Archive for March 29, 2016

74-0 – NORTHWESTERN EIGHTH GRADE GIRLS BASKETBALL FINISHES FOUR YEAR RUN OF PERFECTION

Northwestern won the Kokomo-Howard County Eighth Grade Girls Basketball Tournament championship. (Photo by Slater Young)

Northwestern won the Kokomo-Howard County Eighth Grade Girls Basketball Tournament championship. (Photo by Slater Young)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – DOMINATION! That may be the only word to describe how a group of Northwestern Lady Tigers cruised to the Kokomo-Howard County Basketball Tournament championship for a third consecutive year. Over the course of three seasons, this year’s eighth grade Purple Tigers squad has won the tournament over Kokomo in impressive fashion – they won as sixth graders 45-6, as seventh graders 65-5 and this year 60-8. Yes, in three championship games, this squad of future varsity Lady Tigers has outscored Kokomo 170-19 in the title games while putting together a perfect 74-0 record since the fifth grade. Domination to the highest degree.

While this group of super talented Tigers has cruised through four consecutive regular seasons with ease, head coach Todd Miller said that means they have to work extra hard in practice to keep the competitive edge.

“Our practices are pretty competitive – we have good depth so that helps,” said Miller, the former varsity coach at Northwestern. “We also practiced with the high school whenever we could to just try and give them some competition.”

Miller said he also has to find more creative ways to keep the squad focused.

“A lot of times in games, we will have them write down individual goals for that game,” said Miller. “And we try and get them to achieve things out of their comfort zone. And sometimes, I will have them already written down and they have to pull one out and accomplish that goal. They are very goal oriented. It is a competitive group.”

The coach pointed to a level of maturity as a key point with this group of players.

“I think their selflessness are something people have really noticed about them,” said Miller. “We have some individual kids who could really put up big numbers if they wanted to, but it is not about that for them. They really do a nice job of sharing the ball and getting other kids to score. That is just the way they are.”

And while the squad is about winning, Miller noted they are still kids and want to have fun.

“I tell them that they have an amazing ability to flip the switch,” said Miller as his team celebrated in the middle of Memorial Gymnasium. “They may not have a game face before the game, but when the ball is tipped they get after it. But if you look at the floor now, they look like eighth graders. They know when they get to high school it will get a little more serious. They get it.”

In the championship game, the Tigers cruised to a 17-0 first quarter lead and the game was basically over at the half as Northwestern led 32-5.

Leading the way for Northwestern was Madison Layden, who scored 17 first half points en route to a game high 25. The daughter of varsity coach Kathie had 21 in last year’s seventh grade title bout. Kate Miller scored nine while Sarah Heaver and Kaylee Weeks had six each. Klair Merrell dropped in five, Breana Weaver scored four, Kailey Kidwell had three and Kendall Bostic two. Other members of the team are Kendal Rooze, Jessica Edwards and Christina Smith.

For Kokomo, Kiah Parrot popped a pair of 3-pointers for six points while Jordenn Call scored two.

Miller said the Northwestern community should be excited about the current state of Northwestern girls basketball.

“There are a lot of great players out there (in eighth grade) and a lot of great players ahead of them,” he said. “We are excited about Northwestern basketball, without a doubt.”

Miller said the ultimate goal is to get the players ready for the next level.

“We are trying to get them ready for high school basketball, that is the goal,” he said. “It is an awesome group of kids, but it hasn’t come without a price. They put in the time. We played two games last Saturday in conference and then about six of them played two or three AAU games that night.

The future is bright at Northwestern – this year’s freshman class and the current eighth graders have a combined middle school record of 113-1. Basketball eyes across the state will be focused on the Lady Tigers for the next four seasons.

DEAN’S LIST: HOWARD COUNTY MOURNS A HERO

Thin Blue Line HCSD EOW Carl Koontz 2

THE DEAN’S LIST BY DEAN HOCKNEY

What an thrilling two days of sports we were able to enjoy last weekend. From Indiana and Notre Dame advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in an exciting but bracket-busting first two rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament to the Final Four in the IHSAA Boys Basketball Tournament – Hoosier fans were treated to a memorable sports feast. And for those who are baseball fans, the Purdue Boilermakers visited Kokomo Municipal Stadium for a trio of NCAA Division 1 games against Ohio University.

But sometimes in life, sports is forced to take a back seat – and this is one of those unfortunate times. As most of you know, the Howard County Sheriff Department was struck with tragedy early Sunday morning when Deputy Carl Koontz was shot and killed while serving a search warrant in Russiaville. Sergeant Jordan Buckley was also hit in the incident, but fortunately he was treated and released. The shooter in the Sunday morning incident cowardly took his own life before SWAT team members could arrest him.

Howard County residents now start the process of coming to grips with its first law enforcement line of duty death in nearly 50 years. Deputy Koontz was a hero to many, including the Northwestern School Corporation where he served as a resource officer. At the Kokomo-Howard County Girls Basketball Tournament championships, the Lady Tigers seventh and eighth grade teams both claimed titles – and they did that while honoring Deputy Koontz. The seventh grade squad wore his 34-76 call sign on their socks while the eighth graders had black warm-up shirts with a Thin Blue Line and 34-76 emblazoned on it.

“That was the very first thing I talked to the girls about in the locker room before the game,” said an emotional Northwestern eighth grade coach Todd Miller. “Beyond basketball, the bigger picture is situations like this. It started with blue socks, then blue ribbons, then one of the mom’s secured shirts and Expressions helped us out quickly. Our whole school has rallied in different ways. I told them that basketball is secondary.”

This week, sports in Howard County will continue – but it will continue in a community with a heavy heart. Deputy Koontz died trying to serve a warrant for a drug infraction. He died trying to clean up our streets. He died keeping his community safe. And now, Kokomo and Howard County will say one final good-bye to a hero. Rest in peace Deputy Koontz, you will be missed.

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

Dean Hockney is the publisher of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana, sports editor of the Kokomo Herald and the public address announcer of IU Kokomo athletics and the Kokomo Jackrabbits. You can follow him on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) for the latest in local sports news and game reports.

PURDUE BASEBALL INVADES KOKOMO MUNICIPAL STADIUM FOR WEEKEND 3-GAME SERIES AGAINST OHIO UNIVERSITY

Purdue University Baseball

Courtesy of Purdue University athletics

KOKOMO, Ind. – Purdue baseball closes out the month of March with nine consecutive games in the state of Indiana, beginning this weekend with a neutral-site series against Ohio at Kokomo Municipal Stadium.

First pitch in Kokomo, Indiana, is set 6 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Kokomo Municipal Stadium opened last year and is home to the Kokomo Jackrabbits of the Prospect League, a summer collegiate league featuring teams in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and West Virginia. The new Lafayette Aviators will join the league this summer.

Tanner Andrews pitched in four games for the Kokomo Jackrabbits this summer and is slated to start the series opener on the mound for the Boilermakers. In March 2008, a four-game Purdue- Ohio series had to be moved to VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio, due to snow at OU’s campus in Athens. The primary tenant of VA Memorial Stadium is the Chillicothe Paints, which are now members of the Prospect League as well.

A year ago, the Boilermakers were scheduled to host Northern Illinois for a March 13 to 15 series at Alexander Field. Due to unfavorable field conditions, the series was moved to the artificial turf fields of Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana. Kokomo Municipal Stadium also features a FieldTurf playing surface and is a bit closer than Westfield. The ballpark hosted a John Carroll-Manchester three-game series last weekend. Kent State and Evansville are scheduled to play there March 22 and IPFW opted to move its May 17 home game against Purdue to Kokomo as well.

Ohio is led by former Purdue pitching coach Rob Smith (1999, 2002-06). The fourth-year skipper guided the Bobcats to the 2015 Mid-American Conference Tournament title, which earned Ohio a berth in an NCAA Regional in Champaign. Meanwhile, Purdue baseball alumnus and Kokomo resident Rex Gingerich (1984-87) also helped this weekend’s series come to fruition.

After playing its first 13 games in four different states (Georgia, California, Tennessee and Kansas), the schedule finally turns in Purdue’s favor in terms of travel. Beginning this weekend, the Boilermakers will close out the month of March with nine straight games in the state of Indiana. And there’s really only one long trip (April 1-3 at Penn State) on tap during the next 22 games. Purdue is scheduled to play 19 of those 22 games in the state of Indiana and 11 of those 19 in-state games at Alexander Field. The home opener is set for Wednesday vs. No. 4 Louisville and will be televised live by the Big Ten Network. Last season, the Boilermakers were 12-15 (.444) in games played in Indiana and 8-19 (.296) in games played elsewhere.

QUICK LOOK AT OHIO

• The Bobcats have posted series wins against UNC Asheville and IPFW. They rallied back from an early 5-0 deficit but lost in 10 innings to Northern Kentucky on Wednesday. Outfielder Mitch Longo is the reigning MAC Player of the Year after batting .357 with 20 extra-base hits, 49 RBI and more walks (22) than strikeouts (16) last season. He’s off to a 19-for-61 (.311) start early this year. John Adryan (11 XBH, 15 RBI), Rudy Rott (7 XBH, 16 RBI) and Manny De Jesus (4 XBH, 13 RBI) have been OU’s primary run producers.

• On the mound, Jake Rudnicki and Connor Sitz have put up some eye-catching numbers over their first four starts. Rudnicki has struck out 32 over 22 1/3 innings. Sitz has been effectively wild it would seem, surrendering only three hits over 14 innings while walking 13 batters. Sitz threw a no-hitter in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament a year ago.

DALESANDRO’S 11-GAME HIT STREAK ALREADY LONGEST AMONG ACTIVE BOILERMAKERS

• Freshman Nick Dalesandro enters the weekend riding an 11-game hitting streak, which began when he delivered a two-run double with the bases loaded to break a 3-3 tie in the Feb. 21 win at Georgia State. It already ranks as the longest career hitting streak among active Boilermakers. Harry Shipley and Kyle Wood both had 10-game hitting streaks last season and Kyle Johnson posted a 10-gamer in 2013. Overall, Dalesandro’s hit streak is the longest by a Boilermaker since Sean McHugh and Brandon Krieg had 12-game streaks in 2014. Dalesandro is 15-for-38 (.395) with three doubles and six RBI during the streak. He has recorded a hit in his first at-bat in five of his last 10 games.

MORE EXCELLENT LONG RELIEF WORK

• Over the last two weekends, Matt Frawley (11 2/3 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K) and Shane Bryant (8 2/3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 11 K) have excelled in long relief. At Kansas’ Tournament, they combined for 7 1/3 scoreless innings. Frawley worked the final four frames of the shutout of North Dakota, teaming up with Mike Lutz for Purdue’s first shutout since April 2015 vs. Ball State. The Boilermakers had a chance to win both games of the March 5 doubleheader at ETSU after they combined for 13 innings of five-run ball, surrendering only eight hits and one walk while striking out 11. The effective long relief allowed Purdue to overcome its starting pitchers both failing to make it through the second inning.