Jefferson falls in close RVC affair against McFarland
JEFFERSON — While the inbounds pass hung in the air, it looked like it might sail into the bleachers giving Jefferson the ball with 2.1 seconds left.
McFarland senior Anna Luessman reached over the outstretched hand of the Jefferson defender and never tried to catch it, she just redirected the ball into the backcourt where it bounced twice before the buzzer sounded giving the Spartans a 43-40 victory on the road against the Eagles in Rock Valley Conference prep girls basketball on Thursday night.
Jefferson spent most of the second half lurking within striking distance of McFarland. The Eagles trailed, 23-18, at the break but faced a 36-25 deficit with 10:21 to play in the game. Nearly four minutes of scoreless basketball passed before junior Olivia Ganser exerted her will.
After Jefferson sophomore guard Ainsley Howard released a contested jump shot, coach Evan Hibbs yelled, “board that Liv.” Ganser obliged and put it right back up for a basket to make the score 36-27 with 6:36 to play. She scored 38 seconds later too.
Two minutes later, Ganser carved out some space in the post, creatively contorted her body around three defenders to put a shot up. It didn’t go in, but she got her own rebound and scored. Jefferson stole the inbounds pass and sophomore guard Sophie Peterson scored to make it 37-33.
“She does a lot for us, there’s not getting around it. She plays a lot of minutes,” Hibbs said. “At times, she plays a lot of different spots. She can really do just about anything on the floor. She was aggressive and was able to get them into foul trouble. Once we got them into foul trouble, I think we got a little bit of confidence from that.”
Ganser had two old fashion 3-point plays down the stretch which each put the Eagles within three points, but they never got closer.
Her aggression helped the Eagles close the game on a 15-6 run. But the 19-3 run McFarland closed the first half on proved insurmountable. It was in-your-face ball pressure and the way the Spartans aggressively fought over screens which sped up Jefferson ball handlers into a lack of offensive rhythm.
“They did a good job of hedging screens mostly and they hedged screens hard so it was really hard to get a pass off,” Howard said. “They played really tight defense and were a really aggressive team.”
In the early going, the Eagles were able to build a 12-4 lead in the first six minutes of the game. The last basket of an 8-0 run was a layup by Ganser after Howard threaded an entry-bounce-pass before the Spartans could rotate their defense.
“That was a real positive to see a play like that,” Hibbs said. “Those two are going to be together next year too, so the more we can connect those two the better. They’re two of our better scorers and when your top two scorers — at least statistically — can play that way and have rhythm together, good things will happen.”
Ganser led all scorers with 18 points — seven of those points were scored wearing No. 1. She switched to No. 42 midway through the second half after blood rendered her original jersey unsuitable. Howard finished with 12 points.
“I think the girls played really hard. Every game we’ve been in lately, we’re battling back and working our tails off,” Hibbs said. “We just need to continue to stay positive and stay the course. I think the girls continue to fight.”
Jefferson will continue its season at Milton tonight. Tip is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
McFARLAND 43, JEFFERSON 40
McFarland 23 20 — 43
Jefferson 18 22 — 40
McFarland (fg-ft-tp) — Taylor 1-0-2, DeMuth 3-0-6, East 5-2-12, 0-2-2, Gilbertson 1-3-5, Hildebrandt 3-2-10. Totals 15-11-43.
Jefferson (fg-ft-tp) — Ganser 6-6-18, Howard 4-2-12, S. Peterson 1-0-2, J. Peterson 3-0-6, Beck 1-0-2. Totals 15-8-40.
Three-point goals — M, Hildebrandt 2; J, Howard 2.
Total Fouls — M 18, J 22.