Archive for March 25, 2014

CARLEY O’NEAL, KACIE JUDAY NAMED TOP AREA PLAYERS BY KOKOMO KIWANIS CLUB

Front Cover - Vol 4 No 13 - March 25, 2014 (Carley O'Neal and Kacie Juday)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – The Kiwanis Club of Kokomo hosted its 31st Annual Girls Basketball Banquet at Kokomo High School. And to no surprise, the highlight of the evening was the display of the IHSAA Class 3A state championship trophy, courtesy of the Western Lady Panthers.

“By gosh, I am glad (you displayed that) after we lugged that heavy thing in here,” joked Western head coach Chris Keisling when Kiwanis President Tom Birch presented it to the crowd.

Billed as the largest high school girls basketball banquet in the Hoosier state, the Kiwanis Club of Kokomo established the banquet in 1984 to formally recognize the athletic and academic accomplishments of local area girls’ basketball teams. Since its origins of honoring Howard County squads, the banquet now honors the exploits of 10 area teams: Kokomo, Western, Northwestern, Taylor, Eastern, Tri-Central, Lewis Cass, Maconaquah, Carroll and Tipton. The Kiwanis clubs of Kokomo Golden K, Kokomo Metro, Burlington and Tipton also serve as host organizations.

“I really want to thank the Kiwanis,” said Tipton head coach Nick Comer, whose team played in the Class 2A Final Four this season. “It really is a neat thing and I hope everyone understands what a big deal it is to be honored this way. Not everyone gets this kind of reception.”

While Eastern stole the show last year, this year it was Tipton and Western who garnered the most honors – including Lady Blue Devil Kacie Juday who earned five individual honors.

“It is nice to see any of our kids do as well as they did,” said Taylor head coach Dennis Bentzler, the dean of local coaches. “I still say that in this area, we play as good of basketball as anybody, anywhere in the state. I have said it for years. I have said it on the radio. We had three or four in this area that should have been in the running for Miss Basketball (and the Indiana All-Star team).”

Juday took home trophies and plaques for being named the top assist leader (4.7 assists per game), steals leader (6.4 steals per game) and scoring leader (22.5 points per game). She was also the area’s only player to join the 1,000 Point Club, and the Kiwanis organization presented her a plaque for that accomplishment. She left the program as the all-time leading scorer in Lady Blue Devils history.

Juday’s teammate Macie Lively earned the best free throw percentage trophy for hitting 78 percent of her freebies this year. Northwestern’s Brooke Treadway was named the area’s top rebounder at 12.0 rebounds per game.

When it came time to name an area most valuable player, the honor was shared by Western’s Carley O’Neal and Juday. Both helped lead their team to outstanding seasons which resulted in Final Four berths. Juday joins her sister Brooklyn (co-MVP in 2012 with Western’s Nicole Rogers) as the only Tipton winners of the award, while O’Neal is the seventh from Western. The Lady Panthers seven MVP awards are third only to Kokomo (17) and Northwestern (eight).

The Kiwanis Club also recognizes academic success, and the Western Lady Panthers earned the award for highest team grade point average, posting an impressive 3.72 GPA. They upended the two-time defending Team GPA champion’s from Tipton.

The top award of the evening was a scholarship from the Kiwanis Club of Kokomo Foundation to the senior player with the highest grade point average. This year’s scholarship was awarded to Raven Black from Western. Black’s grade point average of 4.47 was the highest in the history of the Kiwanis banquet.

For more information on the Kiwanis Club of Kokomo, visit www.kokomnoonkiwanis.com.

DEAN’S LIST: IS IT TIME FOR A FOUR-MAN OFFICIATING CREW?

Basketball with Wings

THE DEAN’S LIST BY DEAN HOCKNEY

I saw something Saturday that I should never see in a high school sporting event – a basketball official appear to attempt to show-up a student-athlete. A basketball official, who is there to ensure the game is played on an even keel, actually try and bait a player into a technical foul by glaring back at the young man after he received his fifth foul.

Never in my life have I seen an IHSAA official literally stare down a young 18-year old student-athlete like I saw in this game. After Kokomo’s Mykal Cox – who had a technical foul earlier in the game – picked up his fifth foul, the official stared the fiery player down like he was daring him to say something. I sensed this official WANTED to call another technical foul. For 11 seconds after blowing his whistle – and yes, I watched a video replay and timed it – this official glared at Cox who was sitting on the Bill Green Athletic Arena floor. At one point during that long 11 seconds, he grabbed his whistle and I thought he was ready to make a second call.

Why did this official feel the need to continue this icy glare? Why didn’t he simply blow the whistle and report the foul and allow another official to watch Cox? Why is he allowed to, in my opinion, taunt a high school basketball player? When did this official become bigger than the game and more important than the players on the court? It was a shameful exhibition by a licensed IHSAA basketball referee in a Class 4A Sweet Sixteen contest.

If a player exhibited the same glare to an official that this official showed a Kokomo player, he would have received a technical foul. I really don’t think this official has any business on a high school basketball floor. To me, it was inexcusable and an embarrassment to the entire IHSAA organization and officials around Indiana. There is no room on a basketball floor for an official to have a grudge against a high school student-athlete.

Maybe this says something about officiating in general. My friend Chris Lowry wrote a column (see page 13) criticizing officials and what appears to be a general decline in the way games are called. But I have another thought – has the game passed them by?

Years ago, basketball had two officials on the floor, set shots were made with two-hands and the game was played below the rim – a rim that had a wooden backboard. Today, three officials roam the floor, fast breaks and one-handed running shots are the norm and the game is played well above the rim – a spring-loaded rim mounted to a see-through backboard.

The game has changed and is constantly evolving. Players are in better shape, play year round and are much stronger than in the past. Gone are the days when football players move to basketball and then on to baseball. Many elite players specialize in one, maybe two sports. This specialization has made for better and quicker players on the court.

As the game continues to evolve, it appears that the world of officiating has not. A 2000 study by Kevin Burke of Georgia Southern University says a high school basketball official reaches a heart rate of 80-90 percent of its maximum at the start of a playoff game, and “therefore, officials need to be physically prepared to handle the physical requirements of the sport they officiate and able to combat the psychological stressors associated with this unique sport position.”

What I saw in Marion on Saturday plays right into the psychological stressors referenced. Kokomo and Homestead were playing a very heated battle. A very physical battle. Heck, there was a three or four minute delay at one point as trainers had to clean blood off the court. I am not saying they were playing dirty, it was just a hard-played IHSAA tournament game. But the officials on the floor sure didn’t seem to have brought their A Game to the arena. To me – and yes, I have been a licensed basketball and baseball official in the past – they seemed to be a step behind and not in-tune with the play on the court.

After the game, it was pointed out to me that only six Kokomo players had fouled out of a game this season – but on Saturday four players fouled out in just one game. Sure, they had to play an aggressive game against a huge Homestead squad, but four players fouling out? And Homestead’s 6-8 giant, who battled for 22 rebounds, was only whistled for two? Something is not right about that, and I think the Sports Journal front page this week is proof enough that the officials let him get away with flying elbows at will.

So now I ask: is it time for a fourth official to be added to the floor. At some point in the 1990’s, a third official was added. Maybe it is time for a fourth referee to help in a game that is getting faster and more physical with each passing year.

Until next time, remember to keep the man and ship in sports – and I’ll see you at the game.

Dean Hockney is the owner/publisher of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana and sports editor of the Kokomo Herald. You can follow Hockney on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) for the latest in local sports news and game reports.

HOMESTEAD TOPS KOKOMO IN PHYSICAL CLASS 4A SWEET SIXTEEN CONTEST

Mykal Cox

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

MARION, Ind. – Before the IHSAA Class 4A Marion Regional, Kokomo coach Brian McCauley said Homestead’s 6-8 sophomore Caleb Swanigan looked like he was ready to play in the National Football League. After the regional opener, the Kats might have felt like they played an NFL game. In an extremely physical contest, the Spartans topped Kokomo 68-60 in a bout that featured one blood stoppage, 46 total fouls and four Wildkats exit the game with five fouls. The Kats also shot a cold 37 percent from the field, hit just 2 of 20 attempts from beyond the arc and 12 of 20 from the charity stripe.

“Today, we didn’t play the game we needed to play,” said Kokomo head coach Brian McCauley. “We gave a great effort, it just wasn’t meant to be. We just had to be a little smarter today.”

After a quick 6-0 run to open the game for Homestead, Kokomo battled back – and four lead changes later the Spartans held a 16-15 lead after one quarter. The second quarter was much like the first – four more lead changes and two ties – and Homestead took a 30-27 lead into the halftime break.

Unfortunately for Kokomo, while playing a competitive second half, they could never regain the lead or control the tempo of the game while Swanigan controlled the paint. Add that Kokomo was called for nearly twice as many fouls as Homestead (30-16), and a win just was not in the cards.

“He is a really good player and we knew that coming in,” McCauley said of Swanigan. “When you double down on him, he does a good job of passing out.”

Kokomo trailed 43-37 after three quarters, but the fourth quarter saw its best players foul out – Erik Bowen left with 3:28 remaining, followed by Tayler Persons, Mykal Cox and Jordan Matthews. But yet, Kokomo found itself still in the game, tailing 59-55 with 63 seconds left. In the end, it came down to the basic concept of free throw shooting, and Homestead hit 9 of 10 in the final minute while Kokomo missed 7 of 11 in the fourth period.

“The foul troubles hurt us. The free throws hurt us,” said McCauley. “They had a really good player and played a little better than us today.”

Persons, an Indiana All-Star candidate and Northern Kentucky recruit, ended his brilliant Kokomo career No. 8 on the Kats all-time scoring list with 1,131 points following a 14 point performance against Homestead. Bowen dropped in 17 points and Jeron Gray added 11. Cox had six points and five assists while Brad Dockemeyer joined Demarius Warren with a team-high six rebounds. Gray started for Dockemeyer, who like Cox, was battling flu-like symptoms.

Swanigan is the real deal

Swanigan had a game-high 18 points and 22 rebounds to lead Homestead. The 250-pound big man helped lead Homestead to its first regional title later in the day with a 59-57 win over No. 3 Hamilton Southeastern. For the day, Swanigan – who has college offeres from Indiana, Michigan State, Illinois, Pitt, Georgetown and Tennessee – finished the two games with 44 points (17 of 30 field goals), 35 rebounds and seven assists.

An interesting note on Swanigan: Citing his love for basketball and the risk of injury, he left the offensive line and the game of football after his freshman season despite receiving inquiries from SEC powers Alabama, Auburn and LSU.

Outstanding senior Wildkat class

Wildkat Nation said goodbye to one of the most successful classes in Kokomo history. Persons, Bowen, Cox, Dockemeyer, Warren, Brandon Wilson, Jazimar Woodard and foreign exchange student Jordan Eley will graduate as the first class to reach four consecutive Class 4A Sweet Sixteen’s in school history (class basketball started in 1998).

“Taylor and Erik are true Wildkat basketball players – they had the right combination of talent and skills. But what a great group of young men; I am going to miss them very much,” said McCauley with emotion in his voice. “I am going to miss what they gave to the team, the school and the community. The stamp they left on this program is a mountain. They have been beaten by three state champions in a row in the state tournament.”

The Class of 2014 played in a program that finished with a record of 81-19 in four seasons (21-6 in the North Central Conference), winning four sectional titles, two NCC championships (2011 and 2013) and playing in a memorable 2011 IHSAA Class 4A state title contest.

“This group is winners – they have done so much at KHS,” concluded McCauley.