HOPE — A poorly played first half put Hauser in a 21-point hole.
Despite a second-half rally, the Jets couldn’t quite escape losing Friday night to Mid-Hoosier Conference rival Southwestern (Shelby) 74-59.
Hauser (0-15, 0-6 MHC) got to within five points with 1:22 remaining and had two opportunities on 3-point attempts with a minute left to close the gap to four. But both went awry and a Spartans parade to the foul line, where they were perfect in eight attempts, settled the final score.
“Our single goal from here is to find a focus and keep it the entire game,” said Hauser coach Bob Nobbe. “We have yet to find the focus for four quarters that is takes to win.
“We are trying to help them understand that the focus needs to start during warmups,” said the 17-year coach. “Tonight, the focus wasn’t there at the start. We dug a hole that we couldn’t get out of.”
While missing 11 of 13 attempts from the field in the first quarter, the Jets also struggled on the defensive end. Trailing 19-6 at the first stop, things did not improve in the second quarter and the Jets went to intermission on the short end of the 39-18 score.
Andrew Messer made the Jets pay dearly for their defensive lapses. Southwestern’s 5-foot-7 senior hit five 3s for the Spartans (6-10, 3-3) in the first half during which they collectively hit 15-of-29 from the field.
The second half featured a completely different script.
With sophomore guards Rory Thayer and Dalton McKinney taking turns blanketing Messer on the defensive end, and with post players Ryan Christy and Nick Johnson doing an effective job on the offensive end, Hauser closed the gap to 12 in the third quarter.
“Our energy level in the third quarter was right where we want it to be all the time,” Nobbe said. “McKinney and Thayer were terrific on defense and Christy and Johnson did a great job calling for the ball and finishing inside.”
Christy and Johnson each scored six points in the third quarter. But while Messer was being shut out, Bryce Rowe took up the slack.
Rowe, a 5-11 freshman, scored 10 in the third quarter and nine in the fourth to help hold off the late-charging Jets. Rowe finished with a game-high 26 points. Messer had 24.
But Rowe may have had as big an impact on the defensive end where he guarded Hauser’s Trey Shipley. The Jets’ leading scorer for the season was held to seven.
“Our freshman (Rowe) grew up on the defensive end last week at Waldron,” said Southwestern coach Brady Days. “So we decided to challenge him again tonight.
“He now sits at the senior table with the older guys. He is fully accepted.”
Hauser was led offensively by Johnson who scored 12. Christy added 11 points and pulled down a game-high nine rebounds. Thayer scored 10 and McKinney scored eight off the bench.
“We hit the shots we had in the first half,” Days said. “We didn’t get those shots in the second half. Give Hauser a lot of credit. They fought back hard. I spent the fourth quarter watching the clock and hoping it would go down faster.”
The Jets will host Morristown at 7:30 p.m. today in their final conference game of the season.