alone before finishing with a game-high 40 points, which left him one point short of tying both the tournament and school single game scoring record.
“Every time that we needed a big shot, he took it and he made it,” Brown said.
While Jackson Heights backed off the press later in the game, the team continued to perform efficiently on the offensive end and extend the lead to 11 points going into the fourth quarter. No other player finished in double digits with Richter, but the Cobras had balanced efforts all around that helped them stay in front.
The Thunder got within three late in the game, but solid defense and strong free throw shooting (the Cobras were 12 of 16 on Thursday) helped Jackson Heights seal the 71-65 victory in the end.
Effort had a lot to do with the Cobras’ success on Thursday night as well as Brown said that was a focal point he addressed with the team prior to the game.
“We challenged them before the game that they needed to play really hard to have a chance and they did. I’ve never seen our kids play harder, diving on the floor, going after every rebound, just competing at a very high level,” Brown said. “It took some skill plays to actually score the ball, but it was our hustle and our effort that gave us a chance to do that and it was off the charts Thursday night.”
Jan. 22, 2015
JH: Richter 14 (4) 8-10 40, Olberding 3 (2) 1-1 9, S. Holliday 2 3-4 7, Strube 3 (1) 0-0 7, Slocum 2 0-0 4, Jacobsen 1 1-2 3. Totals- 25 (9) 12-16 71.
NC: Holthaus 9 2-6 20, Elder 5 5-10 15, Allen 3 (2) 1-2 9, Henry 3 1-2 7, Schulte 2 (2) 1-2 7, Oller 1 (1) 0-0 3, Bradley 1 0-0 2, Winkler 0 2-2 2. Totals- 24 (5) 12-24 65.
Nemaha Central 64, Marysville 46
Silver Lake 51, Hiawatha 45
Horton 61, St. Marys 48