Altamont overcomes sluggish offensive night
Indians rally past North Clay in key NTC battle, 56-40
LOUISVILLE – It wasn't exactly pretty but the Altamont Indians accomplished what they set out to do on Thursday night in a make up game of a previously scheduled National Trail Conference contest at North Clay.

Despite some major offensive deficiencies by both teams, Coach John Niebrugge's Tribe managed to make enough shots and get enough stops on their way to a 56-40 road triumph.

The victory improves the Indians to 16-3 overall and 4-0 in the NTC race.

Coach Josh Zink and his Cardinals saw their league mark slip to 3-2 while the overall slate reads 12-7.

The offensive woes that each of the squads encountered on this rainy, cold night could be described as “needing a bigger pond to throw it in.”

The two teams combined to hit 8-of-45 from the 3-point arc and combined 38-of-102 overall.

It was not exactly a shooting clinic.

However the Indians made the most of their chances in the second half and pulled away for the win.

Altamont got 17 points from senior guard Aidan Jahraus and 12 points from senior guard Denver Duckwitz.

Senior forward Noah Teasley also came up with nine points for Coach Niebrugge's team to go along with eight points off of the bench from sophomore guard Noah Klimpel.

Junior guard Kaden Eirhart added six points, all of which came in the second half, as the Indians broke free from North Clay to pick up the victory.

“We didn't shoot the ball very well tonight and offensively I'm not going to tell them (players) not to shoot. We have shooters and they have to keep shooting. Kaden (Eirhart) didn't have his normal shooting night but Aidan (Jahraus) kind of took over there late for us. But you know, it's a conference win on the road. Coach Zink does enough things offensively and defensively with his team that we knew it was going to be a tough night.”

North Clay got double-digit scoring from senior Tyson Jones with 13 points while classmate Luke Fleener tallied 11.

Senior Lane Holkenbrink and junior Ethan Bible tossed in seven and six points respectively in the loss.

Coach Josh Zink saw his Cardinals get off to pretty decent start on their home floor, with Bible and Holkenbrink each hitting 3-point shots for a 6-0 lead with 6:45 showing on the clock.

Jahraus was a bright spot in the first quarter for the Indians as he scored nine of his points in the first eight minutes.

He made a nice move to get to the basket for a score and he then nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the circle to cut the deficit to just 6-5 in the early going.

Holkenbrink and Fleener each scored in the first quarter as the Cardinals matched their largest lead of the game at 12-6.

But Jahraus closed the frame with two scores, including a 15-footer at the buzzer as the Indians were down 12-10.

One of the things that hurt the hosts on this night was some foul issues.

Fleener, while diving for a loose ball just seconds into the second quarter, picked up his third personal and had to go to the pine at the 7:42 mark.

Altamont put together their first scoring run to get the lead with points coming from Teasley on a fast break, Klimpel on a 3-pointer from the left corner and a lay in from Duckwitz on an assist from Teasley.

A steal and fast break lay in by Jahraus pushed the score to 19-14 Indians with 3:05 left before the half.

Holkenbrink and Duckwitz traded scores before the second quarter ended at 21-16 Altamont.

Altamont got points from six different players in the third quarter as they took their first double-digit lead of the night.

Senior reserve forward Jared Kollman and junior reserve forward Jared Ruffner both scored important baskets for Coach Niebrugge in the third.

A three-point play by Duckwitz, a 3-pointer from Klimpel and another Teasley score on an offensive rebound gave the Indians a 35-25 lead with 3:10 left.

After Jones answered with a lay in score in transition, Kollman got his basket and Klimpel made a steal and finished in transition for a 39-27 lead at the end of three periods of play.

North Clay shot the ball better in the third quarter (4-of-10) but the Cardinals coughed up five turnovers as they trailed by 12 heading into the fourth quarter.

“The margin of error is so thin with Altamont that you have to play four full quarters and not let up at all and I thought our focus let up a little bit and the next thing you know they (Altamont) are up by 12. When are down you have to play a different style and we are not always great about playing from behind,” said Coach Zink.

On the other hand Altamont found its offensive rhythm, hitting 8-of-12 shots overall in the stanza.

The Indians kept North Clay at bay over the final minutes of the game by spreading the floor offensively and making the right moves.

“We tinkered in practice yesterday with some stuff with some spread offense. If you spread it out, with out shooters, they have to come out and guard us. Kaden, Aidan and Denver are all capable of getting breaking you down and kicking it back out. It is something to just add to our arsenal.”

Jahraus closed his night with three more scores.

He made the Cardinals pay on a press breaking transition score while later adding two consecutive drives to the basket for points, part of a 7-2 run with Duckwitz also adding another 3-pointer for a 50-34 lead with 4:40 remaining.

Altamont closed the drama with four free throws, two each from Eirhart and Duckwitz, and another score from Eirhart on a drive.

North Clay added a 3-pointer late from Fleener before Altamont ran out the clock in the final minute.

“They (Altamont) are defensive oriented like we are but sometimes you just have to make shots to win games and we didn't do that tonight,” said Coach Zink. “Championship teams take care of the ball and defend and they do these things on a consistent basis throughout the year with very few mistakes and we are trying to get to that level. We aren't there yet but by the end of the year we hope to be there. I think we have the potential to get there but we have to be more consistent.”

The Cardinals ended up just 15-of-45 (33.3 percent) and just 4-of-23 (17.3 percent) from the arc.

Altamont was just a bit better overall and, perhaps, the key difference was they did a better job in getting to the basket for two-point field goal attempts.

The Indians ended up 23-of-57 overall and 19-of-35 (54.2 percent) when not launching from 20-feet.

Coach Niebrugge's team held a 31-29 rebounding edge and committed just nine turnovers compared to 14 for the hosts.

“When you have bad shooting nights, defense shouldn't take the night off. Kaden didn't allow his bad shooting night to effect his defense. We started getting some deflections and then easy buckets on the other end,” said Coach Niebrugge.

Both teams have a lot of work to do coming up.

Altamont will host Patoka on Friday night while North Clay has a date with Oblong at home on Friday.

Both clubs head into the 85th annual National Trail Conference tournament at Altamont next week.

Altamont is the number two seed and will face Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg on Wednesday night while North Clay is seeded number four and will face the five seed Neoga on Tuesday night.

“It (the NTC Tournament) is one of the deeper ones that we have had in a while. Effingham St. Anthony is state ranked but two through the rest are all capable,” said Coach Niebrugge. “Neoga, Dieterich, North Clay, they are all playing well. South Central just beat Neoga so you have to come out ready to play.”

National Trail Conference
Altamont (16-3)
North Clay (12-7)
Altamont (56) – Kimpel 1 2 0-0 8, Budde 0 0 0-0 0, Jahraus 7 1 0-0 17, Eirhart 2 0 2-2 6, Duckwitz 3 1 3-3 12, Ruffner 1 0 0-0 2, Teasley 4 0 1-2 9, Kollmann 1 0 0-0 2.
2FG-19, 3FG-4 FT-6-7, PF-12.

North Clay (40) – Fleener 2 1 4-4 11, Holkenbrink 2 1 0-4 7, Jones 6 0 1-2 13, Bible 1 1 1-1 6, Ballard 0 0 0-0 0, Weidner 0 1 0-0 3.
2FG-11, 3FG-4, FT-6-11, PF-13.

Fouled Out – None.
Technical Fouls – None.