Cobras shift gears, pull away in overtime for win over Ravens
Defense wins championships. It’s a principle that Maur Hill seems to relish, and one that helped it take control of the Northeast Kansas League title chase through the first half of the season.
The Jackson Heights boys were hot on their tails, though, and had Friday’s rematch at home against the Ravens marked on their calendars for a long time. It proved worth the wait, too, as the Cobras gave the Ravens a dose of their own medicine.
Heights’ pressure defense helped the team secure a key 56-50 victory in overtime and created a tie in the loss column atop the league standings, putting the Cobras right in that championship mix.
“I thought our press was probably the difference in the game, the pressure we applied, and it showed late,” JH coach Chris Brown said. “It didn’t necessarily show throughout the game, but late it showed with some huge turnovers that got us the lead and let us keep the lead.”
While the Cobras were in control for most of the game, the Ravens never really went away. Heights led from start to finish, but the largest they could stretch the lead to was seven points.
Late in the game, with less than two minutes left, that lead had dwindled to five points and Maur Hill’s Nick Caudle then hit a three, his only three of the night, to tie things up at 42-42 with less than 30 seconds left in the game.
Sandwiched around that three were a couple of late misses at the free throw line by Heights, including an uncharacteristic miss by Zane Richter with just one second left on the game clock.
Jackson Heights may not have been able to put it away in regulation, but Brown made sure his team wouldn’t let what seemed like a surefire win slip away in overtime.
“The message in overtime when we got on the floor was ‘end this right now.’ Get your free throws, get your stops on defense, get rebounds and end it, which I thought we did a lot better job of in overtime than we did in the fourth quarter,” Brown said.
Richter in particular seemed to take the message to heart as he was a perfect 10-for-10 at the free throw line in the extra period and finished with 12 of the Cobras’ 14 points in overtime.
“He might miss a shot. He might miss a free throw, but he’s still shooting the next one. There was no doubt in my mind he was going to come back in overtime and light it up,” Brown said.
While Richter’s offense was key, the Cobras found another gear on team defense that allowed them to pull away down the stretch, forcing turnovers and creating empty possessions for Maur Hill on the other end. Heights won the turnover battle handily on Friday night, forcing 20 while having just eight of its own.
Maur Hill brought its own stout defense into Friday’s game, but Jackson Heights won out in the end because of tenacity and a relentless attack that seemed to wear on its opponent. While the Ravens broke the press at times, they were unable to get points in a transition and Brown said that was due to the Cobras making solid adjustments on the fly to give the same press defense a different look. By the time overtime rolled around, Maur Hill had had enough.
“That’s the whole point of the press defense is we want to control the tempo. We’re going to go at our pace and that let’s us do it,” Brown said. “We felt like we were deeper than they were. We felt like we could go to our bench and I think that showed in the fourth quarter and overtime that we were a little more fresh with our legs and, obviously, knocking down free throws.”
Transition offense was also a key factor in the second half. While the Cobras were forcing turnovers early, they weren’t really able to turn them into points until the third quarter started. That is part of the reason the Ravens stayed within two points, 21-19, at the half.
Out of the break, though, the Cobras got out a little more and also adjusted offensively to the Ravens’ attempts to shut down Richter. Brown noted his team didn’t take advantage of that, something it knew was coming, in the first half. In the second half, the JH players slid behind Richter and got the ball in the high post more often to expand its offensive options.
Seth Holliday hit a big three early on to push the Cobras’ lead to seven, but the Ravens’ immediately responded with a 5-0 run to get back within two points.
Execution on the offensive end was key in the second half, but Heights also needed every valuable minute from Lane Slocum to win a key post battle on Friday. Slocum picked up two fouls early, allowing Maur Hill’s Dillon Kramer to do a little damage, but Slocum did a good job negating his impact throughout the night and matched him point for point in the contest.
“Forget the points, we needed somebody to be a physical presence. It was a man’s game. We talked about it in every timeout up until about halfway through the third quarter when I thought we started playing more like men,” Brown said. “It was a man’s game and we needed somebody to get in there and throw his body around and Lane did a good job of it.”
Overcoming a slow start and finish was no easy feat, but Jackson Heights has found its fight in recent weeks and continues to build is resume with crucial wins as postseason competition draws near.
“We’ve finally got some of those grind-it-out wins that I think help you long term. We just have to take it from here and go,” Brown said.
The Cobras’ (12-2) next battle will be back at home as the team will host Pleasant Ridge on Tuesday. Games will start at 4;30 p.m.
Also coming up at a Jackson Heights’ home game and Tuesday, Feb. 17, the boys state tournament teams from 1975 (40-year anniversary) and 1985 (30-year anniversary) will be recognized in a ceremony between the girls and boys varsity games. Memorabilia from those teams will also be on display that night.
Feb. 6, 2015
JH: Richter 8 (3) 17-19 36, Slocum 4 3-4 11, Olberding 1 1-2 3, Holliday 1 (1) 0-1 3, Jacobsen 1 (1) 0-0 3. Totals- 15 (5) 21-26 56.
MH: N. Caudle 7 (1) 1-3 16, Kramer 4 3-5 11, Siebenmorgan 3 (2) 2-2 10, Lykins 4 0-0 8, J. Caudle 1 (1) 0-0 3, Schmidt 0 2-2 2. Totals- 19 (4) 8-12 50.
Rebounding: JH- 26 (Olberding 7, Richter 7, Slocum 4); MH- 21 (Kramer 9, Schmidt 4, N. Caudle 3).
Assists: JH- 8 (Olberding 4, Holliday 2); MH- 8 (Siebenmorgan 4, Schmidt 2).
Turnovers: JH- 8; MH- 20.
Jackson Heights 52, Maur Hill 49