Coulter hits milestone as Tribe continues its quest

Coulter hits milestone as Tribe continues its quest

COLFAX — As an incoming pass ricocheted off his palms and the ball bounced out of bounds, Noah Jackson's face fell to the floor.

Down by eight points, a careless turnover was hardly the start Judah Christian boys' basketball could afford to begin the second half of Tuesday night's Class 1A Ridgeview Sectional semifinal game against a rapid-fire cluster of Gardner-South Wilmington shooters.

The Tribe senior wore his mistake in his body language as he trudged down the court on defense, frowning all the while. That's when senior guard Connor Lash stood up on the Tribe bench and started calling Jackson's name.

"Don't worry about that, don't worry," Lash called out to Jackson. "You've got this. We've got this."

So true.

The next basket belonged to Jackson, who drove the length of the floor and rolled in a layup that would kickstart a 16-6 second-quarter rally for the Tribe on its way to a 65-53 victory.

"I know my teammates are going to be there for me," said Jackson, who, like Lash, tallied 13 points for the Tribe in its first-ever sectional victory. "So I know I've got to be there for them."

While the Panthers (23-10) scraped their way back in the second half to hold a 41-40 lead entering the fourth quarter, the Tribe (29-2) allowed its defense to energize an 11-0 run in the fourth frame.

Learning to play through defense is an aspect Judah's first-year coach Bill Ipsen has stressed the entire season.

"Some nights, it's not going to always go in the hole, and defense has to be there every night," Ipsen said. "I think they've bought into that. And against this level of competition, it's got to be (won) defensively."

Out on the court, senior Philip Coulter could feel the defense shift the momentum of the game in the midst of the Tribe's second-quarter run. It helped him start knocking down shots after missing his first two attempts from the field, as the Tribe's leading scorer finished with 16 points to eclipse 1,000 career points.

Coulter said friends made him aware of the nearing milestone, but that actually reaching it was far from his mind with program history on the line.

"It wasn't a goal to get to 1,000," Coulter said. "It was a goal to get to the next game. The 1,000 was going to come."

Senior Josh Candler also found his way to double figures scoring with 11 points, dishing out a number of assists and picking the pocket of several driving Panthers at opportune moments.

Though, by the game's final eight minutes, every member of the Tribe that stepped out onto the court was getting a piece of the Panthers, most frequently with an in-your-face defensive pressure along the three-point line.

"We were getting a little bit tired at the end, but that's definitely from their defense," Gardner-South Wilmington coach Allan Wills said. "They were in our face and pressuring us good. They definitely stepped up and fought hard."

Ipsen deemed the Tribe's defense in the opening quarter "unacceptable" for the future, but for now he'll take the victory — which is the 17th in a row for his Tribe players. But whether they end up facing Cissna Park (28-4) or Grant Park (19-8) in Friday's 7 p.m. championship game, Ipsen wants his boys to believe their defense will lead the way.

"It'll be a challenge," Ipsen said. "But whoever we face Friday, we've got to play a little better than we did (Tuesday night) to win again."