BOUNCE: Jay County checks all the right boxes by asserting their dominance against Heritage

Jay County’s Renna Schwieterman goes up for a basket during a January 2 game against Heritage.

What makes Jay County so dominant?

That is the underlying question I wanted to answer making the long trek on Saturday afternoon to see the top girls team in the ACAC. Originally I want to use the term good…what makes them so good. But watching Jay County take full control of the conference during the matinee win against Heritage, it morphed to the word dominant.

The Patriots have thoroughly dominated the majority of their time in the ACAC. Saturday was not different or special in that aspect. They controlled their fellow Patriots from start to finish, taking a 5-0 lead early and 12-2 lead after the first quarter. Instead, the experience for me at Jay County was about how they won and how they continue to dominate.

Some people will make it as easy as this: Jay County is a very large school amongst a small school laden ACAC. There are, in a fair assessment, more players to choose from and more athletes coming into your school. It’s just a numbers game. But having better players, having better athletes means winning games. Any coach worth their weight in experience will tell you quantity doesn’t make you great and sometimes quality doesn’t even do that.

What I saw on Saturday was arguably the most calm, communicative and confident team I have seen in Northeast Indiana this season. Jay County just did everything the right way in their 50-29 win over Heritage.

Their blending of style and ability was a significant stand out. They stay back in a picture perfect 2-3 zone defensively to start the game, challenging Heritage at every shot. They didn’t just let Heritage get their shots or even wait for the Heritage players to slide into gaps they could cut off. Instead Jay County stayed active with their hands with Heritage not getting many clean shots off. There was a hand in the face or a hand on the ball far more often than there wasn’t. It was just a numbers game. The calmness in their shifts is what made them efficient. The Patriots (of the Jay County variety) never rushed to the ball, never panicked and rarely found themselves out of place because of it. When they may have or when they slipped a little, the players had zero issue talking to each other and righting the ship. 

That, in and of itself, is a bit of a lost art in high school basketball these days. Talk to each other. So simple, yet rarely seen. Especially as gyms have limited capacity, you can really tell what programs do and don’t communicate.

Jay County’s Gabe Bilbrey defends a Heritage ball handler flanked by teammates Aubrie (5) and Renna Schwieterman during a January 2 game.

But as slow down oriented as their defense was, Jay County had zero issue getting out on the break once they had secured a stop on the defensive end. Grab a rebound, find your guard and push the ball up the court. By being a willing competitor in transition, it gives Jay County so many more diverse looks: attack the basket, swing it to a corner or pull it back out and set up a play.

Furthermore, Jay County had no problem in playing the waiting game to set up those plays. With a dominant first quarter already behind them, they took their time to end the session. As Heritage sat in their zone and their coach urged her team to let Jay County run the clock down, there was that calm again. The Patriots stood back with the ball in the hands of sophomore standout Renna Schwieterman and took 30 good seconds off the clock before navigating through their set for Madison Dirksen to knock down a three pointer for a 12-2 lead; Jay County would also lead 27-7 at halftime.

Now, I challenge you to think about what you read in the last paragraph that you haven’t read until this point. If you guessed player names, you are correct. Why is that important? Because no matter how often you see the names Schwieterman and Dirksen on this website or others, this group blends together so well it is almost silly to talk about player names in what makes them so dominant. No player makes Jay County dominant, neither does coach Kirk Comer; the collective is what has made them the best team in the ACAC in the past and no truer statement could be said of the 2020-21 team.

In the second half on Saturday, it was more of the same for Jay County that there was in the first half. Despite Heritage making some good plays and overall playing tougher than the first half, Jay County never wavered. With 1:57 left in the third quarter, Aubrie Schwieterman lunged into a passing lane from the top of Jay County’s 1-2-2 zone to knock the ball ahead to herself and take it up the court for an easy lay in. Just another example of Jay County blending styles and being cool in a variety of difference situations.

With the win, Jay County remains unbeaten in ACAC regular season games on their home court all-timex. The Patriots move to 38-2 all-time in the ACAC during the regular season and with a 3-0 start this season, they’ve certainly positioned themselves for a sixth ACAC title since joining the league in in the 2014-15 season. Jay County is now 9-5 overall this season.

Renna Schwieterman finished with a game high 19 points against Heritage on Saturday and Dirksen added 14.

There was no leaving Jay County disappointed on Saturday. I got what I came for. I saw who was taking control of the ACAC and I answered the question, at least for myself, if not others: what makes Jay County so dominant?

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