PORTSMOUTH — The “deuces” indeed went wild in the second half on Saturday night at Notre Dame High School, but South Webster’s Trae Zimmerman was the one which was zany good.
That’s because Zimmerman — the six-foot tall and Jeep junior scoring machine — poured in over half of South Webster’s points, as the visiting Jeeps overcame a first-half deficit and topped the Notre Dame Titans 53-42 in a non-league season-opening boys basketball bout.
In truth, at times, because of inevitable early-season struggles combined with perhaps the coronavirus impact, the contest resembled a see-saw rockfight.
But, if there was such, Zimmerman was the clear-cut winner —with a massive 28 points on eight total field goals and 8-of-10 free throws, which included his own personal dozen consecutive points to start the third quarter.
That was part of a staggering 19 unanswered South Webster points over exactly a six-minute span — one that reversed a 17-10 deficit and steered the Jeeps back in control for the game’s final 16:15.
While works of art it definitely wasn’t always for the Jeeps, but Brenton Cole —the fourth-year SWHS head coach —was proud of his club’s comeback ability after its first-half doldrums.
South Webster scored the first six points over the opening three minutes and 40 seconds, then gave up 13 unanswered before scoring again exactly six minutes later on a pair of Will Collins free throws.
“I’m really proud of my guys for a big win on the road. These guys want to keep fighting. The first half, I will just call it our non shot-making ability. But at halftime, we were still tied at 17-17, and guys were picking each other up saying shots will start falling and that we’re going to get this. We were tied, but our shots haven’t fallen, but we’re going to get rolling and shots will start going in. That was a great thing to hear and see in the locker room,” said Cole. “That’s a fun team to coach.”
Especially with such a prolific scorer.
Until his 25-point second-half barrage which included 19 of the Jeeps’ 21 third-quarter markers, all Zimmerman —the Jeeps’ top returnee from last season — had was a first-quarter field goal and split of second-quarter free throws.
“We were running two guys at him early on, but give Zimmerman credit for getting our guys in foul trouble,” NDHS coach Matt Mader. “Then we tried a little zone with the awareness of where he was at, but we didn’t do a very good job of that. We got broke down off the dribble several times tonight, and we only took one charge.”
In addition, as South Webster’s roller-coaster first half rode from a 6-0 lead high to 13-6 and 17-10 deficit lows, the Jeeps failed to make any of their 14 first-half three-point attempts —part of misfiring on their first 15.
Zimmerman then splashed the first of his four from deep — which were South Webster’s only four on 22 total attempts and all coming in the 21-point third-quarter blitzkrieg.
Zimmerman took 21 shots, as both teams attempted 49 (15-of-49 for South Webster and 16-of-49 for Notre Dame).
“Trae has that ability. We’ve seen that from him. He is instant offense when he gets to feeling it,” said Cole. “And you better believe we’re going to call his number at that time. In the first half, give Notre Dame credit. They were all over him. But confidence is what it is. We’ve seen it in practice and a lot of our offensive stuff runs through Trae. He knows the ball is coming his way, and it’s just a matter of shots falling like they did in the second half.”
As a result of just that, the Jeeps turned their seven-point deficit into a 29-17 advantage.
And although Notre Dame did storm back and evaporate another deficit of at least a half-dozen points, the Titans went another — at least — four minutes and 48 seconds without scoring.
In fact, the Titans took their final lead at 42-41 with 6:33 remaining —only to see South Webster score the final 12.
Zimmerman, whose first two fourth-quarter free throws made it 41-40, drove the baseline for his only field goal of the stanza to make it 46-42.
After that, Notre Dame didn’t get within a possession —and Zimmerman sank double-bonus free throws for a 50-42 advantage with only a minute and three seconds to play.
South Webster was in the bonus with 3:15 remaining in the third, and meshed 11 of its final 14 foul shots —including nine of 12 in the fourth as part of 19-of-24 for the entire game.
Collins (five points), Connor Bender (five points) and Brady Blizzard (seven points) all went 3-of-4 with at least one field goal —as Blizzard and Jaren Lower (six points) scored two baskets apiece.
Lower landed the final two free throws for the 53-42 final.
But the Jeeps’ defensive effort allowed for their opportunities at the foul line, as they forced 23 Titan turnovers — along with Notre Dame shooting just 9-of-33 (27-percent) from inside the arc.
South Webster made off with 12 steals including seven by Zimmerman, as they also deflected nine passes.
Zimmerman — with a minute and 22 seconds remaining — took a key charge with the Jeeps leading 48-42, as Blizzard with nine and Cam Carpenter with eight accounted for 17 of the Jeeps’ 29 rebounds.
South Webster was undersized against the Titans, which sported four players of 6-2 or taller.
The Jeeps’ two tallest players which saw minutes on Saturday night were the 6-2 pair of Carpenter and Collins.
“Defense, with these guys, comes first. And the defensive possession ends when we get a defensive rebound. Not just let them take a shot and then they get the ball again and run another offense,” said Cole. “We’ve really stressed to get defensive stops, but you get that stop when you get defensive rebounds. We were undersized for sure, but we got in there and were fighting and scrapping and boxing out and getting hands on passes and getting on loose balls. Trae scores 28 points, but he steps up and takes a charge there at the end. We did so many different defensive things that you love to see as a coach.”
Meanwhile, the Titans struggled — for the majority — offensively.
Notre Dame didn’t score until the 3:12 mark of the opening quarter, when Jermaine Powell split a pair of free throws.
The Titans then actually amounted 13 consecutive points, including a pair of corner-pocket three-pointers by Johnathan Strickland in the first half-minute of the second quarter.
Strickland then went right back to the corner at the 3:07 mark, and this time was fouled by Zimmerman on the three-ball attempt —resulting in a rare four-point play for the 17-10 advantage.
Unfortunately for Notre Dame, the Jeeps netted the next 19 —as the Titans’ next points were exactly six minutes later.
Notre Dame did rally again, though — turning its 29-17 deficit at the 5:42 mark of the third into a 40-39 advantage exactly six minutes and 50 seconds later.
Powell popped three treys in the spree, including the go-ahead three-pointer with 6:52 remaining.
The six-foot six-inch Dominic Sparks scored to put the Titans back in front 42-41, but that bucket ended up being Notre Dame’s final points of the night.
Trailing 9-2 in second-half fouls at that point, Notre Dame didn’t score for the final six-and-a-half minutes.
“The kids played hard, but it was just frustrating offensively for us,” said Mader. “Not waiting on screens, not setting good screens, couldn’t get the ball reversed, just taking a lot of quick shots and turning the ball over 23 times, which is way too much. Our goal was 15 turnovers or less, and we had 14 in the second half alone. I don’t know if it was first-game jitters or what, but I told the guys before the game it was going to be a roller-coaster. We did respond a couple of times where we got down but put some baskets together and got back in it, and took the lead a couple of times. So we didn’t hang our heads.”
But the Titans still struggled to score, and defensively committed 23 fouls.
“South Webster guarded very well and did a nice job, and we got in a ton of foul trouble in the second and third quarters,” said Mader. “A combination of that just snowballed against us tonight.”
Strickland scored 15 with four threes, as Powell’s three threes towards 10 points were the two Titans to register double figures.
Powell pulled down six rebounds as well, as three others grabbed five apiece.
Carter Campbell scored three field goals for six points as senior Jackson Clark —who missed all of last season with a torn meniscus in his knee — finished with four on two makes.
Clark and Ethan Kammer collected four assists apiece.
Mader said that, despite the loss, there were plenty of positives to take from Saturday’s season opener.
“First game, there’s a lot of correctable things — with taking care of the basketball and guarding the basketball and our help-side defense— we’ll be better at down the road,” he said. “It’s good to get the first game under our belt. I know it doesn’t feel good right now with the loss, but we need to get out there and play, so it was good to play tonight.”
Notre Dame, with its non-league encounter at Rock Hill on Tuesday getting postponed, plays next on Friday night in the Southern Ohio Conference Division I opener at Clay.
South Webster, conversely, will return to non-league action on Tuesday with a varsity-only home game against Green.
Tipoff time is set for 6 p.m.
South Webster 6 11 21 15 —53
Notre Dame 7 10 18 7 —42
SOUTH WEBSTER 53 (1-0)
Connor Bender 1 3-4 5, Trae Zimmerman 8 8-10 28, Jaren Lower 2 2-2 6, Cam Carpenter 1 0-0 2, Brady Blizzard 2 3-4 7, Myles Beasley 0 0-0 0, Will Collins 1 3-4 5; TOTALS 15 19-24 53; Three-point field goals: 4 (Trae Zimmerman 4)
NOTRE DAME 42 (0-1)
Carter Campbell 3 0-0 6, Jermaine Powell 3 1-2 10, Caleb Nichols 0 0-0 0, Dominic Sparks 1 0-0 2, Jackson Clark 2 0-0 4, Dylan Seison 1 1-2 3, Johnathan Strickland 5 1-1 15, Ethan Kammer 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 16 3-5 42; Three-point field goals: 7 (Johnathan Strickland 4, Jermaine Powell 3)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved