A complete role reversal in Anna, where the Rockets roared back in the second half to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and hand Jackson Center its most painful loss of the season.
Anna – The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.
Both were on full display at the end of Tuesday night’s Shelby County League confrontation between the Jackson Center Tigers and the Anna Rockets.
The Anna Rockets, searching for their third consecutive win, found themselves behind 22-9 midway through the second quarter, as Jackson Center started the game red-hot. The Tigers would make 10 of 15 attempts in the first two quarters and led 24-13 at the break.
After being challenged by their coaches at halftime, the Rockets looked like a different team. In fact, they beat Jackson at its own game, holding the Tigers to 8 points in the second half and finally tying the game for the first and only time on a Drew Schmitz jumper with 3:50 to play.
Then, when overtime seemed inevitable, Anna junior Joel Cathcart got open in the left corner and buried a three-pointer at the buzzer, giving the Rockets an improbable 35-32 win, setting off a wild celebration on the home bench and sending the Tigers glumly to their locker-room.
“I have to give it to my kids,” said Anna head coach Nate Barhorst after his Rockets improved to 9-7 and 5-4 in Shelby County League play. “They came together in the second half. Jackson is a first-class program and we had to play well fundamentally in the second half to beat them.”
“We just left too many opportunities out on the floor,” said a disappointed Jackson Center coach Scott Elchert. “We have seen that stuff before. That shot didn’t beat us, it was all the other opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of.”
A pair of threes by Bryce Sosby got the Tigers off to a flying start. His second three made it 8-0 Jackson and forced a timeout four minutes into the game.
Things never did improve in the first 16 minutes for the Rockets, who made just 5 of 18 field goal attempts and 2 of 7 from the free throw line.
“We couldn’t have been more lethargic in the first half,” Barhorst said with a grimace. “We told the kids at halftime that they were getting thrown around like ragdolls. Our energy was low, we didn’t move the ball. Jackson really got after us and we didn’t respond.”
“Offensively, we played pretty well in the first half,” commented Elchert. “We were within our scheme defensively, but what did we score, ten points in the second half (actually 8). That ain’t getting it done. In the second half, we didn’t take layups, shot airballs, it was the same game. That’s why they play four quarters.”
The Tigers seemed to be in complete control at the break, but that all changed in the opening two minutes of the second half.
Anna came out of the locker-room with a new-found energy, and quickly got back in the game. A three- point play by Wyatt Bensman, a hoop by Schmitz, and a three from Griffen Doseck gave the Rockets their own 8-0 run to cut the margin to three.
The game stayed close the rest of the way, but Jackson was having a tough time scoring. Brady Wildermuth drove the baseline but missed a dunk with four minutes to play, setting up Schmitz’s game tying basket at the other end.
“We started getting the ball inside in the second half, and it worked,” Barhorst continued. “Schmitz had some nice moves inside and scored a couple of key baskets, and Joel Cathcart really gave us a boost off the bench. Our guys really wanted it in the second half.”
Both teams missed opportunities before Barhorst called timeout with 16.8 seconds to play to set up a final play.
“We set up for man to man, but thought Jackson might shift into a 1-3-1. They shifted with about 8 seconds left, and Joel spun off just like he was supposed to. We looked middle first, but that wasn’t open and you have to shoot the deep ball when they give it to you. Joel (Cathcart) did and he canned it.
“My first thought was ‘did that really happen?’ and then you wonder if the game is over at the same time or if you have to defend one more time. It was an unbelievable finish.”
Both teams struggled to put the ball in the basket from anywhere. Anna shot 37% from the floor, 23% behind the arc and 46% at the line, while Jackson finished at 48% from the floor, but only 3 of 12 in the second half. The Tigers were 3 of 10 from the arc and a woeful 3 of 8 from the foul line.
Jackson won the rebounding battle 17-12, but had 14 turnovers, 8 in the second half, to just 8 for the Rockets for the night.
Bensman scored 9 of his game high 15 points in the second half to lead the Rockets, while Cathcart had 8 off the bench and Schmitz finished with 7. Sosby had 13 for the Tigers, while Wildermuth added 12.
After an 0-4 start to the New Year, the Rockets have won three straight in the last five days (Over Houston and Miami East in overtime) to turn their month around.
“Yeah we have,” Barhorst agreed. “We have gotten some healthy bodies back. Having Drew Schmitz back and being a force down low is huge for us. He and Joel Cathcart have both been hampered with hip injuries, and both had big, big nights for us. This is a big win for our team and one that we can build on heading into the final games of the regular season.”