Aaron Klopfenstein is officially a winning coach, and the 2023 Jackson Center Tigers are a winning team after their 46-37 win over Fort Loramie. Junior forward Reed Platfoot led the way with 20 points in the slow-paced match.
By Alan Brads for Press Pros
Ft. Loramie, Oh – Aaron Klopfenstein won’t soon forget his crew’s 46-37 win over Fort Loramie – the one that put him in the ‘W’ column as a head coach of the Jackson Center Tigers.
“I’ve got a lot of thoughts going on right now,” Klopfenstein said. Who wouldn’t in his position?
“I just feel thankful and blessed to be in this position and work with these guys.”
”I’m pumped for our guys, to be honest with you,” Klopfenstein said. “They’ve worked their butts off, and to see it finally come to fruition is a good thing.”
Head coaching transition aside, after three narrow losses to Russia, Coldwater and Botkins, the Tigers were due for a win. They earned it by playing airtight defense and letting Reed Platfoot go to work on offense.
“This means we can get the rest of our games rolling,” said Platfoot, who led all players in scoring with 20.
The Tigers leaned into Platfoot when the road got bumpy, and he delivered every time the Redskins threatened to draw within a score. Platfoot dominated in the post, got to the free throw line and executed, and created havoc on defense.
While Platfoot led the way, Jackson Center resisted the temptation of over-dependence on the hot hand and spread the ball well on offense.
“We played really well as a team today,” said Lucas Hartle, who pitched in 12 on the scoreboard. “We all got the ball and we all scored.”
Lucas Heitkamp scored six, and Cooper Hartle, Trevor Huber and Carter Klopfenstein rounded out the scoring, with three, three, and two respectively.
Alex Boerger notched 11 for the Redskins, and Spencer Knouff hit three 3’s – equally impressive on the basketball court and poker table.
From the tip-off, Fort Loramie clearly wanted to get the ball into the low post. They consistently put two forwards on the blocks and swung the ball looking for a post-entry opportunity. Jackson Center, however, denied them such opportunities.
“Our goal going in was to keep them out of the post,” Lucas Hartle said. “On defense we switched a lot on screens and talked. It always goes back to playing as a team.”
Several of Loramie’s possessions in the first half extended past 70 seconds, as both teams remained content to wait for the other to make a mistake. To Loramie’s credit, these lengthy possessions rarely ended in turnovers, but they often ended without buckets either.
Jackson Center wouldn’t cede a gap of daylight for a post-entry pass, and eventually Loramie had to settle for a heavily contested layup or a jump shot.
The Tiger offense came in with a little more pace and urgency than Loramie but still played patiently. They showed more willingness to pull the trigger from deep, just enough to draw Loramie’s defense out opening up chances for the 6’6” Platfoot to deal out some damage from the block. Platfoot scored more points in the paint than anyone else scored, overall.
“He’s a battler,” Loramie Head Coach Mitch Westerheide said. “You think you have him stopped and he shoots over top of you. He’s a very skilled kid and seemed very humble out there, and he hit a couple big shots right in our face.”
Lucas Hartle helped balance the offense, adding a shooting and dribble drive component to complement Platfoot.
“Platfoot and Lucas Hartle both, when we need buckets they’re great at finding those opportunities,” Klopfenstein said.
Jackson Center built a subtle lead throughout the first half. If you watched the game on an old-school TV broadcast that didn’t keep the score on the screen, you wouldn’t have guessed that Jackson Center had extended the lead to nine by the end of the half. They played just a shave better in every category – steals, rebounds, shooting – not much better at anything, but a little better at everything.
Loramie proved they wouldn’t go down without giving the Tigers a run for their money, and came screaming back late in the third quarter. Spencer Knouff knocked down a couple of 3-pointers to keep pace with Platfoot, which opened up space down low, where the Redskins wanted to feed their offense. Ty Kemper ended the quarter with a three-point play, chopping what was once an 11-point lead down to four to start the final quarter.
“To win regularly in this league you can’t have defensive breakdowns on a regular basis,” Klopfenstein said of the third quarter. “Some of that’s communication, some of that’s scouting report stuff. But we gotta shore that stuff up to get where we wanna go.”
After three scoreless minutes to open the fourth, Jackson Center pulled away to an eight-point lead and sat on it. They stretched their possessions even longer than Loramie’s in the first half. Leading by seven, the Tigers took possession with 3:01 on the clock. The Redskins didn’t possess the basketball again until there was 1:18 left, trailing by nine.
That grueling tempo helped Jackson Center put the Redskins away once and for all.
46-37 feels like it accurately tells the story of the game – many scores don’t for various reasons – but notably the low score doesn’t signify poor shooting, but eternal possessions. The six longest possessions of the night could’ve accounted for a whole quarter.
Fort Loramie plays back-to-back days, hosting New Bremen at home on Saturday and looking to bounce back. But they won’t get another shot at that elusive first conference win until Friday, December 22 on the road at the winless Fairlawn Jets.
“[Our players] are battling and they’re listening to what we’re telling them,” Westerheide said. “We tell them to keep stacking day by day, and that’s what they’re doing. We’d rather have them playing their best ball in February and March than December.”
Jackson Center needs to turn this win into a run if they hope to recapture the magic from last year’s 26-2 record and the SCAL title. They also play back-to-back, hosting Waynesfield-Goshen on Saturday, then taking the 10-mile trip westward to Anna on Tuesday, December 19.
To paraphrase Tom Brady, the best win is always the next one.
But I bet the first feels pretty good.