Jackson Heights' Zane Richter (shown above, second from right) comes down with a rebound early in Tuesday's NEKL contest against Valley Falls. Richter had another big night for the Cobras, but the team also showed some balance as numerous players hit key shots to give JHHS just enough separation in a 46-37 victory over the Dragons.

Cobra boys hold their ground in big league win over Valley Falls


Jackson Heights’ boys basketball team found itself in an odd position on Tuesday night against Valley Falls in its first game back from break.

Used to being the aggressor and harassing teams with their defensive intensity, the Dragons gave the Cobras fits instead on the defensive end and JHHS coach Chris Brown credited the Dragons for having a strong game plan.

“They did a great job defending us, made us work for everything. We hit some pretty hard shots to even have the few points we had there, but I thought they did a great job guarding us,” Brown said.

In the end, Heights did hit just enough shots, though, and managed to hold off another NEKL contender for a 46-37 victory to start 2016.

Zane Richter picked up where he left off in 2015, as he went on an 8-0 run by himself in the first quarter to give the Cobras an 8-1 lead. The length of Valley Falls on the defensive end caused some issues for the rest of the team, though, and the Dragons focused on taking Wyatt Olberding out of the game, slowing the Cobras on offense and getting within two points by the end of the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter, the Dragons even took a one-point lead as Heights dealt with some foul trouble and struggled to adjust to their opponents’ defense. Turnovers, usually a strength for the Cobras, turned into the team’s kryptonite as Valley Falls got some points in transition to take the upper hand.

It was the balance JHHS has been searching for on offense that eventually helped Heights retake the lead and close out the half on an 11-2 run. Braden Dohl scored inside, Wyatt Olberding got to the basket, Richter hit a three and Brady Holliday capped it all off with another three at the tail-end of the second quarter.

“It was great because it was quick. I think we go from down one or two to up eight in 50 seconds. It’s great having those quick hitters,” Brown said. “That’s kind of what we’ve been known for is having the quick spurts. We only had the one Tuesday night that really felt like one of those little spurts, but that one ended up being enough.”

Despite getting up by eight after that run to end the half, foul trouble and the Dragons’ defense prevented the Cobras from settling into a rhythm in the second half. In fact, Valley Falls put together its own 8-0 run to get within two points once again.

Richter and Olberding had an answer for Jackson Heights, pushing the lead back to seven going into the final quarter, but it was Mason Thomas’ three early in the fourth period that may have been the dagger for Valley Falls.

It was a shot that Brown said was deflating for the Dragons, given how well they were playing defensively. While Richter had 17 of the team’s 25 points in the first half, Olberding only had two at the break.

All season Brown has said getting contributions from other players, who the coach has plenty of faith in, will be the key for JHHS and Thomas and Holliday proved that on Tuesday night.

Offense wasn’t the story of the game, though, as it was defense that saved the Cobras in the end. While Valley Falls presented some match-up issues, Brown noted his team could pose some problems to the Dragons as well and did just that throughout the night.

“I thought we did a really good job on their size inside. I thought our zone really eliminated easy baskets,” Brown said. “We talked to them before about how it’s hard for a big guy to dominate. He has to have somebody throw him the ball and then he has to go, so we did a great job of limiting their easy looks. That’s really what the key to the game was for us.”

Dohl, Brown said, played potentially his best game of the season while Olberding and Richter continued to play bigger than their size to help the team effort of negating the Dragons’ post play.

Jackson Heights also continued to keep the pressure on while trying to extend its lead late. After the three by Thomas put the Cobras ahead by 10, the Dragons were forced to foul to try and extend the game.

The Cobras responded with a full court pressure that Brown said was intended to protect the team’s lead and keep Valley Falls at a distance. With JHHS making its free throws as well, the plan worked to perfection.

“All we wanted to do was slow it down and get out of here with a win. We did a good job offensively of holding the ball and a good job defensively of eliminating quick shots and that’s all it took,” Brown said.

While it may have been an uncomfortable win, it is one that Brown said will prepare his team for playing opponents with differing styles and teach it to adjust. The Cobras will have to do so again with at least one match-up left against the Dragons, but for now JHHS (5-0) will prepare for another home game on Friday against McLouth. Games will start at 5 p.m.

Jan. 5, 2016


VF:  6-11-8-12—37

JH:   8-17-7-14—46

Individual statistics:

JH:  Richter 9 (3) 3-3 24, Olberding 1 7-10 9, Dohl 2 0-1 4, Holliday 1 (1) 0-0 3, Thomas 1 (1) 0-2 3, Jacobsen 0 3-4 3. Totals- 14 (5) 13-20 46.

VF:  T. Gatzemeyer 3 (1) 3-4 10, M. Gatzemeyer 4 0-2 8, Allen 3 0-1 6, D. Gatzemeyer 2 (1) 0-0 5, Maltsbarger 2 0-2 4, Yates 1 2-2 4. Totals- 15 (2) 5-11 37.

Team statistics:

Rebounding:  JH- 22 (Olberding 11, Richter 7); VF- 18 (Allen 5, T. Gatzemeyer 5, M. Gatzemeyer 4).

Assists:  JH- 4 (Richter 2); VF- 2 (M. Gatzemeyer 2).

Turnovers:  JH- 15; VF- 11.

The Holton Recorder

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Phone: 785-364-3141

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