The old Greyhound house hosted a doubleheader on Jan. 30, when the North Central Thunder rolled into Hoven to challenge Potter County in two contests of boys and girls basketball.
The Thunder girls were a bunch of scrappy, vertically challenged players because even though they listed their starting point guard, Samantha Lux as 5’ 1” tall, the same height as Potter County’s Ashlee Kaup, Ashlee had to tilt her head down to look at Miss Lux. Given their lack of physical stature, they did not appear to be at all intimidated going up against the Lady Battlers, even though their overall record was not that impressive. They had 3 wins and 7 losses, but if you took a closer look at their schedule, several of their losses were close, like losing to Ipswich by only two points. So, it was clear they had it in them to compete against the hometown team, and it showed in the first quarter.
The Thunder girls were very well coached. They were extremely meticulous in the running of their offense and very aggressive in guarding their opponents. They actually shut down Jenna Robbennolt because she only scored two points in this opening quarter. If not for Tyler Simon and Dasia Reuer stepping up, the Battlers might have dug a hole too deep to get out of. Both of these Battlers scored four points apiece to close out the quarter with 10. As for the Thunder, four of their girls made baskets and two of them dropped in 3-point shots to make their final first quarter score 12 points total.
Taking that two-point lead into the second quarter, the Thunder poured it on and were soon increasing their lead. The scrappiness of the Thunder proved frustrating to the Battlers and it showed because their free-throw shots were not going in and exasperation clearly appeared on their faces when it seemed like none of the calls were going their way. However, with about two minutes left to play in the quarter the girls finally clicked on defense and things changed – quickly. Through the hustle of their perimeter players, like Kirstie Lake, Ashlee Kaup, Rylee Kaup, and Tyler Simon, they were either stealing or taking the ball away to turn great defensive plays into offense. The Battlers’ quickness finally broke down the Thunder’s methodical style of play and put them back on their heels. The Thunder not only lost their lead but went into the locker room trailing by one point when the buzzer sounded to end the first half – 25 to 24.
The Thunder never adjusted to the Battlers hustling and full court press. When they returned to the floor following the half time break the Lady Battlers blew them out in the third period by scoring 22 points to their 6. Again, it was the Battlers perimeter players who were too much for the visiting team to deal with and their offense totally fell apart. But what ripped their hearts out was Jenna Robbennolt draining three consecutive 3-point shots, with the ice breaker of the set being the most magnificent because Jenna drained the shot a good 35 feet away from the basket. Also working hard underneath for the Battlers were Aaliyah Canchola and Dasia Reuer, but it was Ashlee Kaup and Tyler Simon who stole the show because they were surprisingly getting both tough offensive and defensive rebounds. These two freshmen definitely earned their black and blue badges of honor by constantly taking the ball away from the visitors which not only shocked their opponents but the fans in the stands as well. With everything coming together for the home team, the score board read 47 to 30 when the third quarter expired.
To anyone cheering on the home team and to their satisfaction, Jenna Robbennolt did not cool off when the fourth quarter commenced. She drained her fourth 3-point shot in a row and then followed it up with two successful free-throw attempts before taking a seat to let her younger teammates make an appearance and cap the game at 61 to 41.
In the boys’ game there was an eerie similarity in that the Thunder did not seem to care at all that they were not picked to win the game because they fought hard to shut down the Battlers in the first quarter. Plus, their starting guards, Alec Maier and Ian Beyers both dropped in 3-point shots apiece to give them the lead – for a while. If not for Grant Luikens doing some outstanding acrobatics to get four points to stay close, the Thunder might have out gunned the home team. It was big Kayden Ahlemeier who manhandled the Thunder underneath to score six points to give the Battlers the lead when the first quarter came to an end – 12 to 8.
In the second quarter, the Battlers did a good job shutting down the Thunder’s guards. The game changed, however, when the Thunder big men made their presence felt when Kaden Hix scored 8 points and Bryce Beitelspacher added another 9. This scoring surge by the Thunder’s frontline gave them the lead when the first half closed – 29 to 27. If not for Cooper Logan and Grant Luikens getting 4 and 5 points in this quarter things could have really gone bad for the boys. Plus, it was Kayden Ahlemeier out muscling the Thunder again to get one more basket underneath as the quarter was closing out that actually led to three points because he was fouled – more correctly, he was physically assaulted, but no charges were filed.
With the Thunder having the lead and looking good they were back on the court within a minute and a half when halftime started whereas Coach Bryce Hall must have chewed on the Battlers about shoring up their defense because they did not reappear until the halftime was almost over. Whatever was said worked because the boys only allowed two Thunder players to score in the third period – Austin Faw netted a 3-pointer and Kaden Hix got a garbage bucket under the basket. Besides playing good defense, the Battlers continued to run the Thunder and it seemed to start taking a toll on them. Towards the end of the second quarter it started to show that the Thunder were out of shape because several of the Thunder would have their hands on their hips and sucking air whenever a dead ball occurred. In the third quarter it was clear the Battlers were literally running them off the floor because all the Thunder players were breathing hard and bent over pulling on their trunks when the quarter ended with the score being Battlers 41 and Thunder 34.
In the final quarter the Battlers put on a good show for the hometown crowd and it was Drake Bassett doing the most entertaining by looking like the Roadrunner flying down the court full tilt and then like Wile E. Coyote the next second when he went sliding or banging off the court when one of his Kamikaze breakaway runs would come to an abrupt end. In this final frame, this young whirlwind scored on three fast breaks that totally excited the crowd because each time it looked more like a car wreck than a layup. Again, it was Kayden Ahlemeier moving heaven and earth underneath to get two more tough baskets to put an exclamation mark on the game. Even with all the running and speed that the Battlers demonstrated throughout this game, it was Kayden’s old fashion tough play under the boards that clearly made him the Player of the Game. His 19 points were evenly spread throughout the four quarters and his defense was a big factor as to why the Thunder could not mount an attack to steal a win away from Potter County.
With the game no longer in question, Coach Hall finally put the second battalion in with 2:12 left to play in the game and it was good to see these young players come in to show what they could do too. Unfortunately, none of them scored but it did not matter because when the last buzzer went off in the old Greyhound stadium the scoreboard read 58 to 42, which meant the Battlers won both games of this doubleheader to make everything just fine on this night for Battler Nation.
In the JV games the girls beat the Thunder 36 to 29 and the boys smoked their opponents 42 to 8. Rylee Kaup was high scorer for the girls with 10 points and Rylee Zweber led the way for the boys with 12.
Girls Stats: Battlers: Jenna Robbennolt – 24, Abbie Larson – 2, Kirsite Lake – 10, Ashlee Kaup – 3, Rylee Kaup – 1, Tyler Simon – 13, Aaliyah Canchola – 2, Dasia Reuer – 4. Thunder: Abby Aldinger – 1, Maddie Crawford – 9, Jessie Lux – 4, Brittney Frickson – 3, Hope Hoerner – 2, Krystal Geier – 14, Grace Walz – 8.
Boys Stats: Battlers: Drake Bassett – 9, Rylee Zweber – 3, Cooper Logan – 10, Seth Sharp – 2, Dylan Drew – 4, Grant Luikens – 11, Kayden Ahlemeier – 19. Thunder: Alec Maier – 4, Ian Beyers – 3, Trevor Beyers – 3, Austin Faw – 3, Keden Hix – 16, Bryce Beitelspacher – 13.