By Dan Harney
Year after year it seems that some basketball programs confidently look forward to the new season, while other programs are apprehensive. Area programs may still face concerns, but it is easy to find positives in all six Wayne County programs.
Cambridge City Lincoln
Head coach Rodney Klein, entering his 12th season at Lincoln, and 26th overall as Varsity coach, has reason for optimism. His team has size, shooters, speed and arguably one of the area’s best players in senior Tyler Wyles.
Wyles, a 6-foot-4-inch-tall wing player, led the Eagles in scoring, rebounding and assists last season and presents a match up problem for opposing defenses. If opposing teams try to double team Wyles, his teammates can make them pay.
Logan Vance, a 6-foot-5-inch post player, is a consistent scorer and rebounder in the paint. Evan Stuckey and Oliver Webb are sharpshooters with deep range, Gavin Trent is a hardnosed defender who can score, and Avery McGriff and Aiden Munchel are also proven players. Caden Creech and Briar Glispie saw limited Varsity action last season and have improved. Throw in the fact that 6-foot-2-inch freshman Dustin Lunsford has made a strong bid in practice for playing time and you can understand why Coach Klein is smiling.
The Golden Eagles have been reclassified 1A by the IHSAA. That means a new Sectional assignment and a new opportunity, but not an easier path. Their Sectional field will include Blue River Valley, Seton Catholic and Tri High. The Golden Eagles will host Wes-Del Wednesday, Nov. 23, to open their season.
Centerville has also been reclassified. The Bulldogs are now 3A, which means that they will join the Sectional field at New Castle. Second year head coach Kodi Smith and his team suffered through a winless season last year but a combination of returning players and an influx of talented freshman could lead to a quick turnaround for the ‘Dogs. There is no reason to tag the Bulldogs with unreasonable expectations but opposing teams who pencil them in as an automatic win this winter may be in for a rude awaking. Expect the Bulldogs to show substantial improvement.
Carter Heaston, a 6-foot-9-inch post player, has improved each year, and now has a confidence level that matches his skill set. Heaston will present problems for opposing defenses. Gavin Robinson and Chase Clark return after logging significant time last season. Alex Wandersee also returns after taking a year off and will bring more athleticism to the mix.
The Bulldog roster will also include at least three freshman who are expected to be impact players. Shea Hollendonner, Landyn Keiser, and Ethan Vecera never experienced a loss as junior high players. How quickly they adjust to the speed and physicality of varsity play may determine the level of early season success the Bulldogs enjoy.
The Bulldogs will face a stiff challenge immediately when they open their season Wednesday, Nov. 23, hosting 2A state-ranked Eastern Hancock. The Royals were a Semi-State team last season.
It would be a good idea to pick up a program if you plan to attend a Hagerstown game. There are a lot of new faces and that included the coach. Mark Doerstler, one of the best big men in Tiger basketball history, is the new head coach. The Tigers only have two seniors, and one junior on their roster, but that does not mean they lack talent. They have largely unproven talent. The Tigers who have lacked size the last two seasons have four players who are 6 foot 2 inches or taller.
Carter Jenkins (Sr), Gary Lehman (Sr), Cole Tracy (Jr), Anthony Kelley (So) and Kaagan Kendall (So) all have varying degrees of Varsity playing experience and all five are capable of breakout years. Landon Lawson (6 foot 3 inches) who improved dramatically late last season and Griffin Doerstler (6 foot 3 inches) who returns after missing the last two year due to injury, could also be important players for the Tigers.
Coach Doerstler is realistic in his assessment of the team. “We are young overall, but the kids are hungry for success.” Doerstler stated. “I am looking forward to seeing how they gel, and which players emerge as leaders.”
The Tigers will be the first area team to hit the hardwood. They will open their season, hosting Franklin County on Tuesday, Nov. 22.
There has been talk lately of requiring a shot clock for high school basketball in Indiana. If that becomes an IHSAA mandate the Knights won’t need one. Brent Ross, in his 14th season as the head coach at Northeastern, has never had a team willing to allow the opposing team to slow the pace of the game. The Knight defense generates offense by creating turnovers while speeding up the game. The Knights stop just short of guarding opposing players as they step off the bus in the parking lot. Expect more of the same this year.
The only question facing the team is who will emerge as scoring leaders. Nolan Drake, Caleb Harmon, Michael Henry, Wes Hunt, Grant Luebbe, Keaton Mikesell, Karsen Scarrette, Landon Scarrette, Carson Terrell and Sam White all have logged Varsity minutes, but none have ever been in a primary scoring role. Luebbe (8 ppg) and Terrell (5 ppg) are the top returning scorers, but every roster player has had solid scoring nights.
The Knights open regular season play with an early marquee match-up, Wednesday, Nov. 23, in a game played on the campus of Earlham College, against Seton Catholic.
Head coach Billy Wright will begin his second year at the helm with several experienced players and adequate size. Mason Carpenter, who played in 25 games as a freshman, averaging 10 points per game, will be a key building block. Look for Carpenter, one of the state’s best sophomores, to have a breakout year.
Ryder Cate (8.3 ppg) and Gunner Kovach (5.1) also return after playing in 25 games last season. Deante Smith (3.6 ppg) who played in 23 games and Cedric Horton, who averaged 6.3 points per game in 16 games, as freshmen, will also bring offense.
Sam Reising (6 foot 5 inches) and Gavin Hayes (6 foot 8 inches) add to the Red Devil size. Richmond plays a very difficult schedule, and the challenges begin immediately.
The Red Devils open regular season play Wednesday, Nov. 23, hosting New Palestine, a potential Sectional opponent, who won 19 games last season.
Head coach Josh Jurgens has guided his Cardinals to a Sectional Championship in six of his eleven years at the helm. He has his eye on number seven and he may well have the players to hoist the trophy. Jurgens will have a unique player to build around in Mason Harvey.
Harvey, who averaged 15 points, and 8 rebounds last season, is a 6 foot 9 inch inside-outside threat with shooting range to near halfcourt. Braiden Hogg a 6 foot 3 inch wing also returns with his 13.5 scoring average to give the Cardinals a potent 1, 2 punch. Andrew Warner (6 ppg) and Elijah Falcone also return. Lamonte Owens (6 foot 4 inches) and Nolan Burkhardt (6 foot 3 inch) add to the interior size. Jack Martin also has Varsity experience.
The addition of Cambridge City Lincoln to the Sectional field will make things more difficult, but the Cards` schedule helps prepare them for the challenge.
In fact, the Cardinals will be challenged in their opener Wednesday, Nov. 23, when they face Northeastern in a game to be played on the campus of Earlham College.