Jackson Heights girls pick up gritty win over Pleasant Ridge
What a difference three days makes. After the Jackson Heights girls faced some of the same struggles early in Tuesday’s game against Pleasant Ridge that it did in a recent loss to Maur Hill, the Cobras made a quicker recovery and managed to pull off a 38-36 victory. The Rams entered the night second in the NEKL standings.
Jackson Heights fell behind early as Pleasant Ridge answered the Cobras’ first points with a 7-0 run and a full court press on defense that gave the home team some fits for a short spurt.
After some particularly sloppy play against the press, JH coach Dan Shupe took two consecutive timeouts to remind his time of the importance of execution and that if the players just did what they worked on in practice then it would translate to success on the court. Shupe’s message clearly got through and things played out just as the coach predicted.
“When they started doing that and reversing the ball, we got the ball down the court, down the sideline with long passes and broke the press,” Shupe said.
Once the Cobras had the Rams’ defense figured out, it was a tight ball game. Jessica Keehn hit two free throws to end Pleasant Ridge’s run and Hannah Williams provided some solid offense off the bench, converting the Cobras’ first two field goals with less than a minute left in the first quarter to get Heights within a point, 9-8.
In the last two meetings with Pleasant Ridge, Shupe noted his team has fallen behind by 10 and 15 points in the opening frames, so correcting course that quickly was a big boost for the Cobras moving forward in the game.
Jackson Heights may not have won the turnover battle on Tuesday night, but from the second quarter on they started to even things out and force the Rams to have similar issues, something that had a huge impact.
“They really did the rest of the first quarter and the rest of the game. When there was a loose ball, they went after it and got possession of it,” Shupe said. “We did a good job of turning it into a kind of ugly game. Of course, that’s kind of how we had to play with who we were playing because they probably had the two best players out there Tuesday night and we did a pretty good job of containing both of them.”
The players Shupe referred to were Kelsey Carpenter and Holly Ewert, who combined for just nine points on Tuesday. While they seemed to have an answer every time Jackson Heights scored in the back and forth second quarter, players like Jordan Wells held them in check the rest of the game.
Wells also delivered the final points of the second quarter, draining two free throws with less than a minute left, to give Heights an 18-17 advantage heading into halftime.
Defense has been the key to Cobras’ success this season, according to Shupe, and the team might not have had a better effort then the one against Pleasant Ridge. On top of creating turnovers and getting points in transition, the Cobras were much more aggressive on the boards on Tuesday night as six Jackson Heights players finished with at least five rebounds.
“That’s the type of intensity those kids need to realize they need to play with all the time. It should be a game like this where they’re just all out all game and we’re really still in the learning stages of that,” Shupe said.
Heights was also physical and aggressive throughout the game, something Shupe was been wanting to see from the team, and that helped it came out ahead in a gritty game that saw a lot of fouls called.
The Cobras continued to take advantage of that to break a 23-23 tie in the third quarter and Wells turned a blocked shot by Pleasant Ridge into a lay-up to end the quarter and give the team a 29-23 advantage heading into the fourth.
Free throw shooting is an area where Shupe has a lot of confidence in his team and the Cobras were able to capitalize on that Tuesday, making 18 of 31 while the Rams were just four of 20 at the free throw line.
“In my mind, all of these girls can make a free throw. It doesn’t matter to me who they put at the free throw line,” Shupe said.
A few more in the fourth quarter would have sealed the deal earlier, but Jackson Heights weathered a late rally by Pleasant Ridge that was fueled by Carly Simonis and her game-high 16 points and Aidan Allen drained two big free throws with 52 seconds left to help Heights hold on for the 38-36 victory.
The win is indicative of the parity in the Northeast Kansas League, according to Shupe, and shows that Jackson Heights can be right in that mix with some of the top teams in the league, so the coach believes this win is an important one for his team moving forward.
“I think this win here, like the Jeff North win earlier in the year, this is a big win and a confidence builder knowing that they can take the next step. That is possible,” Shupe said.
It is also important with several teams in the Cobras’ sub-state neck-and-neck in the race for higher seeds and Jackson Heights (8-7) will try to pick up another one as the team hits the road on Friday to take on Oskaloosa. Games will begin at 5 p.m.
Feb. 10, 2015
JH: Wells 3 2-4 8, Keehn 0 8-10 8, Strube 2 3-5 7, Allen 0 4-6 4, Williams 2 0-0 4, Thomas 2 0-1 4, Gibson 1 1-3 3. Totals- 10 18-31 38.
PR: Simonis 6 (2) 2-2 16, Ewert 2 1-2 5, Heim 2 1-2 5, Worthington 2 0-5 4, Carpenter 2 0-1 4, McKinney 1 0-0 2, Wagner 0 0-8 0. Totals- 15 (2) 4-20 36.
Rebounding: JH- 44 (Wells 9, Gibson 7, Allen 7); PR- 32 (Carpenter 7, Worthington 6, Heim 5, Ewert 5).
Assists: JH- 6 (Wells 3, Keehn 3); PR- 2 (Carpenter 1, Worthington 1).
Turnovers: JH- 22; PR- 17.
Jackson Heights 26, Pleasant Ridge 21
Pleasant Ridge 36, Jackson Heights 16