Blue Jays hoping to put two halves together
Jamestown girls basketball coach Andy Skunberg has watched his team perform to its potential in the second half of nearly every game this season.
The first half has been a different story.
Foul trouble, turnovers and shooting woes have plagued the Blue Jays through most of the first halves this season, often leading to a deficit at halftime.
“Two or three times, we’ve been down 15 points and battled our way back,” Skunberg said. “We’ve got to eliminate the mistakes that are getting us down 15. Some of its turnovers and getting in foul trouble early.
“When we have a full squad, we feel that sense of urgency. They turn it up and get after it. We’ve got to find a way to do it the whole 36 minutes.”
Both at 2-3, Jamestown’s boys and girls teams host Dickinson on Friday night and Williston on Saturday night at the JHS gym.
Both opponents have just one win between them, as the girls teams have each won a game. Both boys teams are winless.
“Their records aren’t very good, but ours isn’t either,” Skunberg said. “We’ve got to fine-tune our game and keep improving.”
Senior center Paige Peterson has been instrumental in the team’s success on the court. She was at it again on Tuesday night, pouring in 27 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals in the Jays’ 82-71 win at Devils Lake.
For the season, she’s averaging 21.6 points and 14 rebounds per game. Along with her scoring, she’s been an important part in the team’s fastbreak opportunities, often throwing long outlet passes that help get Jamestown 2-on-1s on the other end.
“She dribbles with her head up — her eyes are always up,” Skunberg said. “Even in the low post, she sees the double team coming, and she does a great job of doing a skip pass.”
Turnovers often lead to disastrous results, but Jamestown has oddly enough weathered that storm well. The Blue Jays’ season-worst in turnovers is 27 against Mandan and Devils Lake, but those two games account for their wins.
Keeping feisty senior point guard McKayla Orr on the court has also been a problem because of foul trouble. She led the West Region in assists as a key cog for last season’s fifth-place team at state, but she’s just sixth in minutes played on this season’s squad.
However, her talents were on display in the second half against Devils Lake. finishing with 16 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals.
“She was a sparkplug there,” Skunberg said. “All the girls chipped in. We had three girls in double digits and three with nine. That was good distribution of offense. That’s what we need.”
Jamestown’s coming off a 73-63 loss to Devils Lake on Tuesday, which saw the Jays get within five points late in the second half before succumbing.
Coach Kelley Kessler said it was another good offensive performance for Jamestown, but again the defense faltered.
“We weren’t as solid as we wanted to be, defensively,” Kessler said. “Granted, they hit a lot of shots, but those weren’t all contested shots. We need to do a better job of contesting shots. The perimeter defense needs to improve if we’re gonna be competitive in the west.”
The Blue Jays were able to get to the basket plenty and they also had a decent mid-range game. But Devils Lake was 8-of-18 from the 3-point line, while Jamestown suffered through an 0-of-10 performance.
“There were a lot of things we could have done better,” Kessler said.
Through five games, senior Ashton Johnson leads the team in scoring at 13 points per game. Sophomore Logan Anderson is the only other player in double figures at 10.8. Junior Nick Fuchs is averaging 9.4 points and is also the team’s leading rebounder at 6.4 a contest.
Jamestown gets back into its region schedule this weekend. Dickinson and Williston are a combined 0-8 including 0-4 in the region.
Kessler said he expects Dickinson to be an evenly matched game. On Saturday, however, the Jays have to contend with 6-5 center Jayden Ferguson of Williston. He’s averaging 23 points and 7. 5 rebounds per game.
“We’ll talk specifically about what he likes to do and what they like to do with him,” Kessler said. “You try and take some of those things away. You’re not gonna shut down a kid like that. You hope to contain him, and that starts on the defensive end.
“The offense has been consistent for us all year. We’ve just got to get some stops. That’s the next step for us.”
Sun sportswriter Chris Aarhus can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or firstname.lastname@example.org