The best laid plan of mice and men, they say…but not enough on a day when it seemed NOTHING went right (or right enough) for Jackson Center.
Columbus – There has to be a hundred ways to nitpick a lost basketball game.
And in terms of making sense of a disappointing, season-ending 52-39 loss for the Jackson Center Tigers in Friday afternoon’s Division IV semi-final game to Lincolnview at Value City Arena, it really boils down to five critical dissective points.
But first, it was a game that looked highly winable for the Tigers for the first 16 minutes. They weren’t scoring, but they weren’t giving up a lot of points, either.
They led 11-10 after one, and it was tied at 21 as the two teams broke for the half; and there were good signs.
Brady Wildermuth had 11 points in the first half, showing his abilities inside the paint and from the perimeter, where his 6’6″ frame created matchup issues for Lincolnview.
Leading scorer Drew Sosby did NOT score, but his absence was buoyed somewhat by the contribution of freshman Trent Platfoot, whose pair of critically-time three pointers helped JC built a short-lived five-point lead.
And, against a team with superior overall height, the Tigers more than held their own on the defensive boards. Ultimately they gave up but four offensive rebounds for the entire game. If you’re doing inventory on things that help you WIN a basketball game, that number alone goes in the credit column.
But at the outset of the third quarter things began to manifest…issues that ultimately came back to cost Jackson Center its fifth loss, and brought about the end of a sterling season.
One, Drew Sosby never got going offensively. He scored on the Tigers’ second possession of the game…and then would not score again until he finally hit a three-point at the 4:23 mark of the fourth quarter. It was, in a word, frustrating.
“They did a good job on me, defensively,” he said quietly in the post-game press conference. “The same kind of defense I’ve seen all year, but they were inside on me, physical, and made it very tough to do anything.” He would finish with 7 points for the game.
“It was a point of emphasis for us,” said Lincolnview coach Brett Hammons. “We knew he and Wildermuth were good offensively, and I thought we did a pretty good job on them. We pride ourselves on our defense, and we’ve given up some point recently to pretty good players. Today I thought we played more like we wanted to.”
Two, while he had a team-high, and game-high, 20 points, Brady Wildermuth continued to struggle at the foul line, hitting 5 of 10 chances for the game, but clearly struggling with his confidence.
Three, not to belabor the point, but the season-long question of how long Jackson could rely on the scoring punch of just two players…finally came back to bite them. Wildermuth and Sosby combined for 27 of the Tigers’ 39 points; the other 12 coming from Platfoot’s pair of threes…and a pair of three from Ethan Zorn. No one else scored!
Four, three critical empty possessions to start the third quarter seemed to signal an ominous omen to come. Lincolnview scored off all three possessions, and while the Tigers would come back to tie the game at the end of the quarter, they were all-but-barren for eight critical minutes of basketball. They shot just 3 of 15 for the fourth quarter.
Last, the number of missed shots at the rim – shots that just rattled out, or rolled around and fell off – whether because of Lincolnview’s defense, or from mounting frustration. And while officially the Tigers only had 10 turnovers for the game, the timing of them made it seem like 50.
“You know, all those things add up in a game like this,” said Scott Elchert. “Drew has scored all year long, and you just don’t think of him coming out and struggling like he did today. But I was proud of the way our freshman (Trent Platfoot) stepped up to knock down those two threes. Give their defense credit. We take a lot of pride in the way we play defense, but today you had to tip your cap to them. They played GREAT defense.
“The empty possessions were hard on us at the start of the third quarter, and their back cuts to the basket. We had trouble getting going in the second half. And their length made it tougher for us to shoot than people might realize. Drew had a tough day today, but he was also shooting against longer arms than he’d shot against throughout the season.”
“And the free throws seemed to continue from the regional final game, and something we’ve been trying to get fixed for Brady. Free throws are a matter of confidence. When you’re ‘the man’ you just step up there and knock ’em down.”
There was obvious disappointment. There always is when you play your last basketball game of the season…of your high school career.
“Today was a tough day for me,” said Sosby, resolutely. “But that’s basketball. Evan stepped up for us making those two threes, and I think there’s going to be (some other) talent step up for next year.”
The Tigers finished 24-5 for the year, ending on their second trip to state in the last five years. They shot 32% for the game, 37% from three-point range, and 50% from the foul line. No one, except Brady Wildermuth, got there to even try.
Lincolnview moves on to Saturday’s 5 o’clock Division IV final against Cornerstone Christian with a 27-1 record. The Lancers finished shooting 57% from the field, 40% from three-point range, and converted on 10 of 12 free throws (83%).
“I’m proud of my guys, proud of this team,” said Elchert, predictably. “We learned some things today and that’s what we’ll do next. We’ll go back home and work to get better.”
Work on the things you can control; and take your chances on that which you never believe would happen…like Friday.
The best-laid plans of mice and men, but that’s basketball. So says Drew Sosby!