Sophomore Jack Dapore’s 12 second half points put the finishing touches on one of the season’s most dramatic comebacks. Russia surprises Jackson Center.
Russia – To borrow from one of the old Ian Fleming books, veteran coaches like Jackson Center’s Scott Elchert know that there’s no such thing as a sure thing in Shelby County League basketball.
Put it this way. There’s especially no such thing as From Russia, With Love, and thank you Mr. Fleming.
A sure thing? Elchert and his league-leading Tigers (16-3) saw a 13-point third quarter lead slowly evaporate Friday night…at the hands of the Russia Raiders (17-3)…in one of those twisting second half dramas that would have done a James Bond movie plot proud.
And by the time the plot unraveled Jackson’s 31-18 third quarter lead eventually turned into a 53-48 loss.
Thank you Russia coach, Spencer Cordonnier.
Thank you Russia sophomore, Jack Dapore.
And a special thank you to the Russia crowd that created a veritable din in the Raiders’ tiny gym. So loud that referee Chuck Docken would claim he couldn’t hear his whistle.
To their credit, Jackson Center played a near flawless first half. Known for their defensive intensity, the Tigers made life miserable for the Russia shooters, holding the Raiders to 10 points in the first quarter.
To make matters worse for Cordonnier’s offense, Jackson kicked its game into gear in the second to outscore Russia 17-8 and take a 29-18 halftime lead. Drew Sosby and Brady Wildermuth combined for 17 of those points and the Tigers appeared to be on their way.
It got worse.
Wildermuth came out and hit an uncontested shot at the rim to start the third quarter to make the score 31-18, and for all intents, given the history of Scott Elchert’s defensive pedigree, you could have shoveled dirt in on Cordonnier, his offense, and the Raiders’ hopes.
But, it got better.
It was homecoming night at Russia Friday. They crowned a new king and queen, and the pride of the moment, perhaps, combined with a Cordonnier tactical move, turned the tide of the game in royalty’s favor.
Russia employed a 1-3-1 zone, a defense they’d practiced a little during the course of the year, but had never actually used in the game.
“We were doing nothing in the first half, and I told the kids we were going to use the 1-3-1 on them…only, I didn’t want to use it until the second half for the element of surprise,” said Cordonnier.
“I told them prior to halftime…just get us to the second half.”
The 1-3-1 is a unique defense that takes unique commitment and hard work to make work effectively. You don’t see it that much because a lot of coaches feel they lack the athletes, and the heart, to play it with effect. But when used effectively, it confuses, confounds, and frustrates opposing offenses.
“They had their two shooters out there on the wings in their triangle,” said Cordonnier. “And I told our coaches we just weren’t going to let them run that all night. We saw them run it last week. They’re good at it, they’re patient, and I kept looking at the clock and praying for halftime. Just get us to halftime.”
Cordonnier’s plan worked.
The Raiders suddenly shut down JC’s offensive duo of Sosby and Wildermuth, holding the Tigers to just five points in the third quarter after Wildermuth’s opening bucket.
At the same time the Raiders began to hit shots. Jake Gariety hit a huge three from the wing. Jack Dapore scored all 12 of his team-high points in the second half and capped off a 12-4 run in the third with a doomsday three-pointer of his own. Suddenly, they trailed by just three points, 36-33.
“All of a sudden we started having defensive breakdowns, as far as the way we’re supposed to guard certain personnel,” said Elchert. “And offensively we just shut down completely. We got careless with the ball, kind of carefree, and we stopped making plays at the offensive end. That became a dangerous combination for us; when we broke away from our defensive game plan and allowed them to play to their strengths…and our shot makers just quit making shots.”
Senior Jake Gariety had never lost a home game in the Russia gym in his four years, and he played as if that streak meant more than life itself.
“Our defensive effort just got better in the third quarter,” said Gariety. “I hadn’t played good enough. We changed some things up and I just felt like we had to do a better job of trapping and getting into the passing lanes.”
And that’s exactly what the 1-3-1 is designed to do.
But more, Gariety made shots, and when Dapore hit a twisting layup attempt early in the fourth quarter to finally give Russia the lead at 38-37, you could feel the momentum turn…you could sense the frustration and some doubt in the minds of Jackson Center…and no one could hear themselves think. If you’ve never been in the Russia gym, when they turn up the volume it annoys even the stone deaf.
It was game on.
The lead changed four times over the next four minutes until Russia got Jackson in the bonus, foul-wise, and went to work at the line. The Raiders hit 12 of 14.
Conversely, Jackson let the game slip away at the line. Normally a very good free throw shooting team, Elchert watch in exasperation as the Tigers missed 5 of 8 attempts in the final eight minutes…and that turned out to be the margin of victory. 53-48!
“It’s a disappointing loss, but we have another week and I feel like these guys will respond,” said Elchert, the tournament seeding coming up in a matter of days. “We’ll see.”
“This was a big win for us,” countered Cordonnier, sitting in his coaches’ office, staring at the scorebook. “Really big for our seniors because in their four years they’d never lost a home game.
“We didn’t play well in the first half, but the object was for us to get to the second half, use the zone, and try to get back into the game. Credit the kids. We hadn’t run that defense all year. We practiced it for four days this week. They adjusted to it well until we got some offense going. We took one of our bigs out, we opened up the floor, got some cutters going through, started driving, and we began to get some open shots.”
Jake Dapore finished with his 12 points. Jack Gariety added 11, and six other Raiders combined for their remaining 30 points.
For Jackson, Drew Sosby led all scorers with 20, while Brady Wildermuth closed with 13. Ethan Zorn, Trent Platfoot and Gavin Booser added the Tigers’ remaining 15 points.
Jack Gariety, Connor Monnin, Jonah Counts, Caleb Ball, Lukas Busse, Clay Borchers and Josh York, all seniors, still haven’t lost at home. They were smiling as they left the gym Friday.
The “homecomers” were smiling; the king and queen were smiling.
And Mr. Fleming might have smiled, too, had he seen it. The plot changes, but the plot continues.
There’s still no love in Russia.