Ashland-Greenwood hosted Douglas County West Friday for the team’s senior night. The visiting Falcons hung around in the first half, but the Bluejays blew the game open in the third quarter and pulled away for a 71-46 win.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
DC West has been a strictly man-to-man defensive team all season long, but against the No. 2 Bluejays, who have just one loss with a couple weeks left in the regular season, rolling the ball out there and doing what they normally do probably wasn’t going to work out.
So instead of sticking with man, the Falcons tried throwing Ashland-Greenwood off-balance with a 2-3 zone. It didn’t work. The Bluejays were patient all night and absolutely scorched the nets from the perimeter, shooting 13-of-24 (54.2%) from deep.
All five starters hit at least one triple with two of them knocking down four apiece. The Bluejays recorded assists on 14 of their 23 buckets and shot just as well (10-of-18, 55.6%) inside the arc as they did outside of it.
The Falcons did a good job hanging around in the first half despite Ashland-Greenwood shooting 6-of-9 from deep in the second quarter, trailing 35-26 at the break. Then something happened I had never seen before and the Bluejays took firm control of the game.
Ashland-Greenwood senior Cale Jacobsen shot a passing lane and picked off a pass, taking it the other way for a layup. A Falcon defender chased him down and tried to wrap him up from behind to prevent the layup, but Jacobsen ripped through the contact and finished anyway. The officials called it an intentional foul. Jacobsen made the free throw for the three-point play, then got two more for the intentional and split them. The Bluejays retained possession and added a 3-pointer for a seven-point possession.
That was just the start, however. Ashland-Greenwood held DC West scoreless for nearly seven minutes. The Falcons missed their first 10 shots and turned the ball over four times before Cael Dembinski followed up his own miss for a put-back to end the drought.
Ashland-Greenwood outscored DC West 17-3 in the third quarter to build a 52-29 leading heading into the fourth, and they cruised from there.
The biggest reason the Falcons managed to keep pace with the Bluejays despite their hot shooting in the second quarter was senior guard Brody Travis. He’s capable of catching fire at any point, and he did so against Ashland-Greenwood, hitting all three 3-pointers he fired up and scoring 11 points in the second quarter.
Travis was the only Falcon to score more than six points, finishing with 15. He’s averaging 16.3 points to lead the way for the Falcons this season. Last week, he exploded for a new school scoring record of 41 points, shooting 12-of-22 from the field including 6-of-2 from 3 and 11-of-13 from the foul line in a 69-60 loss to a good Fort Calhoun team (yes, he scored 41 of his team’s 60). He’s topped 20 six times so far this season and has hit 42 3-pointers in 20 games.
Travis recently committed to play at Division III Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa.
Special Night for the Bluejay Seniors
Before the game, Ashland-Greenwood recognized its four seniors: Jacobsen, Max Parker, Evan Shepard and Darren Hill.
Jacobsen is a four-year starter and likely would have torn apart the Ashland-Greenwood record books had a torn ACL in December of 2020 not cut his junior season short. Even so, he surpassed 1,000 career points earlier this season. Jacobsen is a big-time bucket-getter (as evidenced by his back-to-back 25-point games heading into Friday), but he can impact the game so many ways besides scoring as well.
On Friday, Jacobsen finished with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting (1-of-2 from 3) and 2-of-3 from the line. He was also the biggest reason the zone didn’t work as he patiently picked it apart and found shooters all night. Jacobsen finished with nine assists, eight of which went to 3-point shooters. He added four rebounds, three steals and two blocks to his line, and after Travis went off in the second quarter he switched onto him at the start of the third quarter and took him out of the game.
The primary beneficiaries of Jacobsen’s playmaking were the other two seniors in the starting lineup.
Max Parker, a 6-foot-6 senior who lost most of his left hand to a fireworks accident when he was 12, worked hard to rebuild his game and has become a difference-maker for the Bluejays as a senior. He finished with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting (4-of-5 from 3) and five rebounds on Friday.
Shepard moved to Nebraska from Illinois a couple years ago and has developed into a multi-sport standout at Ashland-Greenwood. He was selected for the Shrine Bowl because of his accomplishments on the football field and plans to compete in track and field in college. On the court Friday, he scored 15 points on 4-of-7 from 3 and 3-of-4 from the line and grabbed six rebounds.
The fourth senior, Hill, isn’t a part of the regular rotation, but he did get a chance to see the floor in the fourth quarter.
The seniors played a big part on Friday, but it was a junior in Brooke Kissinger who led the Bluejays in scoring. He finished with 17 points on 5-of-11 from the field (1of-4 from 3) and 6-of-8 from the foul line and chipped in three assists.
Parker and Shepard are knockdown shooters, but Kissinger adds another dynamic scorer who can get to the rim and finish in addition to Jacobsen. He’s incredibly aggressive and although he’s a bit streaky from the perimeter, he can hit from there as well. When all five starters are firing like they did on Friday night (junior forward Cougar Konzem chipped in eight points on 3-of-5 shooting), the Bluejays are almost impossible to beat.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.