Cold shooting night hinders Cobras at 2A state basketball tournament
MANHATTAN—Experience can be so crucial in state tournament competition, no matter the sport. So, while the Jackson Heights and Central Plains boys basketball teams entered their Class 2A state quarterfinal game on nearly equal footing as far as tournament experience was concerned, individual experience seemed to play a big factor in the final outcome.
The Cobras rolled out five players who were not only starting their first game of the state tournament, but this also marked their first season starting for the varsity squad. Meanwhile, the Oilers were led by two guards (Layne Bieberle and Michael Ryan) who have been starting since their freshman seasons and they were at the head of a two-pronged attack that gave Heights fits on the way to a 67-42 victory in Bramlage Coliseum.
“Bieberle and Ryan, those two were as good as advertised,” JH coach Chris Brown said. “To be quite frank, they dominated the game like we’re used to dominating the game. They turned it right back on us.”
Both teams fought some first-time nerves early and it wasn’t until nearly three minutes into the game that either team scored, with Korby Strube delivering the first blow for the Cobras.
Central Plains quickly turned Jackson Heights’ biggest strength against it, though, as the Oiler guards weaved through the Cobras’ pressure defense and beat them up the court routinely while starting to pull away.
While Brown noted players like Lane Slocum, who had two early blocks, did a good job stopping their opponents inside, it was a only a matter of time before the Oilers started chipping away there, too.
“They got the ball to the middle of our press and they attacked,” Brown said. “I thought we did a great job protecting the rim. A lot of times they attacked there early in that game and we protected the rim and blocked a shot, but when it happens over and over and over again, then it becomes a problem because you start getting in foul trouble and things like that.”
Bieberle got Central Plains going in the first quarter, but with three minutes to go, Strube hit an off-balance shot while leaning towards the basket to keep the Cobras within two points.
From there, though, the Oilers closed the quarter on a big 10-0 run that seemed to give the team all the momentum it would need, especially considering how much Jackson Heights was struggling on the offensive end.
“I thought we were hanging in. I thought we were doing okay. I thought it was very similar to the first game of the day when neither team could score,” Brown said. “Then, they go on their run, get the lead and with how we were shooting it was going to be very hard to come back from that.”
That’s not to say the Cobras quit fighting, because they had plenty of fight in them and gained a little edge in the second quarter.
Wyatt Olberding made some big plays on both ends, but Central Plains managed to find a way to maintain its double-digit lead each time. Then, after a timeout with three minutes left in the first half, the Cobras finally seemed to flip a switch and went into attack mode on both ends of the floor.
“We just said we needed to make something happen. I told the guys, at the end of the day, they’re making a few plays that there’s nothing we can do about it, so let’s go make some plays that there’s nothing they can do about it,” Brown said. “Multiple times Wednesday night, I thought we gave ourselves some life. Credit to them, though, a good team ends that really quickly and that’s what they did every time I thought we gave ourselves a chance.”
To end the Cobras’ second quarter run, Ryan stepped up and hit a three-pointer with one second left in the first half to give the Oilers a 36-23 advantage at halftime.
Jackson Heights could get no closer in the second half as the team’s shooting woes continued. While the Cobras were getting into the lane, they had a tough time finishing shots and because of Central Plains’ sound interior defense, they struggled getting to the free throw line as well.
In the game, Heights shot just 41 percent from the field and hit just 23 percent (three or 13) of its three-point attempts, while Central Plains hit 57 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc.
“If we could score in the 60s, I thought we would’ve had a chance to win. Obviously, that would’ve been the case, but talk about a tough team to score 60 on. Those guys are very tough to score 60 on and so 42 just wasn’t going to cut it,” Brown said.
While Central Plains’ defense was as good as advertised, Brown said his team adjusted from the second quarter on and was strong with the ball to limit turnovers. It was the Oilers’ offense that was the problem, as Brown noted his team went through four defenses, but when a team can invert the offense and run its point guard through the post like the Oilers did, that creates a challenge.
Bieberle and Ryan combined for 49 points in the quarterfinal game for eventual state runner-up Central Plains, while Zane Richter poured in 20 points for Heights and Olberding added 12.
Olberding drained a long three to end the third quarter, but that only cut Heights’ deficit to 17 points. The Cobras worked to be more aggressive on offense in the fourth quarter to cut into that a little more, but that came with a price on the defensive end and Central Plains was able to pull away and advance to the semifinals of the Class 2A state tournament.
The Cobras finished 21-3 overall this season and while Heights will be a different team replacing three key seniors next season (Slocum, Strube and Seth Holliday), it will also have a lot of scorers returning and could be a team on the rise in the grand scheme of things.
“I told them. I think Jackson Heights is back on the map. For a stretch there, we were one of the most dominant teams in 2A basketball and I really feel like between this season and last season, we’re right back to where we need to be,” Brown said. “We’re hoping we can get some momentum going and get some young people interested and get the community interested and get something that can last a few years so we’re not coming here once every eight years, we’re coming here a lot and from there hopefully come and win some games eventually.”
March 11, 2015
JH: Richter 7 (1) 5-6 20, Olberding 4 (2) 2-3 12, Slocum 3 0-0 6, Strube 2 0-1 4. Totals- 16 (3) 7-10 42.
CP: Ryan 7 (1) 10-14 25, Bieberle 8 (2) 6-6 24, Warnken 2 (1) 3-4 8, Lamatsch 3 0-0 6, Crites 2 0-2 4. Totals- 22 (4) 19-26 67.
Rebounding: JH- 15 (Richter 8, Strube 3); CP- 30 (Lamatsch 9, Crites 7, Beiberle 4).
Assists: JH- 2 (Jacobsen 2); CP- 7 (Crites 3, Warnken 2, Ryan 2).
Turnovers: JH- 12; CP- 9.