Jesup overcomes Mustangs’ strategy

LE GRAND – A couple trends resurfaced for the Mustangs and J-Hawks Friday.

Alissa Brown and the Jesup girls basketball team have found ways to counter the box-and-one defense thrown against them on a frequent basis, though East Marshall is still searching for the answers in putting together a complete game.

The Mustangs went scoreless nearly the entire second quarter and saw a one-point lead transform to a 12-point halftime deficit in a 57-38 non-conference loss to the J-Hawks.

Maci Fritz’s basket gave East Marshall (1-7) a 15-12 lead late in the opening frame before the J-Hawks (4-5) scored 15 unanswered points to seize control with a 29-17 cushion at the break.

“We’re really struggling as a team to put together four complete quarters,” Mustang coach Missy Pieters. “Once again in the second quarter we went through a big lull of not being able to score. … We just haven’t figured out how to play consistently.”

Ashley Allen scored on an in-bounds play with nine-tenths of a second to give East Marshall its only points of the quarter as the Mustangs never recovered en route to their fifth straight defeat.

Brown entered Friday as the fourth-leading scorer in Class 2A at 21.5 points per game, and the Mustangs did everything to limit her looks early with a defender always fronting the 5-foot-11 senior.

Though as she’s done before, Brown worked through it. The senior finished with 20 points, while things opened up for Bethany Weltzin and Annika Wall, who scored 15 and 12 respectively.

“We know people are going to box-and-one (Alissa),” said Jesup coach Tom Klein, who estimated teams used that strategy in 18 of the J-Hawks’ 21 games last season. “With them fronting her, when the shot goes up she’s there for the offensive rebound. She stays active. She knows it’s coming and she does a good job of staying patient.”

The J-Hawks crashed the boards as a whole to score numerous second-chance buckets, while locking down the Mustangs’ offense by shifting from its press and rotating between a 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone.

Wall opened the second quarter with a putback and Brown followed with a 3-point play as the J-Hawks took over the lead for good after a back-and-forth first frame.

Jesup opened the third with five more points including a Weltzin trey and Wall putback as its lead never dipped below 13 the rest of the way.

East Marshall excelled in the open court through the first eight minutes but when things slowed down in the second quarter, Pieters saw her team’s confidence dip.

“We don’t believe in ourselves as shooters,” said Pieters. “In the first quarter they were pressing and we were breaking it and getting some easy baskets. But once they quit pressing us and it turned into strictly a 5-on-5 half-court game, we don’t have that kind of firepower or the confidence to step up and knock some shots down.”

Taylor Fricke led the Mustangs with 13 points, while Ashley Allen had eight, Maci Fritz seven and Meriel Leavy six. Mariah Fritz completed the scoring with four.

Pieters believes she has some capable shooters on her team, but they’re still developing the confidence to attack consistently.

“You have to have the confidence to step up and hit a shot or at least attack the zone a little bit to open some things up,” said Pieters. “At some point in the season we’ll find that but it’s a work in progress and it will take a while for us to find that.”

The Mustangs face Class 1A No. 3 Colo-NESCO on the road today at 3:30 p.m.