Cobra girls fall to Valley Heights in championship game
The Jackson Heights Lady Cobras high school girls varsity basketball team’s bid for a return to the Class 2A state championship came to a disheartening end on Saturday at the sub-state championship game at Horton, where the Valley Heights Mustangs took a 40-11 win and the sub-state title.
Lady Cobra Head Coach Dan Shupe said that going into Saturday’s game, his team would “have to play very well and execute things at a high level.” But in the end, the Mustangs brought a level of aggressiveness to the game that the Lady Cobras had a hard time matching.
“Nobody in our league plays with that type of physicality,” Coach Shupe said of the Mustangs. “We had a hard time adjusting to it, and it just threw us out of our rhythm.”
On the other hand, Shupe said he was pleased that the Northeast Kansas League champion Lady Cobras — finishing the season with an overall 20-3 record and the first league title in more than 20 years — were able to hold the Mustangs to only 40 points after they’d scored at least 65 points to beat their first two teams in the sub-state championship, McLouth and Horton.
“I thought the girls played fairly well on the defensive end, holding them to 40 points,” Shupe said. “If you can do that to a good team, it gives you a chance.”
Offensively, it was a different story for the Lady Cobras, who had difficulty getting the buckets.
“We just couldn’t get anything in the flow of things on the offensive end to get things going,” Shupe said. “Credit Valley Heights for the defense that they put on us to get us out of what we normally do.”
Jackson Heights senior Kylie Dohl was limited to four points on the night, all of which came in the first half, and the Lady Cobras were limited to only three points in the second half, coming from a layup by senior Grace Roles with 30 seconds left in the third quarter and a free-throw by senior Jodi White in the fourth.
“It’s frustrating,” Shupe said. “We’d have liked to have shown the crowd a two-point game with someone winning at the buzzer. It just wasn’t in the cards.”
On Thursday, the Lady Cobras went up against NEK League foe Jefferson County North in the semi-final — the two teams’ third meeting of the 2019-20 season after each team took a win in the regular season — and came away with a 44-32 win to clinch a championship berth.
“We had a game plan and the kids executed it pretty well,” Shupe said of the Lady Cobras’ win against the Lady Chargers, who held the top spot in the league standings for most of the season.
The Lady Cobras jumped out to a 12-7 first-quarter lead, led by senior Abby Brey offensively with eight points, including a pair of treys while the rest of the team forced the Lady Chargers into turnover after turnover — eight in the quarter, compared to two for JHHS, which forced more JCN turnovers in the second quarter on the way to a 26-14 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, however, the Lady Chargers came roaring back in a 13-5 run. JCN senior Josie Weishaar picked up most of her 19 points in the frame, including a buzzer-beating, half-court three-pointer that pulled JCN to within four.
“That gave them some momentum going into the fourth,” Shupe said of Weishaar’s shot. “We just kept composed and did what we needed to do.”
Jackson Heights stepped on the gas in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 points to JCN’s five and earning the right to play in Saturday’s championship game. The loss left JCN with a final 2019-20 record of 14-2 and second place in the NEKL and 19-3 overall.
For the Lady Cobras, Brey led scoring with 15 points on Thursday, including the two first-quarter treys and another one later in the game, followed by junior Amaya Marlatt with 11. Defensively, senior MaKenzie Kennedy “really stepped up and defended one of their best players very well,” Shupe said.
Despite Saturday’s loss, Shupe said he and his team are proud of the accomplishments of the past season — 20 wins, the first NEK League title in more than 20 years and the examples set by the departing seniors that he believes will keep the Lady Cobras a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
“This was an eye-opening experience for some of these younger kids — one that shows them that there is another level to get to, and I hope that motivates them,” the coach said. “The girls’ program is going to have success for several years to come, and it started with this group of seniors right here.”
Shupe credited those seniors — Dohl, Brey, Kennedy, Roles and White — with playing a major role in turning the JHHS girls basketball program around.
“You look back before these kids got into high school, when Jackson Heights girls were averaging six wins a season for the last 15 years,” he said. “It’s mostly the kids getting the kids started at a young age, and it’s the kids you have. You could be the greatest coach in the world, but it takes having good enough kids to have success. And we were fortunate enough to have some great kids.”
He’s especially proud of Dohl’s setting two team records this year in total points scored — 1,296 after Saturday’s game — and total rebounds.
“Breaking those records is going to be hard to do,” Shupe said. “It’s going to take somebody special who will come in as a freshman and play at her level.”
And with junior Amaya Marlatt and freshman Rebekah Hutfles — the latter a young player who Shupe said “provided some offensive power” this season — the coach expects great things out of the team in the future.
“They’ll be fighting for a league title over the next several years,” he said. “The kids really put 100 percent into it. They really did... I couldn’t ask for them to put out any more effort than they did.”
Jackson Heights 12-14-5-13 44
Jefferson Co. North 7-7-13-5 32
Jackson Heights: Brey 3-3-0-1 15, Marlatt 5-0-1-1 11, Dohl 1-0-4-6 6, Roles 3-0-0-1 6, Hutfles 0-1-0-0 3, Kennedy 1-0-0-0 2, White 0-0-1-2 1. Totals 13-4-6-11 44.
JCN: Weishaar 6-1-4-5 19, Schneider 3-0-0-2 6, Vaught 0-1-0-0 3, Downing 1-0-0-0 2, E. Tweed 1-0-0-0 2. Totals 11-2-4-7 32.
Jackson Heights (2) 44, JCN (3) 32
Valley Heights (1) 67, Horton (4) 43
Jackson Heights 3-5-2-1 11
Valley Heights 13-11-7-9 40
Jackson Heights: Dohl 2-0-0-0 4, Marlatt 1-0-0-0 2, Roles 1-0-0-0 2, White 0-0-2-2 2, Kennedy 0-0-1-2 1. Totals 4-0-3-4 11.
Valley Heights: C. Toerber 4-1-0-0 11, E. Toerber 2-1-2-2 9, Yungeberg 2-0-5-6 9, M. Vermetten 2-0-1-2 5, Stevenson 0-1-0-0 3, S. Vermetten 1-0-0-0 2, Wanamaker 0-0-1-2 1. Totals 11-3-9-12 40.