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Grit and grind sends Jeeps home as champions

Sectional Champions

February 5, 2018

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald 
Northeast Dubois’ Clare Mangin and Tyla Rasche embraced while Kortney Quinn cut down the net after the Jeeps defeated Wood Memorial in Oakland City 35-30 to claim the Class 1A sectional title. Saturday night’s victory marked the Jeeps first sectional championship since 2013. For more photos from the game, click here.


OAKLAND CITY — Grit and grind. 

Those two concepts were the themes that powered the Northeast Dubois girls basketball team over the course of 13 weeks and 22 regular season games. It was grit and grind that allowed the Jeeps to overcome a frustrating 0-4 start to their season and bounce back to win nine games in a row. It was grit and grind that saw them come back to win their opening sectional game against the Tecumseh Braves 37-27. 

Therefore, it was appropriate that the sectional championship for the Jeeps would come down to toughing it out through a defense that sought to close off the paint, find unconventional avenues to score, and reach for every ounce of tenacity and perseverance to pull through another game which did not see as much offense as some past contests. But, through the grit and the grind, the Jeeps (17-7) were able to get enough of a push to defeat the Wood Memorial Trojans 35-30, and become the 2018 sectional 64 champions. The Jeeps won their last sectional title in 2013. 

“It feels amazing, these kids deserve it. Especially these five seniors we got,” said Northeast Dubois coach Andy Chinn. “We’ve been together for four years and we’ve been building to this point for four years. I’m speechless.”

That was not the case over the course of the ball game, as Chinn yelled out offensive sets and defensive assignments to his girls from the start of the action, when Wood Memorial (11-12) controlled the opening tipoff and senior center Lexi Lashbrook scored a layup to start things off on the scoreboard. 

Outside of that initial burst, there was not much offense to speak of in the first quarter. The Jeeps senior trio of Tyla Rasche, Adi Denu, and Clare Mangin managed to put up seven points in the quarter. But the Trojan’s own triumvirate of Lashbrook, Sydney Lamar, and Chloe Mowery edged them out to give Wood Memorial a 9-7 lead at the end of the first.

Wood Memorial then took off on a 7-0 run to put some distance between themselves and Northeast Dubois to the tune of 16-7. But if the Jeeps have proven anything over the course of their season, it is that they are a team with too much moxie to simply allow that kind of scoring run to go unanswered. But with Rasche and Denu being rendered ineffective in the early going, where would Northeast Dubois turn to for scoring? Enter senior forward Alex Dodson and sophomore guard Madison Cave. 

Dodson got things started with a three-pointer after she found herself all alone near the top of the key for an open look. It’s not her normal area of operation, being that far out from the paint, but the game presented her with an opportunity and she stepped up to take it and break up the Trojans’ run. Cave followed with a long, two-point jump shot of her own, and after the Jeeps recovered another rebound, Dodson lined up and drained her second three-pointer of the night. And just like that Northeast Dubois had climbed back into the ball game, down only one point, with an 8-0 run in under 90 seconds. 

“We knew that they were shutting Adi (Denu) and Tyla (Rasche) down,” said Dodson. “So they left me, Clare (Mangin), and Kortney (Quinn) open to try to win the game. I thought, ‘Last time, no regrets. Might as well shoot it,’ and it worked out.”

The Jeeps and Trojans went back-and-forth to end the second quarter but it was the Trojans who held a slight advantage at 21-18.

The fans may have been nervous, but the Jeeps remained steady. According to Dodson, they only saw one outcome.

“I don’t think that there was ever a second in any one of our minds that somebody was thinking we’re not going to win this,” she said. “We knew they were going to come out with a lot of intensity. So we had to match that first, then bring more to overcome that.”

Northeast Dubois’ Adison Denu took possession of the ball as the Jeeps grit carried them to the sectional championship win. For more photos from the game, click here.

To that end, Rasche started the third quarter making her first shot from the field to get the Jeeps back within one point, 21-20. After Dennison answered with a jumper of her own, Quinn scored off a steal by Denu to bring the Jeeps within 23-22, then took to the foul line after drawing contact going after a rebound. She made 1-of-2 from the line, and the Jeeps and Trojans went into the fourth quarter all tied up at 23. 

In the fourth, Cave found daylight in the lane, and drove in a layup to give the Jeeps a 25-23 lead. She followed that up with a three-pointer, which gave Northeast Dubois a 28-23 lead with 4:20 remaining. Lashbrook laid it in with 1:36 left to make things interesting, but, in a flashback to Friday night, the Jeeps were able to hit enough free throws late to seal the win. Rasche, Mangin, Quinn, and Dodson went 7-for-10 from the free throw line collectively to win the game, 35-30.

The Jeeps were over the moon with the win, with fans taking to the court to celebrate with the girls and help them soak in their moment of redemption. Northeast Dubois had exorcised the demons that came after finishing on the losing end of the sectional championship last season.

“We finally did it after all these years and the heartbreak last year. Practicing with the second place ball for 364 days, we finally got the championship,” said Dodson. “Everybody stepped up and did what they had to do to get the job done.”

“All grit, all grind,” added Chinn. “Our defense was stellar in the second half. Kids stepping up and making free throws, stepping in and making shots. It’s a grit and grind effort, that’s what we believe.” 

Chinn was happy to see his girls cut down the nets in Oakland City on Saturday night, but with the win comes more postseason play. The Jeeps will travel to West Washington this weekend for regionals and Chinn knows his team will need to tap into that collective spunk to earn the right to keep playing.

“It’s a great atmosphere,” he said. “We’ll play a good Trinity Lutheran team, and we’re just going to grit and grind and try to get to that final game and see how it goes.” 

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