Archive for November 29, 2013

STATE CHAMPIONS: TRI-CENTRAL WINS IHSAA CLASS 1A FOOTBALL TITLE, FIRST IN PROGRAM HISTORY

IHSAA Class 1A State Football Champions - Tri-Central Trojans

IHSAA Class 1A State Football Champions - Tri-Central Trojans

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

INDIANAPOLIS For the first time in school history, the boys athletic program at Tri-Central High School has a state championship after the Trojans captured the IHSAA Class 1A football title with a dominating 20-10 victory over No. 3 and previously undefeated Eastern Hancock. The Trojans scored the first 12 points and led 20-3 midway through the final stanza in a superior defensive effort.

“What can I say? What can I say?” asked TC coach George Gilbert after the game. “I am just thrilled with what happened today. We came out and played our game, and our defense was just solid.”

The key to victory was stopping the high powered Royal offense – and while Eastern Hancock rattled off 297 yards on 59 plays, it was the punt game that made the difference. Or maybe the lack of a punt game. Facing seven fourth downs in the game, the Royals punted just once, for seven yards, and the other six times they were stopped by the Tri-Central defense. Eastern Hancock led the state in scoring at a clip of 56 points per game and 52.6 in tournament play.

“Fourth downs were key; it didn’t surprise us they didn’t punt,” said Gilbert. “We were ready for that, and it showed.”

Offensively, Tri-Central scored first when Garrett Kelley found pay-dirt from one yard out following a seven play, 41 yard drive. The drive was set up by a fourth down sack by Darius Stanley. Seth Blunck caught a 23-yard Cody Howell pass for the second score with 43 seconds left in the first half, and following a 39-yard field goal from Cooper Henderson, the Trojans led 12-3 at the break.

Following another fourth down failure by Eastern Hancock, the Trojans marched 63 yards and put the game away with a 3-yard rushing touchdown from Howell.

“This is exciting, not only for us, but for the community,” said Howell. “I can’t say enough how much this means to us.”

How big is this win for Tri-Central? Five years ago when Gilbert took over, they finished 0-10. In the last 20 seasons, the Trojans have had five winless seasons and six one-win campaigns.

Kelley led the rushing attack for Tri-Central (14-1) with 78 yards and a score. Dillon Smith added 42 yards and Cody Colbert 34. Howell had 167 yards through the air with 89 going to Jade Pickett.

For Eastern Hancock (14-1), Spencer Gilbert rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown.

For more on this game, see the Dec. 3 edition of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana.

IU KOKOMO HIRES FORMER LADY KAT WHITNEY FARRIS AS FIRST WOMEN’S HOOPS COACH

New IU Kokomo women's basketball coach Whitney Farris is congratulated by Athletic Director Brandon Podgorski. (SJ Photo: Dean Hockney)

New IU Kokomo women's basketball coach Whitney Farris is congratulated by Athletic Director Brandon Podgorski. (SJ Photo: Dean Hockney)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. - After months of speculation, Indiana University Kokomo finally made official what many suspected – the Cougars will add women’s basketball to its slate of varsity sports beginning with the 2014-2015 season. And they didn’t have to look far to find a coach. Whitney Farris, an assistant coach with the IUK men’s team and a 2006 Kokomo High School graduate, will take the reins of the program beginning immediately.

“This is really a dream come true, being able to coach in the town you grew up in,” said Farris, who arrived on the IUK campus as a graduate assistant sports information director in 2012. “I started playing basketball in Kokomo at the YMCA in the Little Dribbler’s program; basketball is my life, so this is a great honor.”

Cougar Athletic Director Brandon Podgorski, who announced the formation of the new sports program, said he is thrilled the college could hire a coach from within the Cougar athletic program. He said that the formation of the women’s basketball team keeps the athletic program on pace to meet NAIA program requirements of at least six teams. The women’s hoops team joins the men’s team, women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country. A sixth team will be announced in the near future.

“I am very excited that we are going forward with women’s basketball here at IUK and that we had a coach right underneath my nose who is very qualified for the position,” said Podgorski. “It is a good fit for us. She is the right person to take us into the future of women’s basketball.”

Todd Gambill, IUK vice chancellor for student affairs, said the dual announcement of the formation of a women’s hoops program and hiring its first coach was exciting for the Kokomo school.

“We were fortunate to find someone of her character and ability right here at IUK,” he said. “Her integrity, her genuine commitment to the academic success of her student-athletes and her love of the game is exactly what we were looking for in a coach. And the fact that she is a local product will help when she hits the recruiting trail. I just can’t stress how fortunate we are. This is a tremendous day for IUK.”

Farris is a self-professed basketball junkie. But her hoops knowledge is not just from hitting the books; it is from years of action on the hardwood. She played four years of varsity basketball for the Lady Wildkats and helped the team win the 2003 IHSAA Class 4A state title with a perfect 26-0 campaign. A McDonald’s All-American nominee, Farris was a two-time All-North Central Conference performer and played in the Hoosiers Reunion All-Star Classic. She earned 12 letters at Kokomo in four different sports, and she excelled outside of the classroom as a member of the National Honor Society.

“The fundamentals I learned under Charlie Hall at Kokomo helped me so that going to college was not as big of a step,” said Farris. “It is funny, we used scouting reports and stuff that I thought was normal for high school, but it turns out it wasn’t. We were just that prepared. And that not only helped me in college but will help me as a coach.”

Following her success at Kokomo, she was a four-year performer at the NCAA Division I level at Valparaiso University, where she graduated with a degree in business administration (marketing emphasis). A 5-11 guard/forward combo player, Farris played in 90 consecutive games her final three years at Valpo. Her senior season, she averaged seven points, four rebounds and was second on the team in assists. Her junior year, Farris helped lead the Crusaders to regular season wins over No. 1-ranked Florida State and Purdue. Farris was also an academic all-conference honoree.

Farris said she plans on using her connections at the high school level when she starts recruiting.

“I have already watched Taylor play,” said Farris. “With Kokomo and the other county teams right here, I think recruiting will be easy. From Indianapolis to Lafayette, this is a great area to recruit from. There is so much basketball talent here that there are some great pickings to choose from.”

She noted that while she lacks experience as a head coach, she has been around the game for years in a non-playing capacity. She has worked as a camp counselor for the Notre Dame women’s basketball team. At Valpo, she served as the assistant for the women’s basketball summer camps and was a counselor at the men’s basketball summer camps. Last summer, she was a part of the staff at the Purdue women’s basketball junior skills camp. And of course, spending two years working with IU Kokomo men’s coach Jace Thompson has helped.

“It’s funny, earlier the question I got a lot was, ‘how are you going to coach men?’ Now I get, ‘how are you going to coach women?’ It is really just X’s and O’s and they are all people at the end of the day,” said Farris. “I have learned that not every player is the same, whether it is a guy or a girl, and you just have to develop relationships. I really care about each player.”

Whether it is winning a high school state championship or knocking off the top-ranked college team in the nation, Farris is a proven winner on the court. Her next challenge will be proving she can take that experience and use it to garner wins as a college head coach. And she will begin that journey in her hometown. It appears the IU Kokomo women’s basketball program is in good hands.

IU KOKOMO ENTERS THIRD SEASON OF PLAY WITH A NEW CONFERENCE, NEW FOES

2013 IU Kokomo Mens Basketball Team

KOKOMO, Ind. - With the 2013-2014 Cougar basketball season right around the corner, fans will notice significant changes from the previous seasons, both on and off the court. On the hardwood, the Cougars have added new faces that will join the six returners from last season. Six transfers and five freshmen have been added to the young and growing program that finished 9-21 last year.

Off the court, IU Kokomo sees itself moving to the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, after joining the NAIA last season.  One significant change is the addition of the Cougar Gym, which gives the team a place to call home and host 13 opponents this season.

Now in his third season at the helm of the IU Kokomo program, head coach Jace Thompson’s squad is loaded with talent, returning six players from last year’s roster - including three starters -  and the addition of 11 newcomers.

“Our new additions to the team help us in many aspects both on the floor and in the locker room,” said Thompson. “We added a lot of leadership in some of our transfers and brought in some freshman who will compete each and every day during the season in order to help prepare the older guys.”

Leading the Cougars this winter is a pair of returning seniors, Spencer Krhin (9.2 points per game last season) and Taylor High School graduate Reomey Northington (9.6 ppg).

“As seniors we are expected to set a good example of work ethic and not only play hard, but smart,” said Krhin. “We have to bring energy and open minds to improve every day.”

Also back in the Cougar uniforms are juniors Jonathon Kelly (redshirt last season), Aaron Knupp and Jared Lawrence (8.9 ppg). Lone sophomore Jerome Campbell (6.7 ppg and three assists per game) returns after seeing heavy minutes his freshman year running the point for the squad.

“Coming in as a freshman and playing right away is tough, especially when you are playing against veteran guards,” said Campbell. “The offseason adjustments I made were spending time in the weight room to get stronger and put on weight and learning how to get other people open in order for them to score.”

The 11 newcomers Coach Thompson has added to the IU Kokomo men’s basketball program are comprised of five transfers, one junior college transfer, and five prep players.

The Cougars added Dylan Mosack, a senior center who transferred from the University of Illinois Springfield. Junior guards Nick Teeter and Randall Lowe come to IU Kokomo after starting their careers at Huntington University, and rounding out the group of transfers are junior forwards Bobby Blackwell (Danville Area Community College) and David Kelly (Purdue University North Central).

“I have enjoyed adjusting to this new program with the help of the faculty and staff at IU Kokomo,” said Lowe. “We have a great group of guys and my focus is to bring experience and leadership to this team having already played in another NAIA division two conference.”

Along with the transfers, Thompson recruited five new Cougars, all from the state of Indiana, for the upcoming campaign. The freshman class consists of a pair of teammates from Ben Davis High School, Kendall Broome and Jordan King. Also in the freshmen class are three talented guards: Jacob Howdeshell (Caston), Zach Meyer (Valparaiso) and Dean Hill (Boone Grove). Hill is an all-around athlete as he was also an Indiana All-Star in baseball this past spring.

Thompson has put together a quality non-conference schedule to prepare his squad for the rigors of KIAC play. The 2013-2014 regular season tipped off with a 75-62 loss at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill.

“Our non-conference schedule will be very challenging and hopefully provide an opportunity for us to grow and be prepared for the second half of the season run,” said Thompson. “Ask any coach and they will tell you they want to be good in March and that is our goal as well.”

The home schedule also includes visits from instate foes Indiana University South Bend and Indiana University Northwest as well as Salem International University and University of Cincinnati Clermont. Other highlights of the non-conference schedule include two NCAA Division I opponents, IPFW (Nov. 11) and Tennessee Tech (Nov. 21), and a trip to Marion on Dec. 28 to play Indiana Wesleyan University, an NAIA Sweet Sixteen performer a year ago.

KIAC play opens on Nov. 12 at Point Park University and the 17-game conference slate concludes when the Cougars travel to Saint Louis College of Pharmacy on Feb. 20.

(Courtesy of Indiana University Kokomo)