What they couldn’t do in their only loss to Anna on Saturday, Jackson Center corrected Tuesday…something like a clinic in a wide-open win over Lehman.
Sidney – Just 72 hours after falling to Anna last Saturday for their only loss thus far in the 2015-16 season, Scott Elchert and the Jackson Center Tigers atoned for some egregious basketball issues with emphasis Tuesday night in a 67-39 win over the Lehman Cavaliers…at Lehman!
In short, it was no contest. Jackson led 11-4 after one period, and at a point in the second period had stretched that lead to 26-4…before the Cavaliers went on a 9-2 spurt before the half to cut the deficit to 30-13.
They did it with defense, first. They hounded the Lehman guards and denied any kind of rhythm and continuity to Coach Tim Gleason’s offense.
Then they added the dimension of laser-sharp perimeter shooting on offense by senior guard Drew Sosby, who connected on 3 of 7 first half three-pointers (44%), and 5 for the game.
Lehman chose to play zone, and when they went out after Sosby they left junior center Brady Wildermuth open in the lane. Guess what? Sosby, younger brother Bryce, and teammate Ethan Zorn found him (Wildermuth) to the tune of 29 points by game’s end.
“When they came out in zone we knew we were going to win,” said Sosby afterwards. “When teams play zone against us I feel they have no chance. We have too many great shooters.”
Indeed. Sosby finished with 19 points to complement Wildermuth’s 29, and the Tigers shot well in excess of 50% from the floor, while holding Lehman to well beneath 50% on the other end. A pretty good formula for success.
But what really got them going was the realization that Saturday’s league loss to Anna came because Elchert’s team had abandoned its identity. He reminded them of that constantly in those 72 hours, and on the night after Anna, just three days removed, they couldn’t wait to get back to work and back in their groove. Like all good teams, they took their frustration out on the first available obstacle.
“For sure, it’s always good to get back out there and play,” said Elchert outside a happy Tigers’ locker room. “But as good as it looked tonight we’d have liked a couple more days of practice. We felt there were some things that we needed to shore up defensively…things we need to get better at. We had a strong start on defense tonight, had great momentum throughout the first half, and then they finished the half on a 9-2 run. That wasn’t good!”
If you think the man is obsessive compulsive about that issue of team defense, so be it. Elchert’s coached for a long time, and knows…despite the shooting performance they put on Tuesday this is not the offensive team of years past. They have to depend on shutting opponents down to win consistently…to win the more significant Shelby County League games that lie ahead, including the upcoming rematch with Anna.
“Now I felt we had a lot more hustle plays tonight,” he added. “We came up with a lot more of those 50-50 balls, and guys were willing to scrap on the floor tonight and that’s the kind of team we have to be.”
Seven different players scored for Jackson Center, including a rebound performance by Ethan Zorn, who contributed a pair of three-pointers on his way to 8 points. And for added significance, the win marked the 219th career win at Jackson for Scott Elchert, surpassing the previous mark set by former coach Jerry Harmon.
Lehman’s Ben Frantz topped the Cavs’ scoring with 13 points, but any kind of complementary support proved to be a struggle. The Tigers’ defense made sure of it.
“One of the things we learned from the Anna game is that we have to get better defensively. That’s how we’ve built this thing and to a man Saturday I just felt that we weren’t defensively sound. And after watching the game on tape that was reaffirmed. And the other thing, to Anna’s credit they came out with a fighter’s mentality and hit us in the face. Now we sustained a few of those (and kept it close for a while), but eventually they just landed too many punches. I felt like Rocky out there. We kept taking it, and taking it, and taking it, and it was finally just too many.”
They did learn.
“Things just flowed better tonight,” said Sosby. “We moved the ball so much better against their zone. On defense we did a much better job against the dribble drive, boxing out, and just keeping people out of the lane. We didn’t rebound against Anna, and we allowed to many points from the paint. We’ve got some good shooters, but on this team defense always comes first. It’s ABSOLUTELY first. That gets you going in your offense and the rest just follows.”
Jackson improved to 9-1 while Lehman fell to 2-7, record-wise. But more importantly for Elchert and the Tigers…can they sustain the effort and what they learned from that Anna loss in time for back-to-back tests this weekend against Ft. Loramie and New Knoxville? They accomplished a lot in those 72 hours since Saturday.
And their game with Loramie is…you guessed it…just 72 hours away!