Archive for November 27, 2014

WESTERN SHOCKS KOKOMO FOR JUST SEVENTH TIME IN 65 MEETINGS

Western's Des Balentine scored 15 points to lead the Panthers to a rare victory over Kokomo. (Photo by Adam Hartsough/Punchwar Sports)

Western’s Des Balentine scored 15 points to lead the Panthers to a rare victory over Kokomo. (Photo by Adam Hartsough/Punchwar Sports)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

RUSSIAVILLE, Ind. – In 112 seasons of Kokomo boys basketball, they have battled the Western Panthers on 65 occasions since 1948. Heading into the 31st annual opening night tip-off between the two Howard County programs, only six times have the Panthers left the gym with a win. Make it seven. In a Thanksgiving Eve thriller at Richard Rea Gymnasium, the Panthers ruined the debut of Kokomo’s new coach 54-47 in front of a near sellout crowd.

“Hats off to our guys, they just kept plugging away,” said Western coach Bart Miller after the game. “The guys are really happy right now; they are really excited. I told them they are in an elite class at Western – they are one of just seven (to beat Kokomo). I am just so proud of our seniors.”

The Western win snapped a nine-game Kokomo win streak in the series. The Panthers last win was 61-50 in 2006. Ironically, three of the Panthers seven wins have come in the debut game of a new Kokomo coach. Rick Baumgartner lost 62-57 in 2005, Brian McCauley in 2006 and Matt Moore this year. The last Wildkat coach to win his debut game was Mike Wade, a 76-72 win over Western in 2000.

Western got off to a solid start against the younger Kats, leading 12-9 after one stanza despite an early Kokomo lead. Western’s shooting went cold in the second quarter, hitting just 2 of 7 shots to give Kokomo a 24-22 halftime advantage. The close game was surprising in part because Des Balentine, Western’s Indiana All-Star candidate who was returning from ACL surgery, had just one point.

Western, and more importantly Balentine, started to find a groove in the third quarter. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Balentine and Austin Weaver put the Panthers up 32-30. Tied at 36 after three quarters, Gabe Harp drained a 3-pointer followed by a Balentine bucket to put the Panthers up by five. A basket by Kaleb Howard made it seven points, and Western held on for the victory in a game that featured nine ties and nine lead changes.

“What can I say about Des Balentine?” asked Miller. “He got 14 in the second half. And Zach Shanan was just a monster on the inside. And Weaver hit some great shots tonight.”

Balentine led the Panthers with 15 points. Shahan just missed a double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds. Weaver drained 13 points and Harp added 11. Western out-rebounded Kokomo 27-23.

For Kokomo, Jordan Matthews had a game-high 20 points. Ty Sparling had 11 and Jordan Rawlins added eight. The Wildkats struggled from 3-point land, hitting just 3 of 20 attempts. Coach Moore was happy with just eight turnovers.

“We have to know what we are, and we have to know what we aren’t; and we are not a 3-point shooting team,” said Moore. “We said before the game that the team that takes and makes the most free throws will win this game. And they took 23 (made 14) to our eight (made four). And that is just not who we are going to be.”

After the game, Moore talked about what it means to be a coach in Indiana high school basketball.

“This is why I came back – for this atmosphere right here. I have been looking forward to this for a while; it really means something,” said Moore, who played high school basketball at Columbia City. “Before the game, I told the guys to just look around and take it in for a moment. It is a lot bigger than just our team; a lot of people take pride in this.”

Kokomo (0-1) is back in action on Saturday at Westfield (1-0) at 7:30 p.m. Western (1-0) travels to Northwestern (1-0) on Dec. 5 for the final Mid-Indiana Conference matchup between the two rivals.

 

WESTERN VICTORIES OVER KOKOMO

Boys basketball

1980-1981 … 51-49

1985-1986 … 60-57

1990-1991 … 63-52 (IHSAA tourney)

2003-2004 … 77-74 2OT

2005-2006 … 62-57

2006-2007 … 61-50

2014-2015 … 54-47

Series started in 1948-1949

Kokomo leads series 58-7

WILDKAT WORLD SERIES CAPS PRODUCTIVE FALL WORKOUTS FOR NEW KOKOMO COACH

Kokomo's Chandler Droke makes a nice play at first base during the Wildkat World Series championship game.

Kokomo’s Chandler Droke makes a nice play at first base during the Wildkat World Series championship game.

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – The Kokomo baseball team held its first Wildkat World Series in an effort to develop camaraderie while working on fundamentals during the off-season. New Wildkat skipper Sean Swan, Kokomo’s assistant athletic director and a varsity assistant coach last season, said the event was a success.

“A lot of college programs do this to punctuate its fall workout season. We had upwards of 28 kids work out this fall and had 18 kids participate in the World Series,” said Swan, who noted that student-athletes in fall sports could not participate in the games. “It is just a fun thing for them to experience.”

While being a fun event for the players, the Wildkat World Series allowed Swan and his staff to see players he had not watched on the field before the World Series.

“We got to see some new faces and some kids in new roles,” said Swan, who has six years of head coaching experience at Lapel and Tri-Central. “And it allowed some younger kids who don’t play a fall sport a chance to get some work in and get to know some varsity coaches. It was a win for us and a win for them.”

Swan said that with a new coach comes a new coaching system, and this event allowed the new and returning players a chance to see that new system in action. He said that during the winter, more workouts will be planned so the athletes who played fall sports will have a chance to work with the skipper and his staff.

“These types of events allow players to learn our terminology, learn our system and learn our expectations,” said Swan. “As we go into the winter season, we will get a whole new set of kids come in and work out. Some of these (fall) kids will be playing other sports. It has been a good experience this fall.”

Swan said he was able to teach fundamentals and new drills during the fall workouts and Wildkat World Series.

“It was nice to be able to introduce the drills we will be doing this spring when baseball officially starts,” he said. “We were able to expose them to those drills while also teaching about our mentality and our approach to the game.”

In the end, Team Top Gun defeated Team Dinger 2-1. Swan said Top Gun lost the opener 5-0 but battled back from the 1-0 deficit to take game two 3-1. Game three was a close 3-2 contest to determine the first Wildkat World Series champion.

“It was good. I think the kids really enjoyed it and I think it surprised them how much they got into it,” said Swan. “It was a nice way to wrap things up.”

Kokomo is scheduled to open its 2015 baseball campaign at the new Kokomo Municipal Stadium in April.

YOUNG LADY KATFISH SQUAD READY TO HIT POOL

Kokomo HS Wildkat

Keep an eye on our Lady Katfish this season.  Exciting things are happening at the pool.  Our girls are working very hard.  We are a very young team with 15 under classmen this season.  We will be led by our four returning seniors, Autumn Carroll, Katie Harbaugh, Amy Laubenstein and Ashley Clifford.  Newcomer senior, Kristen Erny, has helped to add great leadership to our team.

Our underclassmen are letting every lady know they are here to compete and want many of the open spots left by our graduating seniors from last season.  As we head into our first meet against Western I am not sure yet where everyone will fit into our lineup.  Not only are these ladies working hard, they are all very coachable and making a commitment to each other.  These are great gals and I am very lucky to get to spend this season with them.

Freshmen, Morgan Reecer, will definitely make an impact this season.  She will likely fill the distance spots in the line-up.  She is backed by Hayden Phipps, Brittany Lucas and Emily Ogle.  We will try these ladies in various spots to find where they best fit in to help garner points for the ladies.

Our sophomores will be led by returning veterans Jessica Estep, Brooke Dill, Ann Stahl, Hannah Sexton, Aditi Sood, Lucy Mavrick, and Abbie OKeefe.  Joining the sophomore veterans this season are newcomer Osha Hall who will definitely make an impact as our only diver this season.  Swimming their first varsity season as sophomores are Naomi Leuck, Emily Hafley, and Britney Achors.  Our sophomore class brings a lot of off season training and we will look to them to fill some high point earning spots in our line-up.

All of our juniors saw conference and sectional action last season so they are ready to hit the water with a splash.  We are very excited to have Briana Ebenhart, Abigail Hammel, and Micah Jackson back this season.  Two of these gals have pretty definite line-up spots.  We will look to Briana to backstroke and Abigail to butterfly this season.  Micah will get to fill freestyle spots.

Seniors, Katie Harbaugh and Autumn Carroll can swim anything on the roster.  These gals have shown great versatility and leadership for 4 years with our program.  I can count on them to swim anything and gain points for the team.  They will be supported by breaststroker, Amy Laubenstein, newcomer Kristen Erny and Ashley Clifford.

I am thankful to add freshman, Chardonnay Clark as our manager.  Chardonnay is willing to assist in any way she can and is learning the ropes in the pool quite quickly.  We also have Ms. Hicks helping us when she can.  She will be a blessing to have around.  Our diving coach expert, Amanda Huston, will lead our only diver Osha Hall this season as she prepares her 6 and 11 dive lists for competition.

Keep an eye on our ladies and watch for BIG time drops this season!  Come watch us in our opening meet against Western, Tuesday Nov 18th at 5:30pm.

Courtesy of head coach Donita Walters