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Consistency key for DeKalb girls this season offseason she worked on fight through contact when scoring inside. This past offseason she worked on getting even WATERLOO — After starting 5-0 stronger and on her defense. last season, then losing seven in a row, DeKalb head coach Brett Eltzroth is “This past offseason she’s gotten a lot looking for more consistency this season. stronger and she’s been more focused on The inconsistency also happened within her defense,” Eltzroth said. “She’s taking games for the Barons last season, and he a lot more pride in it. I think in the past hopes that can change for the 2017-18 she would take some plays off here and season. there, but I think she’s taken more pride in “Last season we had our ups and downs. her defense. I think I’m the happiest with We were able to compete for portions of her leadership.” Eltzroth said Brown has been helping the game,” Eltzroth said. “I just hope that we are able to really sustain those runs and with the underclassmen so much he said it feels like another assistant coach on the be able to compete all four quarters.” floor. The one constant for DeKalb last Allison Marlowe and Faith Lewis both season was Leigha Brown, who has add to the senior depth on the roster for verbally committed to Nebraska. She the Barons. This will be the first year of averaged 22.9 points per game and basketball for Lewis, who is well-known 10.8 rebounds per game. The previous BY BRICE VANCE bvance@kpcmedia.com

for being a star on the soccer field. But she has been able to soak in as much as possible early on. “She’s been learning by the minute, and been a great, truly coachable kid,” Eltzroth said. Marlowe, who scored 3.2 points per game last season, and Brown will be the captains of the team. They will be looked upon to guide the team throughout the season. “I just talked to them and said this is what we need every day, and they’ve been great kids and been with me for all four years here, so they know what to expect,” Eltzroth said. “They know what they need to do, and they are saying things before I even say it.” Bethany Kelly, Kyrsten Butler and Brooke-Destinee Lockwood come back as juniors looking to improve.

Sophomores Addison Ruby, Bree Doster, Ally Stuckey, Mackenzie Cox all have a potential to get into the rotation for DeKalb. And then freshmen Paige Pettis, Morgan Leslie and Sarah Brown could all contribute as well. Defense will be key for the Barons this season. They gave up 70 or more points in a game six times last season. “One thing we are trying to get better at is defense because a lot of times last year, we have a good half or good three quarters, but we couldn’t get stops when we need them. We couldn’t stop the bleeding,” Eltzroth said. “So one thing we’ve been trying to focus on early on is to have that mentality of, ‘You know what, we need to be tougher, longer on offense, and tougher, longer on defense as well.’”

Baron boys to continue improvements into 2017-18 BY BRICE VANCE bvance@kpcmedia.com

WATERLOO – The DeKalb boys basketball program looks to continue the improvements it made during the 2016-17 season into the 2017-18 campaign. What was needed to be improved more than anything? Strength and leadership. During the summer, head coach Rod Cone, who is going into his second year at the helm, and his guys hit the weight room three times a week since the end of

last season. They ramped up the effort in the last month to four times a week. “Our focus has been that. We felt we have guys that have heart and that kind of stuff, but at some point late in games last year I think it just wore us down,” Cone said. “We’d compete so hard for so long, it just took us out because we were playing against someone stronger and faster.” The plan for DeKalb, which was 8-15 last season, is to continue to go back to the weight room throughout the season to

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maintain what they have built up from the offseason. “Let’s make sure that we don’t lose that once we gain it, even in season,” Cone said. “Let’s keep everything focused and make sure all the athletes know that as coaches we are committed to getting our student-athletes stronger.” Four seniors, Logan Kruse, Isaac Brown, Boone Bacon and Jonah Webb, all return for the Barons. Kruse, who averaged 18 points per game, four rebounds per game and 3.3 assists per game, and Brown, who scored 12 points per game and added 5.4 boards and 3.4 assists per contest, led the team last year and will be looked upon in crunch time situations this year. “What we are going to ask out of them is more of, and Isaac did a great job of this, but more rebounding,” Cone said. “They should be able to provide that when the game gets tough because they’ve been there before.” Cone said that Kruse and Brown’s experience and mental approach to the game will be a big benefit this season. Bacon, who averaged five points, 3.4

rebounds and 2.1 assists per game last season, has stepped up as a leader this past offseason. “He’s really taken to the underclassmen and really helped them along. He’s trying to be our vocal leader that we greatly need,” Cone said. Webb is one of those players who has been in the weight room this summer and will be looked upon to be the go-to guy inside for the Barons. He put up 3.2 points per game and grabbed one board per game last season. “He needs to be our interior strength and a guy that really controls the paint for us,” Cone said. Dalton Smith, who came on strong at the end of last season, will look to take on a larger role this season. With his size and ability, he can play multiple positions, from point guard to the forward position. The junior scored 3.8 points per game and grabbed 1.8 rebounds per game in 2016-17. Kyle Dunham, Jon Bell, Caleb Nixon, Cole Richmond, Karter Dick and Tylar Pomeroy will also be in the mix for the Barons this season.


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Burlingame uplifting Lakeland boys BY KEN FILLMORE kfillmore@kpcmedia.com

CHRIS REEDS

The 2017-18 Lakeland High School varsity girls basketball team includes, front row, from left, Bailey Hartsough, Beth Stroop, Makayla Mast and Beka Stroop. Back row, Taylor Targgart, Tanner Metcalf, Isabelle Larimer and head coach Dan Huizenga.

More talent, versatility for Laker girls BY KEN FILLMORE kfillmore@kpcmedia.com

LAGRANGE — Lakeland’s girls basketball team will rely on more players to better carry out coach Dan Huizenga’s system. “We started buying in late last year,” said Huizenga, who just began his third season leading the Lakers. “We finally realized how we want to play. We want to bring out that mindset of wanting to play fast.” “We need to play quick. We’re not very big. This is the quickest, most athletic team I’ve had here,” he added. “This group has a lot more flexibility. We have four kids who can play 1 (point guard) to 5 (center).” Lakeland (6-17, 2-9 NECC, last season) will have young talent. Freshmen Bailey Hartsough and Keirstin Roose will be important parts of the mix. “Bailey is gonna be good,” Huizenga said. “She can run the point. We can throw her in the post.” “With both Bailey and Keirstin, they have to develop a mindset to take over whenever they feel like. But we have to figure out what they can do at the varsity level and get better at that,” Huizenga added. “But they work their butts off and

they hate to lose.” Five-foot-8 senior Beka Stroop can play inside and out and averaged 7.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game last season. She shot 37 percent from three-point range (24-65). Senior forward Tanner Metcalf (3.3 ppg, 3 rpg last season) and junior guard Makayla Mast (3.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.9 spg) are other returning starters. Beth Stroop (4.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.5 apg), Beka’s sister, saw a lot of significant minutes as a freshman last season. Taylor Targgart, a 5-8 senior, will contribute off the bench. She was hampered by injury for much of last season. Huizenga said his Lakers need to be more aggressive both offensively and defensively. “We need to create space and get to the foul line,” Huizenga said. “The big improvement we’ve made is that we are moving the ball a lot better.” “The big thing is that we need to be able to rebound. The first-shot opportunities (of our opponents) were in the low to mid-30s (in percentage) last year. But we gave up 15 offensive rebounds per game. We can’t do that, and we are going to play a lot of teams bigger than we are.”

LAGRANGE — An energetic young guy with local ties has come back close to home to rebuild Lakeland’s boys basketball program. Nick Burlingame comes from Lafayette Jefferson, where he coached the junior varsity boys basketball team for three years and the freshman boys for two seasons. He graduated from Angola High in 2010, then graduated from Purdue University in 2014. “I see Lakeland as a great opportunity,” Burlingame said. “Our athletic director, Roman Smith, has done an excellent job and has brought in a lot of new ideas. You can feel a buzz here.” “Lakeland was a school I looked forward to playing and competing against. I have a lot of respect for Tim Sirk and the program he built,” Burlingame added. “There’s a lot of talent here and Lakeland is a great fit for me.” Burlingame was a fiery post player for the Hornets and coach Greg Holmes. Burlingame was a two-time All-Northeast Corner Conference selection. “I had a great mentor in (Lafayette Jeff coach) Scott Radeker. I really learned how

to build a program and establish a culture all the way down to the kindergartners,” Burlingame said. “I want to get kids invigorated and make them part of the team at early ages. It’s about having a passion to persevere and a passion to have fun in what you’re doing.” The Lakers (8-15, 5-6 NECC, last season) will look to pick up the pace. “We want to get up and down the floor and really attack you,” Burlingame said. “There are ways to speed up the game and have them playing on our terms. But that said, we have a long ways to go. “The big thing is having a mindset that we can compete with anybody.” Lakeland will once again be led by Camron Bontrager and Cole Harp. They are both seniors entering their fourth straight varsity seasons. Bontrager, who already has 1,045 career points, will take over at point guard this season after playing a lot inside last season. “We have a group of guys who are extremely hungry,” Burlingame said. “They have been so accepting of what we want to do. It’s been a complete buy-in from all of our guys.”

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EN boys ready for next step Young Knights girls team expects challenging season

BY CHRIS REED creed@kpcmedia.com

KENDALLVILLE — East Noble’s boys basketball team returns a lot of experience for the 2017-18 season. The Knights return all but two graduated seniors, Brandon Nichols and Kyrun Foster, Leading the returnees are sophomore point guard Hayden Jones and junior guard-forward Ali Ali. While Nichols’ departure will be felt from the rotation — he averaged 50 percent from three-point range last season while leading the Knights in scoring — head coach Ryan Eakins knows that he has potentially an even better squad coming back. “First thing, we had a ton of guys get valuable experience at the varsity level last year,” Eakins said. “Coming into this year, we know that we have two guys that will draw attention from every team every night in Hayden and Ali. Our team will be built around them.” While Jones and Ali will lead the Knights this season, they will do it in contrasting ways. Jones emerged onto the prep scene as a freshman last year who had a potent jumper from any range — becoming one of the area’s best offensive threats — while Ali, a calming presence in the rotation, has a masterful understanding of the game defensively and court vision that is paralleled by none. However, if the Knights are to take that next step, according to Eakins, the two will need to become more similar. “With Hayden, he is a great scorer, but he will draw a tough defensive assignment most nights where he will have to perform well in that role. But most importantly, he needs to become a leader of this team. Even though he

is only a sophomore, he has all the skills and tools to become that. “Ali Ali,” the coach continued, “is a phenomenal passer, but he can be too unselfish at times. He needs to be more aggressive and he needs to look for his shot and score the basketball if we are going to get to where we want to be.” EN also returns juniors Michael Bender and Brent Cox, both of whom saw rotational minutes last season and will be asked to play much larger roles this year. “Both of them had great summers,” Eakins said. “Brent is becoming by far our best player in the post. But what I love about both of them is that they aren’t afraid to get dirty and do the little things that might not show up in the stat sheet, but are critical to producing wins.” The Knights now turn their sights to the upcoming season, which begins at West Noble on Nov. 21. With that, the team has high expectations for what it could accomplish this season, including getting the program’s first postseason win in nearly a decade. However, to get to that point, the Knights will face some stiff competition along the way. “We play in a very good conference with some really good teams, but we have a really good team, too. We definitely believe that we can compete for a conference title,” Eakins said. “As far as the postseason goes, we have to get that monkey off of East Noble’s back,” he continued. “None of these guys have experienced it. It hasn’t been since they were very young children that East Noble was able to advance in the tournament. I think we are going to get over that mental hump this year and hopefully have some success in March.”

BY CHRIS REED creed@kpcmedia.com

KENDALLVILLE — The 2017-18 season will surely be a trying one for the East Noble girls basketball program. Gone is leading scorer Lanie Allen, who is now playing at NCAA Division II Purdue Northwest. Returning senior point guard Corie Jones is likely out for the season with a torn meniscus. Add to that a large incoming freshman class — many of whom will see significant varsity time — and you have all the ingredients for a team in transition. “Freshmen will make up eight of our 14 varsity players,” Knights head coach DeAnn Booth said. “We are fortunate that they are a very talented group. But what they lack is any sort of varsity experience, and that’ll take a good deal of time. “We are going to be young. We will be learning, so hopefully you will see a lot better team as the year goes on.” According to the coach, that time frame is different for every player, as each individual adjusts to the speed and expectations of the varsity level in their own way. However, while the incoming group may be young, Booth says her newbies have a quality that you cannot coach in practice. “These girls have all been playing together since they were in third grade, at least. They have a chemistry and unity on the court that is rare and will suit them well as they transition to the varsity level,” Booth said. Returning for the Knights this season

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are senior Kara Kline, who averaged 9.5 points and 6 rebounds per game last season, as well as juniors Grace Erwin (4.1 ppg, 3 rpg), and Halle Beiswanger. Due to Jones’ injury, which Booth labeled a “punch in the gut” to her team, the emphasis will be on those returning players to step up and lead the East Noble program. “I’m very confident in that,” Booth said. “We have great leaders on our team. Kara is a great leader. Grace is a great leader. And even though Corie will be on the bench, she has still been a great force on our team. It’s just a natural role that they take on.” One common trait that this team shares with last year’s group: height. Or, more specifically, a lack thereof. East Noble’s tallest player, Kline, is listed at just 5-10. “One thing that we have going for us is that we are fairly quick,” Booth said. “So we are going to have to run and get it up the floor so that hopefully we can get the other team’s bigs winded, get their guards to make some mistakes, and not allow them to exploit our weakness, which is our height.” As the Knights head into the early portion of the season, which opened last Thursday at Westview, Booth knows that no matter what the outcome of the game is, her squad will be up for whatever challenge is thrown its way. “We have had a great summer,” she said. “This team has a terrific work ethic, they know the game pretty well, and they are ready to go.”

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Reloading Hornet boys look for redemption BY CHRIS REED creed@kpcmedia.com

ANGOLA — Angola head coach Ed Bentley has worked hard to establish a certain type of culture within his program. “More than anything, it’s hard work and being mentally tough,” said senior Braxton Meek. Added Bentley: “We’ve built that, at first, by me demanding that out of them. From there, it was reinforced in the weight room and by being coachable.

When you do that, it stops being me demanding it because they demand it from each other.” That culture has lent itself to becoming a tool for reloading instead of rebuilding when, such as happened this offseason, the team graduates multiple seniors. With graduated seniors such as Jake Honer and Myles Turner no longer sporting those purple jerseys, the emphasis will be on others, such as Meek, to step up. Honer is playing basketball at NCAA Division III Hope College in Holland,

Michigan. “Braxton is going to be the guy,” said Bentley. “He’s going to be the scorer and the facilitator. He’s a different scorer than Jake was. Jake’s game was driving and slashing, where Braxton is probably one of the best shooters in the state. He had a game last year where he was 10-of-15 from three.” Said Meek of his new role, “It’s just built more confidence. We have other guys who can shoot really well, too. So knowing that I have others around me

who can score really helps.” After reaching a Class 3A sectional final a year ago — a game in which the Hornets fell to New Haven — Bentley and Meek insisted that their team is hungry and ready to go. “You always think about it,” said Meek. “We want redemption.” Added Bentley: “That’s our goal, we wouldn’t want it any other way for our guys. We have built this thing to where it’s a perennial contender. We want our guys thinking that.”

Angola High girls building trust for more chaos BY KEN FILLMORE kfillmore@kpcmedia.com

ANGOLA — Angola’s girls basketball team created chaos throughout much of Northeast Indiana with its non-stop full-court pressure in winning the Northeast Corner Conference regular season championship. The Hornets will look to keep accelerating to accomplish more this season. Angola ran the table in the NECC at 11-0, and was 18-6 overall. It lost to perennial power Concordia in a Class 3A sectional semifinal game on the Cadets’ home floor. The Hornets pretty much grew up pressing the opposition at lower levels and in travel ball. Coach Brandon Appleton gave the green light to unleash the full-court madness last season because he felt he finally had the depth to carry out that pressure from start to finish. With that pressure, cohesiveness on the floor is necessary with the fast pace. Trust is the team’s catch word that is regularly emphasized. “When you’re in those big moments, if you can trust the people on the floor with you and what they’re going to accomplish, the rest can take care of itself,” Appleton said to partner in news WANE-TV (Channel 15, Fort Wayne) during the Northeast Indiana Girls Basketball Media Day in Fort Wayne on

Oct. 10. “There’s 10 girls we feel we can plug in at any time.” Angola found a true point guard last year in Ally Lorntz. She is back after making a major impact last year as a freshman. The Hornets are stacked with high energy girls, led by seniors Ali Cranston, Sarah Brandt and Regan Peppler. Brandt and Peppler were vying for opportunities to run the point a couple years ago. But they are both better fits in their respective roles with their speed and defense with Lorntz arriving. Junior Sarah Duvendack is very skilled at 5-foot-11 and led Angola with 14 points in the team’s season-opening 66-25 win over New Haven at Central Gym on Oct. 31. Six-foot junior Gabriela McHugh is long and active. Classmate Reace Peppler and sophomore Kayla Fenstermaker will also add to the athleticism. There’s room for young talent to play significant roles with sophomore Breanna Worman and freshman Hanna Knoll. Knoll is quick and will find a way to the rim. She had 13 points against the Bulldogs. “Our expectation this year is to be the best that we can be,” Peppler said at the Northeast Indiana Girls Basketball Media Day.

Angola regularly forced over 20 turnovers in a game throughout last season and can limit the presence of good post players with that full-court pressure. It would probably like to

score at a higher rate than the 47.8 points per game it scored last season considering all those takeaways and the easier opportunities it gains from those takeaways.


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Cougar girls ready to embrace the hype BY CHRIS REED creed@kpcmedia.com

ALBION — How do you follow up the best season in program history? In 2016-17, the Central Noble girls basketball program rewrote the record books, setting new marks for wins (27), as well as claiming the school’s first-ever sectional and regional titles. That’s just to name a few. It was a Cinderella season that saw amazing highs, such as the team’s double overtime thriller in a Class 2A sectional final, a 47-40 win over then-No. 2 Whitko, only to see it come to a screeching halt when the Cougars were shut down by the Oak Hill Golden Eagles in the semistate contest, 44-32. It is that loss, though, that fuels Central Noble this season. “We want to make it to state, for sure,” said junior Meleah Leatherman. “We feel like we

have a team that can go all the way. We were heartbroken last year, but now we know what we need to do.” Added head coach Josh Treesh: “That game hasn’t left our girls’ minds since last February.” Along with Leatherman, who posted 16.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game last season, the Cougars also return star point guard Sydney Freeman (16.4 ppg, 5.4 assists and 5.8 steals per game). Freeman committed to play for Ball State over the summer. The squad also returns younger players such as Sam Brumbaugh and Maddie Bremer, both sophomores who will be tasked with playing a bigger role this upcoming season. It is a precarious spot for the Cougars, one that no girls basketball team has faced before at the school. The hype had all spring and summer to build. These

KEN FILLMORE

The 2017-18 Central Noble varsity girls basketball team includes, front row, from left, Bridgette Gray, Sydney Freeman, Macy Griffis, Paige Skinner, Calista Rice, Chasidy Kissinger, Jocelyn Winebrenner and Lydia Andrews. Back

girls from Albion are no longer a surprise. They are the hunted instead of the hunter, and have expectations to suit. “That’ll be the hardest part for our girls this season, dealing with those expectations that the fans and everybody else puts on us,” Treesh said. “That loss has pushed them all summer on the court, in the weight room. We have talked all summer about all we need to do

row, assistant coach Shawn Kimmel, Shelby McClelland, Adrienne Mast, Anna Stayner, Andrea Leonhardt, Meleah Leatherman, Sam Brumbaugh, Maddie Bremer and assistant coach Tim Andrews.

is just get better. If we get better individually then that will make the team as a whole better.” For all that hype, though, the Cougars will need to make it out of their conference schedule first. Central Noble finished second in the Northeast Corner Conference standings behind Angola a season ago. The Hornets defeated the Cougars 32-25 to claim the regular season crown.

Add in talented returning squads at West Noble and Fairfield to go along with the Hornets, and you have all the ingredients for a grinder of a midseason run. “Our conference definitely gets us postseason-ready,” said Leatherman. The Cougars’ journey began Tuesday in their season opener against Whitko, and continues Saturday, visiting Prairie Heights.

Central Noble boys team retooling for more success BY CHRIS REED creed@kpcmedia.com

ALBION — Following one of the best seasons in recent memory, the Central Noble boys basketball team will need to replace some key pieces in its rotation this year. Gone are seniors Reeve Zolman, Mason Smith, Connor Lundquist and Chase Hunter from last year’s regional-qualifying squad. In their place, the Cougars’ young talent will need to step up. Sophomore point guard Lucas Deck and junior shooting guard Ridley Zolman return to full-time varsity spots, and other players, such as junior Jacob Brose, will see valuable minutes as well. “We lost a lot,” said head coach John Bodey. “Reeve was our leading scorer who could get a shot off from anywhere on the

floor, and Mason was a great inside-out player. I think that our young guys have those same skills and can be just as, if not more dangerous.” Aiming to get back to at least where they left off — the team fell in the regional semifinal to Gary Roosevelt on a last-second three-point attempt — those young guns such as Deck and Zolman are eager to make sure their team doesn’t lose a step. “I’m still not over it,” Deck said of last year’s loss. “We should have won that game.” Added Zolman: We have been working so hard this summer to make sure that we are even better than last year. Speaking for myself, I have been working on making myself a more complete offensive player.” Such circumstances would presum-

ably add unwanted pressure to an already rigorous grind. However, both Deck and Zolman insist that they don’t feel it. Instead, the “pressure” is simply a desire to be better leaders both on and off the court.

“We’ve had to step up,” Deck said. “There were holes that needed filled and it was our job to take over those roles. We are committed to getting better and our leadership will be a big part of that.”

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Garrett boys eager to bounce back in 2017-18 Leverenz and a new attitude surrounding the program. The Railroaders bring back starters Dillon McCann and Micah Malcolm. Bryce Wilson, Sam Farney, Kobe Lucarelli, Dane Johnson and Korbyn Yarian also return. “I think we have a team with actually a lot of experience coming back, and it’s just kind of molding that experience into kind of what we want to be,” Leverenz said. McCann and Malcolm helped out in scoring for the Railroaders last season, and have led by example over the summer. McCann, at 6-foot-4, can use his height to play anywhere on the court, and Malcolm can score from the perimeter. Malcolm has the ability to

BY BRICE VANCE bvance@kpcmedia.com

GARRETT – Last year was a roller coaster that was mostly heading downhill for the Garrett boys basketball team. Sitting at 4-9, the Railroaders were struggling to put everything together. Then, their coach at the time, Seth Coffing, was arrested and suspended after an incident at an Indianapolis bar after the team played Central Noble at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The team had to move on, but went on to lose 10 straight games after Coffing was suspended before picking up a win in the regular season finale. Now, it’s a new season with a new coach in Bryan

BRICE VANCE

Garrett’s Micah Malcolm is one of three seniors who return for the Railroaders this season.

get hot from the three-point line, and Leverenz worked with the senior to improve

on his shot and make him more effective. When Leverenz was

hired in the spring, he said he wanted to run a transition offense to go along with a press defense. “We definitely have the pieces to do it, but it may not look the way we want it to until that halfway point of the year and towards the tournament,” Leverenz said. Sophomore Jayden Broadnax will be looked to score as well for the Railroaders this season. “(He) is definitely going to have to step up and probably be a player who looks to score this year,” Leverenz said. “We would like to bring him along another year. But I think him playing some varsity minutes will just help us and the program in the long run.” Yarian is a guy who

Leverenz would like to see take the next step and be more aggressive in 2017-18. Lucarelli will be looked at as a player who can do it all for Garrett. Although Leverenz wants to run a transition offense, early on he wants his guys to know it’s okay to be patient and make the right decisions in the offense. That will help the Railroaders try to limit turnovers. “One thing on offense that we are going to want to do better is our patience,” Leverenz said. “That was one thing when we came in as a coaching staff that we wanted to address. Just letting our kids know it’s okay if we come down, cross half court and make some ball reversals.”

Railroader girls look to stay near top this season BY BRICE VANCE bvance@kpcmedia.com

GARRETT — The Garrett girls basketball program under Bob Lapadot has churned out some high caliber athletes who went on to play at the collegiate level. It happened once again last season as Drue Bodey, who plays at Indiana Tech, and Megan Newby, who will play at Anderson, both moved on.

For Lapadot, this season is about replacing those two, who combined for more than 25 points per game, and continue the consistency that has been there with Lapadot as the head coach. Garrett has never had more than 10 losses in a season with Lapadot as coach, and the plan doesn’t change this year. The team this year consists of some players who played on the junior varsity team last season.

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Returning for the Railroaders are Camden Bodey, Kenzie Casselman, Lexi Baver, Hannah Sobieski, Libbey Detcher, Sydney West, Sydney Weaver, Kierra Richards and Kimberly Maples. “Last year we started four seniors, this year we have two on the roster, but both kids are going to help us,” Lapadot said. “Hannah can start and Cam is (6-feet-1) coming in and can block shots. She’s really dedicated herself to the game.” Casselman is the leading returner with 8.7 points per game last season, Bodey averaged 4.7 ppg and Baver scored 2.7 ppg. “We are going to have to force tempo on these guys,” Lapadot said. “They’re more walk it up and try to outexecute, but we still need to run and get easy baskets.” Replacing two guards begs the question of who will run the offense for the Railroaders, and Lapadot said it will have to be by committee. To run their offense, it will be more about execution than anything else. “I think people will press us,” Lapadot said. “But in the last 20 years when people

press us that’s been to our advantage. Because hopefully you execute your press offense and get easy layups.” To help with playing with tempo and improving team speed, Lapadot has changed some things in the practice routine to work on foot speed and reaction time. Last year, Garrett made 151 threes and shot 34 percent from there. This year, Lapadot thinks his team can be just as effective from distance once again. “I think we can put four 30 percent or higher 3-point shooters on the floor at all times,” Lapadot said. “We got a 6-foot center, we got a 6-1 backup, and I think we can play both together at times and I don’t know how you guard it.” Lapadot is excited for this group of girls, especially the juniors, who have played together since they were in fourth grade. “They understand the game,” Lapadot said. “It’s just a matter of meshing and how long that takes will determine how good we are early. But I definitely think by the end we’ll be right there.”


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November 2017

Charger girls basketball look to climb higher BY KEN FILLMORE kfillmore@kpcmedia.com

LIGONIER — West Noble’s girls basketball team set a new school record for wins in a season last season at 17. Veteran Charger coach Dale Marano hopes that is more of a launching point instead of the peak. “We’re very deep. We’re very athletic. We have a large junior class that is very solid,” Marano said. “We’re challenging ourselves to get to the next level.” That challenge has already been there in the Chargers’ Class 3A sectional, which includes very strong Tippecanoe Valley and NorthWood programs and a perennially tough Fairfield squad who beat the Chargers on their home floor in the sectional semifinals. The Northeast Corner Conference will be strong at the top with the Falcons, a scrappy, deep Angola team; a veteran Eastside squad, and Central Noble with its dynamic duo of Sydney Freeman and Meleah Leatherman. The Chargers will look to be in that mix after losing just one key player to graduation from last season. Center Kaylie Warble is at NAIA program Grace College after grabbing over 800 rebounds in her

prep career. She is playing alongside another former Charger in Kelsie Peterson. Junior guard Lauren Burns is the leading scorer returning for the Chargers. A lot will revolve around 5-foot-10 junior forward-guard Madison Schermerhorn, who announced her commitment on Twitter Oct. 15 to play college volleyball at Purdue. “To commit to Purdue is a testament to her athleticism,” Marano said. “Maddie can play point guard. She can go inside if we need her to. She’s extremely valuable in our press and half-court defense.” Marano feels he can go 10 deep and looks to speed up the pace and utilize that depth. Junior Kasia Weigold has a couple of years of varsity experience in the post. Juniors Tori Miller, Tara Miller and Angela Gross are guards who can score. Tara Miller has started since her freshman season. Gross is a very capable three-point shooter. “Kasia learned a lot from Kaylie and had a tremendous summer,” Marano said. Junior Megan Godfrey will help West Noble inside. Junior forward Becky Yoder earned some time in the rotation with an outstanding summer, according to Marano. The Chargers will also get some contri-

KEN FILLMORE

The 2017-18 West Noble High School varsity girls basketball team includes, front row, from left, Tori Miller, Angela Gross, Tara Miller, Lauren Burns and Cassandra Guzman. Back row, Nina Teel, Megan Godfrey, Kasia Wiegold, Maddie Schermerhorn, Nichelle Phares, Becky Yoder and Lilly Mast.

butions from freshmen Nichelle Phares and Lilly Mast. They played with the varsity girls throughout the summer. “Every one of the girls can have a

breakout night,” Marano said. “Up to this point, I’m very pleased,” he added. “The girls need to understand the plan and believe in the process.”

West Noble boys squad to rely heavily on guards BY KEN FILLMORE kfillmore@kpcmedia.com

LIGONIER — West Noble’s boys will be heavily reliant on its guard play in order to build on the strides it made last season. The Chargers made a five-win improvement from the 2015-16 campaign by going

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9-15, including 5-6 in the Northeast Corner Conference. They even made the Class 3A Wawasee Sectional final. They beat the host Warriors 42-38 in the semifinal after receiving a first-round bye, then fell to Fairfield in the final 59-49. West Noble lost forward Larry Nickolson

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and guard Walker Donley to graduation. Nickolson had over 14 points per game last season, Donley progressed to where he was a key contributor down the final stretch. All of the Chargers’ seasoned guys will come from the backcourt to start. “It’ll be a different look for us,” seventhyear West Noble coach Jim Best said. “We have four guys who can bring the ball up and get us into our offense. We were hard to press last year. We have some guys who can shoot the rock from the outside. Our guys will play hard.” Senior Mason Stover will lead West Noble. He averaged 8.5 points per game, shot 40 percent from three-point range and was an 82 percent free-throw shooter. “Mason is one guy who gives a coach a comfort level,” Best said. “He does a nice job getting to the rim.” Junior Trevor Franklin is the Chargers’ leading returning scorer from last season,

averaging 11.3 points per game. Classmates Nick Knepper and Takota Weigold also made big contributions as sophomores. Athletic sophomore Josh Gross will add to the riches of guards for West Noble. The Chargers do have some size with 6-5 senior Cade Barhydt and 6-4 junior David Flores. But Barhydt did not play basketball last season after being a part of the program in his freshman and sophomore years. “He has come on this summer in our open gyms,” Best said of Flores. Best believes his team can go eight or nine deep. All elements of the Chargers’ schedule will be challenging. “We’ll see a lot of different styles,” Best said. “I look forward to these kids. I really like the drive,” Best added. “They really look forward to the opportunity of these challenges. It’s not about who you play, but how you can play your game.”


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Returning players have keys to Eastside’s success BY JEFF JONES jjones@kpcmedia.com

BUTLER — Tradition takes time to establish, but that’s what Eastside’s boys basketball team has built under coach Ryan Abbott. The Blazers bring a mix of hard work, defense and rebounding, and the results are evident. In five seasons, they have gone 71-46, including last season’s record-setting 20-5 campaign that included a share of the Northeast Corner Conference regular-season championship. Four players from that team — who combined to score nearly 900 points — graduated, but the cupboard is far from bare. All-NECC players Jacob Thompson (363 points, 7.8 rebounds per game), Jordan Yoder (256 points, 55 three-point field goals) and Cade Willard (242, 5.6 rebounds) were the top three scorers, and Dalton Rieke

provided valuable minutes off the bench. The Blazers return two senior starters — Caleb Ballentine and Aaron Dean — who also had big roles in that success. Ballentine scored 223 points to go with 88 rebounds. Dean added 171 points, 62 rebounds, 33 steals and 78 assists. “You’re only as good as your leaders will make you, and I think Caleb and Aaron have been waiting,” Abbott said. “They have the keys to our team, and I’m very comfortable they will lead us in the right direction.” Also back is senior Andrew Steffen who grabbed nearly two rebounds per game and two points per game. Seniors Jordan Esposito and Riley Thompson and juniors Chase Franz and Alex Yoder were key components on Eastside’s 13-8 reserve team. “Right now, we’ve got an interesting mix coming back,” Abbott said. “We have five

seniors returning from last year’s team that had a tremendous amount of success, and we’re going to have two juniors contributing a lot. “After that, it’s kind of up in the air,” he said. “There’s another junior competing for some of those minutes, but our core group is going to be those seven players, led by Caleb and Aaron. They’ve played major roles in a lot of important games for us. Those are our proven guys that we expect to carry a lot of the load.” In year six at Eastside, Abbott said the best word to describe his program is tradition. “We’ve been really fortunate that each senior class has built on what the previous group did, and that’s exciting for me, and we’ve done it in different ways,” Abbott explained. “That’s the key for these five seniors, and for Caleb and Aaron to lead the

way, and build on what we did last year, but to do it in a unique way. “That tradition almost raises the bar for what the previous seniors have done. We’ve been fortunate as a program to have guys buy into that. It’s just up to our coaching staff and those seven key contributors to find ways we can be successful. “We had a great summer. We’ve adjusted on both sides of the ball,” he said. “We have to play differently than we did last year.” Just because several players who were part of such an outstanding season are gone doesn’t mean expectations are lessened by any extent. “We didn’t win 20 games by accident last year,” Abbott continued. “We did a lot of good things, but we’re going to be able to do some different things this year that our program and our fans should be excited about.”

Eastside girls want to be better in 2017-2018 season Last year’s Blazers finished 15-10, the first winning season since the 1996-1997 BUTLER — All but two players return season. “They know what it takes to win, for Eastside’s girls basketball team. and now, the next chapter for them is to Among the returnees are four seniors who combined for more than 28 points per continue to win and to show others how to win,” he said. “That’s my challenge for contest last season. the seniors this year, to continue to win Senior Lindsey Beard scored 301 and show the others — the freshmen, the points for a 12-point per game average, sophomores and the juniors — how to win. earning All-Northeast Corner Conference honors. Classmate Maddisyn Heffley “They have their fingerprints on this runs the offensive show at point guard. program, and it’s their job to leave it She averaged 7.5 points per contest, also better for the others.” Lost to graduation were Hannah earning All-NECC recognition. Yoder (8.9 points per game) and Emma Heffley contributed a team-leading Moughler (8.1). Moughler grabbed 3.6 81 assists and 80 steals to go with 75 rebounds per game and often defended rebounds, fourth-best on the team. Beard players bigger than her. Yoder hit 30 had a team-leading 44 three-point field goals and 96 rebounds, second-best on the three-pointers and grabbed just over two rebounds per contest. team. Six juniors, two sophomores, two Seniors Raegan Johnson and Olivia Yoder are also back. Each player averaged transfers from Hamilton and six freshmen, up from Eastside’s junior high program, more than four points per game. Johnson connected for 30 three-pointers. Yoder complete the roster. “At this point, we’ve established the collected more than four rebounds per program to where the girls know what’s game. “They’re champions, so they know how expected, and the incoming girls know what’s expected,” Conwell said. “Really, to win,” said head coach Shane Conwell, it’s a matter of execution and consistency referring to foursome who played key to be successful. roles in the 2015-2016 sectional champi“From what I saw in week one of onship. BY JEFF JONES jjones@kpcmedia.com

practice, they’re not holding anything back,” the Blazer coach said. “Drills, effort, they’re not holding anything back. Sometimes, you’ve got to push them a little bit to get them where they need to be, but there’s been times where I’ve had to pull back the reins a little bit. That’s a good problem to have. “It seems like every practice, we’ve got somebody — whether that’s a freshman, sophomore or junior — that I step back and go, ‘Wow, she’s got a shot at this.’ Maybe it’s the same girl the next day and maybe it’s somebody else, but every day, I’ve seen a new girl emerge and show signs of getting significant minutes,”

Conwell stated. “That’s the beauty of having everybody pushing each other, and I think that’s what is going to make this team and season special, that everybody is going to push each other 1-20.” How good can these Blazers be? “The end goal is championships, but my goal right now is to be better than last year,” Conwell said. “What that looks like now could change halfway through the season and it could change by the end of the season. “Right now, I want to be better than last season, and there will be no excuse for anything less.”

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Warrior girls squad full of size, athleticism BY KEN FILLMORE kfillmore@kpcmedia.com

EMMA — As deep as the Northeast Corner Conference is expected to be in girls basketball, don’t lose sight of an old mainstay from Westview. Well, you aren’t going to miss the Warriors in a crowd, and that’s a pretty good thing for veteran coach Randy Yoder. Westview is big, athletic and potentially deep after grinding to a 12-10 record (7-4 Northeast Corner Conference) in a transitional phase last season after the super duo of Grace Hales and Maria McCoy graduated. Hales is playing a key role at the NCAA Division I level at Valparaiso, and was picked as the team’s Sixth Player of the Year last season for her solid play off the bench as a freshman. Yoder hopes to go as much as 10 deep with this season’s Warrior squad. “We have a good blend of veterans and newcomers,” he said. “The conference is really loaded. There is a lot of parity and a lot of good coaches. I think we’ll compete. We’re a year older and a year stronger. “You don’t always get a lot of your roster to look up to,” Yoder quipped. “But what I like about our bigs is the way they run the floor. They are not just playing the post. They can transition from perimeter to post, and they can step out on

shooters.” The leading Warrior returning is 6-foot-1 junior Ashya Klopfenstein. She had 11 points and seven rebounds per game last season, and has really grown into being a leader. “Leadership is a gift she has,” Yoder said. “She showed me a lot this summer. You can see it in the respect her teammates have for her.” Westview has a tall athlete who made a commitment during the summer to play basketball at the Division I level in 6-1 senior Alex Burr. Burr has committed to the University of Detroit Mercy in the Horizon League. “I’m happy for her,” Yoder said of Burr. “She caught some attention and fit a need. For her size, she can run the floor really well. She can handle the ball on the perimeter.” Senior Summer Konkle will lead the Warriors in the backcourt. She stepped into a varsity role midway through her freshman season with her aggressive play on both ends of the floor to help the team win a sectional title and has not looked back since. She averaged seven points and three assists per contest last season. Senior center Maggie McCoy, senior guards Bradi Yoder and Jenna Duff, and sophomore forward Payton May will also

KEN FILLMORE

The 2017-18 Westview High School varsity girls basketball team includes, front row, from left, Bradi Yoder, Allie Hillman, Jensen Reynolds and Grace Miller. Middle row, Summer Konkle, Jenna Duff, LeAnna Miller, Payton May and Gloria Miller. Back row, head coach Randy Yoder, Maggie McCoy, Alex Burr, Ashya Klopfenstein, Alayna Bates and assistant coach Bev Miller.

play key roles on the team. They have experienced plenty of success with the junior varsity squad.

“I look for Jenna Duff to step up. Payton will make some big contributions,” Randy Yoder said.

Strong core still intact for Westview boys’ cagers BY KEN FILLMORE kfillmore@kpcmedia.com

EMMA — With a talented leading core group still in place, Westview’s boys basketball team will look to continue to carry on its successful tradition. The Warriors shared the Northeast Corner Conference regular season title with Eastside last season at 9-2, and ended up 17-7 overall. A 46-42 semifinal loss to Central Noble in their own Class 2A sectional provided some motivation during the offseason. “We return almost everybody,” Westview coach Rob Yoder said. “I think we’ll be better offensively. But we can not rely on scoring to win games. In order to

win games, we’re going to have to defend. “We learned some lessons from it,” he said of the sectional loss. “You take some good and some bad. Central Noble is a good team and there’s no shame losing to them. They were physically better than we were. We definitely want to win a sectional.” Westview’s strong junior group will pretty much be intact, led by dynamic junior guard Elijah Hales. Hales averaged 16 points per game last season. Hales is capable of making other players better and he has some quality guys around him on both the interior and the perimeter. One of Hales’ teammates did very well as a freshman last season in 6-foot-2 guard

Charlie Yoder. The son of Coach Yoder had 10.5 points per game last season. Juniors Nic Rensberger and Josh Hostetler, a guard, are the other starters returning. “Nic will create matchup problems with his size,” Rob Yoder said. Coach Yoder will put some role players around his solid starting lineup to develop depth as the season goes on. Those role players will include seniors Kenton Weaver, Jeremiah Hostetler and Sam Sharp. Westview only lost one player from last year’s team to graduation, Lucas Yoder. “We’re still a young team,” Rob Yoder said. “They really worked hard to improve

their skill sets. But the biggest change you’ll see in us is physically. That will be the thing that catches your eye.” The Warriors should be among the top teams in the NECC again and will be battle-tested by the time sectional play arrives. “There’s been a lot of good teams in our league for awhile,” Yoder said. Yoder is in his 15th season at the helm at Westview. He led the Warriors to winning records in 11 of the last 12 years, including a state finals appearance in 2014 and three semistate appearances in Class 2A. Westview has seven sectional titles and three regional titles in that 12-season stretch.


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Blend of old and new aiding Fremont girls BY CHRIS REED creed@kpcmedia.com

FREMONT — The Fremont girls basketball team enters this season as one of the few area teams that return an experienced roster. Bella Dangerfield, Erica Linker, Macie Cress, Baleigh Weidenhamer and Tory Foster all return from a varsity squad that posted an 8-13 record and competed well within a very tough Northeast Corner Conference. The Eagles also add in a group of sophomores that went 19-3 as a freshman

class a year ago. “There are six of them that I feel like could play varsity — Maddie Beeman, Samantha Kuhn, Riley Clausen, Sydney Applegate, Madelyn Cress and Grace Schmucker,” head coach Neal Frantz said. “I have five returning varsity players, so obviously I can’t play 11 girls. But that’s a good problem to have.” According to Frantz, the group brings one key trait to the varsity squad, it knows how to win together. It’s something that, he says, is hard to teach players who are so young.

In order to keep pace within a league that also includes Class 2A semistate qualifier Central Noble and reigning champ Angola, the Eagles will need all of their players, both old and new, to improve in a few key areas, says Frantz. “We need to become more complete,” the coach said first. “They all have holes in their game. Some of them are really good on defense, some are great on offense. We need to improve everyone as a complete player. “We also want to play faster. I’m installing some new offensive packages

this year. We want to get out on the run a lot more, primarily because we have the depth to do that.” Looking at the conference heading into this season, Frantz said that the emphasis will be on his team to rise up and be able to compete with the league’s upper tier. “You know Central Noble is going to be great. Angola will be good and West Noble and Westview are always solid as well. It is our job to prove that we can move from the middle of the pack to being able to compete with those teams.”

Fremont boys not slowing down with new look BY CHRIS REED creed@kpcmedia.com

FREMONT — The Fremont boys basketball team will have a totally new look this year. Not only did the Eagles bring in a new coach — FHS alum Craig Helfrich — but the team will be replacing an entire starting five as well. “It’s definitely weird not seeing all those guys in there when you walk into the gym,” said senior Cole Thomas. “Those guys were constants in our program.” The new squad, made up mostly of players who will be getting their first taste of varsity action, will be young and inexperienced, but will bring its own strengths to the court. “The sky is the limit for this group,” Helfrich said. “They are fast, they are

quick and they are coachable.” Those traits might, in part, be the reason behind another new trait for the Eagles this season, their style of play. According to Helfrich, the team will play a very fast, up-tempo game this year, with the main focus on causing disruption on defense. “As long as we take care of business on defense, I’m not very worried about the offensive end,” the coach said. Added Thomas: “It is the exact opposite of how we played last year. There were times when the coaches would tell us to slow it down last season.” One thing that will be the same for the Eagles, though, is a certain chip on their shoulders. However, it’ll be there for a different reason. “These guys are out to prove to everyone that Fremont basketball is

still going to be good, even though we graduated so many people,” Helfrich said. “We have some good leaders on this team, and I need them to be good, because we are going to have some young guys that will need to play for us “I need to sell this car!”

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this year.” Said Thomas, “We have some guys that had a great JV (junior varsity) season last year, and want to get even better. This offseason has been totally different and we are ready to get to work.”

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Youth movement on for PH boys BY KEN FILLMORE kfillmore@kpcmedia.com

BRUSHY PRAIRIE — The rebuilding will continue for Prairie Heights’ boys basketball team this upcoming season. The Panthers graduated seven seniors from a team that went 2-21, 1-10 in the Northeast Corner Conference, last season. Outside of guard Chandler Sailor and forward Zach Adams, that senior group entered last season with not much varsity experience. Young guys were mixed in quite a bit last season and that will definitely continue in the 2017-18 campaign. Heights only has two seniors in forward Cole Harmes (4.6 points per game last season) and guard Tanner Walter. “A lot of sophomores are going to see a lot of varsity time,” fourth-year Panther coach Greg Holmes said to WANE television (Channel 15, Fort Wayne) at Northeast Indiana boys basketball media day held at Fort Wayne North Side High School on Oct. 30. “It’s going to be a

rebuilding year, but we’re going to get better each game.” A big part of the youth movement is sophomore point guard Mike Perkins. He moved into a starting role as a freshman last season and averaged around eight points per game. The Panthers will look to compete every game as they grow, and they don’t plan on being passive. They want to pick up the pace. Holmes liked how the offseason went for his players. He likes the leadership that Harmes and Walter will provide to the team, and that they both have great attitudes. Holmes feels Harmes will be a strong inside presence. “Just come out and work hard every day,” Holmes said. “There’s a learning factor every day. “I’m looking forward to this year.” Holmes is beginning his 15th season as a prep boys basketball coach. He spent 11 of those seasons at Angola from 2001-12.

KEN FILLMORE

The 2017-18 Prairie Heights High School varsity girls basketball team includes, front row, from left, Amy German, Lydia Johnston, Shelby Fish, Kyler Hall and Kaitlyn Rumsey. Middle row, assistant coach Becky Depp, Alexis German, Liz German, Nathalie Ley and junior varsity coach Taylor Terry. Back row, head coach Brian Beebe, Maddie Newby, Abigail Gilliland, Bailey Pfafman, Cassidy Gunthorp and assistant coach Jessica Beebe.

New coach Beebe looks to make Prairie Heights girls tougher BY KEN FILLMORE kfillmore@kpcmedia.com

BRUSHY PRAIRIE — New coach Brian Beebe has three areas he wants to improve in order to turn around the Prairie Heights girls basketball team: defense, intensity and aggressiveness. “We had a good summer, but a really short summer,” Beebe said. “I’m learning where to put them to be more successful on the floor, and they are learning about themselves also. We have to improve in a lot of places. “Offensively, we’ve got shooters. But we have to stay aggressive and create easy opportunities for ourselves. We want to have more of an attack mentality. That’s going to come with time and reps,” he continued. “We have to defend being multiple. We have to be good in multiple positions and mix things up. We have to be better rebounders.” The Panthers return plenty from a team that finished 5-18, 2-9 in the Northeast Corner Conference, last season. They are led by senior guard-forward Shelby FarmersStateBank_74062

Fish and sophomore point guard Alexis German. Fish has 768 points in her prep career after Prairie Heights’ season-opening 47-24 loss at Wawasee Saturday. Beebe wants to expand her game even further. “Shelby is by nature a driver on the floor,” Beebe said. “We want her to be able to score anywhere on the floor.” Senior guard Liz German is a three-point threat. Senior post player Bailey Pfafman is the team’s leading returning rebounder from last year. Beebe believes senior guard Lydia Johnston will be a spark off the bench. Beebe is looking for juniors Kaitlyn Rumsey and Maddie Newby to fit into their roles. Beebe said the athletic Rumsey has been the team’s most improved player since he got started at Prairie Heights. Newby will help on the glass. The Panthers will really need to dig in considering they are undersized. And their schedule will be grueling in and out of an NECC league that is expected to be deep in quality.


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Churubusco has big shoes to fill New coach set to improve Eagle girls BY JUSTIN HUNTER jhunter@kpcmedia.com

CHURUBUSCO – Churubusco’s boys basketball team won their first sectional title in its 99-year history last season. It was head coach Chris Paul’s first year at the helm. Paul, who is also the school’s athletic director, will try to continue building the Eagle basketball program this season. Last year’s squad graduated key players such as Jalen Paul, Luke Foote, Dakota Barkley and Colin Mullins. The quartet combined to average nearly 55 points per game. The team finished 17-9, 8-3 in the Northeast Corner Conference. The Eagles will need to have several players step up to fill the roles of last year’s stars. The Eagles will rely on its senior leadership for Dean Stanley, Garrett Horn and Brayden Simmons. “We will need to have some guys step up due to the players we lost,” said Paul. “We’ll first look to our returning starters in Dean Stanley and Brayton Bonar. We have Tom Richards on the team this year. He didn’t play with us last year, but he’ll bring leadership that we saw when he played quarterback for the

football team.” Stanley, averaged 2.3 points a game, along with 4.5 rebounds. Horn is hopeful to return from his football-related injury sometime during the season. Horn had 3.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and a steal per game. Simmons had 2.5 points and 2.4 rebounds a game. This year’s seniors will get much more playing time, and the hope is they can put up similar numbers as last year’s senior class. Bonar averaged 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds a game. The Eagles will have many compelling matchups. They will host a difficult opponent in Bishop Luers on Dec. 16. “Every year we want to put together a schedule that will test us. Every year I want to be playing an SAC school. Last year we played Wayne. Both we and Luers needed a game this season, so it just fit. I like that we’ll play at home, since we are young,” said Paul. After the regular season, the Eagles will try to repeat some more magic. “We are top to bottom as athletic if not more athletic than last year’s team,” said Paul. “We’re deeper as well. We’ll get better every day. And when March comes around we’ll try to do what we did last year.”

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BY JUSTIN HUNTER jhunter@kpcmedia.com

CHURUBUSCO – With five seniors returning, first-year head coach Nate Zastrow hopes to improve on the Churubusco girls basketball team’s 5-18 record from last year. A graduate of North Dakota State, Zastrow was the assistant coach for the Indiana Tech’s men’s basketball team the last three seasons. The coach’s first impression of the Churubusco girls team thus far is that the players have good communication and are focused on fundamentals. “We have five seniors who are good leaders,” he said. “We’ve had younger kids step up too, working hard. The girls value the small things like catching, passing and dribbling. They hold themselves accountable, there is a communication there that makes the team better.” Zastrow is hopeful that he can impact the Churubusco girls basketball program and begin to turn things around.

“Brein Gross and Callie Lemper will be our senior leaders,” the coach said. “Katelyn Johnson and Delaney Peters are also back this year. Hopefully we can get some stride from Myah Bear. We’ll be starting a freshman, Mariah Hosted. She’s very athletic and I don’t think anyone in our conference will play harder than her. She has a bundle of energy that we need to utilize. “We’ll also be starting a sophomore, Makenzi Tonkel, he said. “I really like the work she put in this fall. She’ll always take the open jumper and three pointers. She has an aggressive edge in her playing style. Isabelle is a senior who will also make an impact on our team. “I think (our players are) having fun and getting excited about another season. I know we haven’t had a lot success in recent memory,” he said. “The players want to see that change, but it’s going to take a lot of work. I’ve preached that to them, and they’re going a good job of doing that so far.”

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Marines to build with new look roster BY BRICE VANCE bvance@kpcmedia.com

HAMILTON — The Hamilton girls team will go through some growing pains. The Marines lost most of its roster (71 percent) from last season to graduation and have only a couple returners this year. To go along with a new look roster, Hamilton has a new coach in Kris Underwood. He has been an assistant at Wawasee, Manchester University, University of Saint Francis, Huntington North and Homestead. “I’ve kind of always said that I wanted to be a head coach, but I wanted to wait until my oldest was out of high school,” Underwood said. Underwood wanted to be a head coach at a small school. “I’ve always coached at big schools, 4A or 5A schools, whether it be basketball or softball,” he said. “I just wanted that smaller school environment, which in northern Indiana you don’t have a lot of 1A or even 2A small schools for the most part.” Junior Tori Creager and sophomore Brea Steury are the lone returners and will be looked upon to lead. Underwood has told

them to help out the inexperienced players, and he said that they have. “I think that’s the biggest thing from them is the leadership role and getting things going,” Underwood said. Hamilton has nine players this year, which is two more than last season. Exchange students Madita Friedich, Nadia Yu Ting Lin, Iara Furte Araujo, and Maey Mungsanti will play basketball for the first time. “For the most part, it’s going really well, I think,” Underwood said. Katelyn Stoy, Connie Hart and Jillia Ice are also on this year’s team. Stoy has experience, but hasn’t played since the sixth grade. Underwood has had a lot of teaching to do, and he was unable to get that done during the summer because he didn’t have the whole team together until the first official practice. The coach said the girls put more shots in the first week of practice than any other team he has been associated with. Underwood knows the task that he has in front of him. But he is hopeful brighter days are ahead for HHS. “We have a lot of work to do,” Underwood said. “but we’ll get there.”

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Hamilton’s Bailey Merritt led the Marines with eight points per game and 3.1 rebounds per game last season.

Hamilton boys look to improve this season BY BRICE VANCE bvance@kpcmedia.com

HAMILTON — The mass transfers before the school year hit Hamilton hard. But it especially hit the boys basketball program hard because of the percentage of players that transferred out. The Marines do have Nick Johnson, Griffin Kohli, Bailey Merritt and Dustin Cool returning. The group combined for an average of 15.3 points per game last season. Kohli (3.4 ppg last season) is the lone senior for Hamilton. As a sophomore, Merritt led the team with eight points and 3.1 rebounds per game. Shannon Beard will lead the program in 2017-18. This is Beard’s first time as a head coach. He was an assistant at DeKalb for the past nine years. “I really enjoyed being a part of DeKalb for nine years, but it was getting repetitious for me,” Beard said. “So I was just looking to do something. My wife and I have moved a lot in our history. This has been kind of stationary, so we figured if we are going to do it, then I need to get out of my rut. This is me getting out of my rut.”

Hamilton is coming off a 1-22 (0-11 NECC) season, but Beard thinks this year’s team has the potential to be better. “I think we can do a little bit better than that,” he said. “I think we can compete a lot.” Beard would like to be competitive in the NECC, and with the way the schedule lays out this year for the Marines, he thinks they can get off on the right foot. Hamilton begins the season with three sectional opponents in its first four games, including Lakewood Park, Lakeland Christian and Fremont. The Marines will have a good judgement on where they stand when the state tournament does come around. With the lack of depth returning, Beard said Hamilton will have to be selective with its style of offense and defense. Ideally, Beard would like to run. But that might have to wait until later on in the season. “We’ll have to pick and choose our time to trap and try and create points,” Beard said. “We’re not going to hold the ball or anything. My goal is for us to average around 45-50 points. Then obviously, I would like the opponents to average a little bit less than that.”


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Lakewood motivated to impress this year Panthers look to maintain, contend BY BRICE VANCE bvance@kpcmedia.com

AUBURN — After each sectional final game, the winner receives a trophy and the loser gets the game ball as a consolation prize. So after the Lakewood Park girls basketball team fell to Blackhawk Christian in the sectional final last season, the Panthers were given the game ball. Most teams would put it in a trophy case to be forgotten about. But not this time. Not for this team that returns almost everyone from last year, including five seniors. They play with that ball every day. In practice, in scrimmages, they use it as motivation. Second-year coach Amy Bartkowiak had everyone sign it and put the final score of that game, 27-25, to remind her team of how close they were to claiming the program’s first sectional title. “I think that just puts a ton of excitement into their hearts for this upcoming season,” Bartkowiak said. “We’re going for it.” The five seniors are Hadyn Faur, Cassidy Randol, Bekah Priskorn, Maddie Hartz and Aubrey Jester. Sophomores Gracyn Fetters

and Hope Liechty are also back. Chloe Jolloff, Mica Allen, Sophia Palacio, Autumn Graber and Tori Miller are all new to the team. The excitement for Bartkowiak came from the preseason conditioning. “Our summer was a lot different. We got into playing some league basketball,” she said. “Going through some different things this summer as far as some individual training and what each individual needs to improve on. “We really lacked intensity last year,” she added. “Just work ethic and knowing that if you go hard every time, then some good can happen with that. We just didn’t have that. We upped our intensity with pushing the ball down the court this summer. And defensively, we really just tried to put pressure on the ball and force turnovers.” Faur, who led the team with 9.9 points per game, will lead once again. She improved on driving to the hoop. “Just confidence and aggressiveness get to the basket,” Bartkowiak said. “She got a height advantage over a lot of people and a physical advantage.” Inside, Randol had 8.4 points per game last season. Fetters had 8.3 ppg. Priskorn (4.7 ppg) has worked on scoring in a variety of ways.

BY BRICE VANCE bvance@kpcmedia.com

AUBURN — Coming off its first sectional championship in program history, the Lakewood Park boys basketball team looks to build on becoming a constant contender. Maintaining will be a challenge for the Panthers this season after they lost their leading scorer and rebounder Keegan Fetters to graduation, and they will have a new coach Wayne Brooks this season. However, Lakewood Park will have plenty of seniors coming back to lead this team, including Noah Wineland, Isaac Schlotterback, Carsten White, Drew Lyons, Zack Krafft and Carter Gonzalez. Isaac Farnsworth and Dylan Miller also return from last year’s squad for the Panthers. Brooks has been a coach at South Bend Saint Joseph’s, South Putnam, Washington Catholic and most recently Woodlan. He teaches at the East Allen School District, and lives in the Auburn area. So when the opportunity at Lakewood Park came along he jumped on it. “The desire to coach had not left me,” Brooks said. “It was kind of a situation earlier

in life, I was willing to move place-to-place looking for a better job or situation. There kind of comes a point in your life where I wanted to settle some roots and stay in one area.” Because he was hired late in the offseason, Brooks didn’t have a set style coming into the first practices. But that will be determined as the season nears and he becomes more familiar with his players. “I’m big on execution offensively,” Brooks said. “Regardless of what situation we are facing whether a team is guarding half court or trying to trap us and press us, and a lot of times the defense you’re going against can dictate on how you play offensively.” He said defensively he has played a lot of man defense in the past. But like most coaches, he has more than that. To keep Lakewood Park in the title hunt, Brooks knows it comes from building up the entire program and reloading talent every year. “That’s one thing we are definitely going to do is get all the levels involved from the elementary age on up,” Brooks said. Gonzalez is the leading returner with 7.5 points per game last season. Schlotterback averaged 6.4 ppg and 3.5 rebounds per game.

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IN|All Sports 2017 Winter Edition