Defense was on full display Thursday night as Jackson Center and Minster won rugged tests to advance to the D-IV Regional Final Saturday night.
Vandalia – Here are some of the strange things that happened Thursday night at the Student Activity Center.
One team won a regional semi-final game despite making just one field goal in the second half.
One team, a conference champion ranked second in the state and averaging 67 points per game, shot 18% from the floor, and scored 38 points under its average. NO, it didn’t win.
One team missed its first 20 shots…let me repeat that…missed its first 20 shots, and finished the night at 13% from the floor. It too, did not win.
Jackson Center, the team with the one second half field goal, and Minster did win and will meet Saturday night for the Regional title and a berth in the Final Four in Columbus. The Wildcats won the regular season meeting 62-48 on January 10th.
In the opener, Tri-Village’s Rachel Miller hit a three on the Patriots first possession, but Jackson went on a 10-0 run and was never headed again in a 42-29 win. The Tigers went to a serious delay game in the second half, and won despite shooting 1 of 9 from the floor in the second half.
“It was our plan all game long to slow the game down,” Jackson coach Jeff Reese said outside the Tigers locker room. “We knew they had a lot of good shooters, and that getting into a running game with them would not be to our benefit.”
Jackson Center had an amazing fourth quarter, attempting just one shot from the floor. They were, however, 22 of 28 from the foul line, led by Cassie Meyer. The 5-8 senior, who got the Tigers off to a flying start with 8 first quarter points, didn’t score again until the fourth. The all she did was hit twelve straight from the stripe and 14 of 16 for the quarter. Meyer finished the game with 22 points.
“Our free throw shooting was terrific tonight,” said Reese. “We wanted to take care of the basketball and rebound and that led to us getting to the line a lot. Once there, you have to make them, and tonight we did.”
The Tigers patient offense got under the skin of a lot of Patriots fans.
“That’s not basketball,” “What are you afraid of?” and my favorite “You will take a win like that?” were heard frequently from the fans behind the Tigers bench.
The taunts brought a smile to Reese’s face.
“I respect every one’s opinion,” said Reese, who was a Tiger standout during his own high school career. “But I don’t care what they think. We are going to do what we have to do to win. If that’s slow it down, we will. If that’s up-tempo, we’ll do that. We have kids who can play either way, and they have the same mind-set. All they want to do is win.”
The Tigers also dominated the glass 29-16. Tri-Village, which twice broke the century scoring mark during the season, was in full panic mode in the fourth quarter, but made just 3 of 20 shots for the quarter. They finished at 18% for the game.
“The tradition at Jackson Center, not only in basketball, but also in volleyball (back to back state championships) is so big at this time of the year,” Reese explained. “These kids are not afraid of playing on the big stage. They have been there time after time. We know that every game from now on will be a dogfight, and we will take every advantage we can get. We have to get a game plan together quick, but we are very pleased to be playing Saturday night.”
So too are the Minster Wildcats, who overcame a very slow start to eliminate cold shooting Russia 41-24. The Raiders missed their first 20 shots, and still trailed by only 6 at the break. They then went 2 for 16 in the second half, and finished the season at 21-6.
“That was ugly defense at times,” Minster coach Mike Wiss said with a slight smile. “People know that when they play Minster we are going to get after you man to man. That’s kind of the way basketball is in our area now. It’s very physical and you better be able to shoot with a hand in your face. Our kids accept that challenge.”
A sign of things to come for the Raiders came on a first half possession when the Raiders went miss, rebound, miss, rebound, miss, rebound, miss. And it wasn’t like the Raiders were casting up 30 footers. The majority of their misses were at or near the rim.
Even with all the misses, Russia trailed just 18-12 at the break.
“The first few minutes of the third quarter were the key to the game,” noted Wiss after the Wildcats improved to 24-2. “To come out and take any thought of a comeback away from them was huge. We came out with a lot of energy in the third quarter.”
The Wildcats hit their first 6 shots in the third quarter to turn that 6 point lead into a 30-19 advantage heading to the fourth.
“Maria Herron scored three points,” Wiss said, looking at his scorebook and the Raiders leading scorers. “Tiffany Hatcher didn’t score and Laurissa Poling didn’t have a field goal. That’s just great, great defense by our kids, and its why we won the game.”
Minster had no one in double figures, But Courtney Prenger and Ali Borgerding had 9 apiece. Taylor Kogge added 8. Jenna Cordonnier came off the bench to score 8 points to lead the Raiders.
“We are really looking forward to Saturday night,” Wiss acknowledged. “I remember that Courtney Prenger got in early foul trouble, but we got some momentum late in the first half when we played Jackson and were able to carry that over into the third quarter. But that was a long time ago. Both teams are going to come in here and play their hearts out. It should be a great atmosphere. We both are 32 minutes away from where we want to go, and we are grateful for the opportunity.”