SOUTH WEBSTER — Simply put, the stage-end side inside South Webster High School’s gymnasium on Saturday night was the place to be.
And, of course, especially if you were one of the host — and apparently red-hot from deep — Jeeps.
That’s because South Webster swished a dozen three-point goals, outscored the Notre Dame Titans 46-22 over the middle two quarters, and had five players post double figures in scoring.
It all added up to the Jeeps, which bookended the Titans’ 2020-21 season with campaign opening and closing wins, pulling away and topping the Titans once again —capturing a 68-45 non-league victory in this season’s boys lidlifter.
Speaking of lids off, the stage end at SWHS was a wide open shooters’ target —although the Jeeps turned the tide completely in their favor for the final 18 minutes and 40 seconds.
They seized the lead at 23-22 after senior scoring standout Trae Zimmerman made a three-pointer off the wing with 2:40 remaining in the second quarter —and actually shut out the Titans for the period’s final 3:05.
From there, around a pair of blocked shots on Notre Dame possessions, Connor Bender and Brady Blizzard bagged back-to-back three-balls —making it 29-22 at halftime, and marking the unofficial start of South Webster’s bombs-away barrage.
With five first-half threes in the Jeeps’ jar, and away from that stage-side basket, South Webster went off for five third-period triples —scoring 26 points in the quarter, and opening up a 55-36 advantage entering the fourth.
The only other South Webster three was in the fourth from freshman Eli Roberts —the six-foot and five-inch standout making his highly-touted high school debut.
Roberts didn’t disappoint, leading the Jeeps with 15 points on three threes and three twos —his final deuce of which was a one-handed right-handed slam dunk off a Zimmerman late third-quarter steal.
That throwdown — truth be told — lit up the Jeeps’ bench, their fans, and their student cheering section.
The Jeeps, believe it or not, only attempted two free throws — two second-stanza sinks by Zimmerman.
But why worry about foul shots when it’s raining a dozen three-pointers?
The Jeeps didn’t make their shots early, which SWHS coach Brenton Cole complimented the Titans’ defense, but soon enough, indeed they did.
“I wouldn’t have believed you about that (winning with only two free-throw attempts), but even when we were shooting a lot of threes in the first half, we were able to get them in some foul trouble. In the first quarter, our shots weren’t falling. But Notre Dame is a good team. But we told the guys at halftime that we’ve played in enough scrimmages that we know we can shoot. They were going to start falling. Our guys believed in that. They’ve bought into our system of what we’re doing,” said Cole. “Once that first one went in, they all just followed and fed off that. Everybody got involved.”
Pretty much most of the Jeeps did.
Roberts and Blizzard bucketed three apiece, Bender in the second quarter and Will Collins canned two each, and Cam Carpenter and Zimmerman each made one.
Roberts with 15, Zimmerman with 13, fellow seniors Carpenter and Blizzard both with 11, and Collins with 10 all ended up in double figures for the Jeeps.
Both Bender trifectas were in the second, and Dylan Shupert scored a basket with 47 seconds remaining for the 68-45 final.
The Jeeps’ largest leads were four fourth-quarter cushions of 23 points —59-36, 61-38, 66-43 and finally 68-45.
The Titans tried their best to stop the three-point bleeding, but the Jeeps just kept firing —and making.
“They (Jeeps) are a good team with a lot of veterans back which have played a lot of basketball, but they shot it so well,” said NDHS coach Matt Mader. “They broke loose late in the second quarter and really broke loose in the third quarter. Early on, we played well and I thought our defensive intensity was really good. We rebounded well and limited their second-chance opportunities. But we couldn’t sustain that, and defensive transition they started pushing it at us and we lost some guys. They hit those three threes there in the second quarter, and we just couldn’t recover from that or a bad third quarter.”
Following four second-quarter ties, as the last of which was at 20-20, the Jeeps outscored the Titans 9-2 to end the half —and doubled up Notre Dame 48-25 for the final two-and-a-half quarters.
The second stanza was a 20-8 output, followed by the 26-14 third frame.
South Webster forced 16 Titan turnovers, rebounded the ball much better, and got after Notre Dame defensively —especially in transition.
“They got six points off early putbacks, and we talked at halftime having to eliminate that. We needed to box out better, be more physical and keep their bigs off the glass. We’re going to look to move the ball quickly, and in order to do that, we have to get stops and defensive rebounds. We want to push the ball and take what the defense gives us. We started to do a much better job of that,” said Cole. “Our defense got better, started to take them out of their offensive flow and what they wanted to do, and that fed into our offense.”
“We had some signs that we played very well, but we missed a lot of shots around the rim, which were contested. But you have to give South Webster a lot of credit,” said Mader. “That’s a good basketball team, a very good defensive team. We haven’t seen anything their like defensive intensity in our scrimmages.”
The Titans’ offense centered on senior Johnathan Strickland, who poured in a game-high 20 points on four twos and four threes.
Strickland, at the stage end in the opening half, had 13 —including 11 in the opening quarter, which featured three threes as part of that 14-9 ND lead.
It was Notre Dame’s biggest margin aside from 6-2 and 11-7 —as Collins cut into that 6-2 deficit with the Jeeps’ first three-pointer, followed by Bender from the corner pocket making it 14-12 only 46 seconds into the second.
Carson Sammons stuck back a miss for a 22-20 Titan lead at the 3:05 second-quarter juncture, but from there, Zimmerman truly got the three-point party started for the Jeeps.
Aside from Strickland’s 20, fellow seniors Sammons and Jarren Edgington scored six points apiece on two field goals and 2-of-2 second-half foul shots —but no other Titan tallied more than three or two.
As Saturday night marked the Titans’ two losses in a row —dating back to South Webster’s win in the Division IV sectional championship bout last season —it’s quite possible the two could meet yet again in February or early March.
But both coaches cautioned an entire regular-season schedule should play itself out first —as Notre Dame ventures to West on Tuesday night, while South Webster will play at Green.
Both are non-league affairs.
“It’s game one, so let’s use this as a measuring stick,” said Mader. “South Webster played very well tonight, and we may see them down the road (in Division IV tournament). I think we’re going to get better and better as the season goes on, and we just have to learn from this one. We have some guys who haven’t played together a whole lot, and it showed at times. Our effort was there, but our execution on both ends wasn’t all the time.”
“This was a good win against a good team, and I wholeheartedly expect to see them (Titans) in the tournament,” said Cole. “The boys shared the ball well, we had balanced scoring, and we’re happy with the win and the level we’re pushing towards playing at.”
Notre Dame 14 8 14 9— 45
South Webster 9 20 26 13 — 68
NOTRE DAME 45 (0-1)
Carson Sammons 2 2-2 6, Jermaine Powell 1 0-0 2, Aaron Bradford 0 0-0 0, Wyatt Webb 0 0-0 0, Gary Zheng 0 0-0 0, Landon Barbarits 0 0-0 0, Carter Campbell 0 3-3 3, Dylan Seison 1 1-2 3, Johnathan Strickland 8 0-0 20, Cody Metzler 1 1-2 3, Dominic Sparks 1 0-0 2, Jarren Edgington 2 2-2 6; TOTALS 16 9-11 45; Three-point field goals: 4 (Johnathan Strickland 4)
SOUTH WEBSTER 68 (1-0)
Connor Bender 2 0-0 6, Trae Zimmerman 5 2-2 13, Dylan Shupert 1 0-0 2, Cam Carpenter 5 0-0 11, Brady Blizzard 4 0-0 11, Zander Rawlins 0 0-0 0, Eli Roberts 6 0-0 15, Will Collins 4 0-0 10, Aiden Mcgraw 0 0-0 0, Brody Perkins 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 27 2-2 68; Three-point field goals: 12 (Brady Blizzard and Eli Roberts 3 apiece, Connor Bender and Will Collins 2 apiece, Trae Zimmerman and Cam Carpenter 1 apiece)
SW hits 12 3s, wins opener over ND