Archive for December 26, 2016


KOKOMO, Ind.— Jace Thompson resigned Thursday, December 22, as Indiana University Kokomo’s men’s basketball coach. Because this is a personnel matter, no additional details will be released.

Alex Birge will serve as interim coach for the remainder of the 2016-2017 season, beginning immediately.

Birge is in his third year as assistant coach for the men’s basketball team. He graduated from Bradley University in 2014, where he served as a student assistant for the men’s basketball team. He completed his Master of Business Administration at IU Kokomo in May 2016. A native of Mount Zion, Illinois, he played collegiately at Spoon River Junior College and Monmouth University before injuries ended his playing career.

The Cougars currently are 7-8 overall, and 3-1 in the River States Conference.

Earlier this month, Whitney Farris, the women’s head basketball coach, also resigned. Both she and Thompson were serving suspensions when they resigned.




High school athletics, basketball in particular, has a problem – and it has nothing to do with the play on the court. Instead, the problem takes place with the fans. I am talking about the loud, vocal fans who yell non-stop – not at the play of the student-athletes or the coaching – but rather directly at game officials. And while most fans act responsibly, the ones who do not are also the ones everyone can hear or see.

I know I have covered this topic before, but the problem has not gone away. In fact, it may be getting worse around Howard County. I will not single-out any one school, but more than one have had issues with fans this season. Our area is not alone as the number of fans being ejected from IHSAA sporting events has doubled this school year compared to last year.

“Everyone associated with education-based athletics in our state has an obligation to promote and demonstrate proper sportsmanship,” IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox told me. “While this focus typically is on coaches and student-athletes, there is an increasing concern about the behavior of fans in the stands.”

The stance of the IHSAA is attending a high school sporting event in the state of Indiana is a privilege, not a right. Cox said that abuse towards officials will not be tolerated – and it sets a bad example for the student-athletes on the court.

“We have a collective duty to the impressionable student-athletes we observe to act in a responsible and supportive manner,” said Cox. He added that fans should, “refrain from boorish displays that erode the interscholastic experience for everyone.”

Per guidelines available on the IHSAA website, parents (and fans) should, “Realize that a ticket is a privilege to observe a contest and support high school activities. It is not a license to verbally assault anyone or act in an outrageous manner.”

I have talked to athletic directors in the area, and they have had several issues with fans and the way they have acted. As one AD told me, “We have to do better as a school, and our community has to do better representing the school and our student-athletes.”

Please note: I am not talking about the occasional scream at an official on a questionable call. I know I have publicly protested calls made by officials in the past and have written about specific instances – but those are one-off instances. What I am talking about is the harsh, and sometimes non-stop, screaming that is oftentimes directed squarely at officials and can be personal, and sometimes threatening, in nature. As the IHSAA states, “Respect the decisions made by officials and learn the rules of the game to better understand their decisions.”

Remember, officials are human and are doing the best that they can. They are not attempting to influence a game for one team or another. They are not always right and – for my official friends please don’t take this the wrong way – there is a reason an official is at the NBA, NCAA, IHSAA varsity, IHSAA junior varsity or middle school level. Just like a nine to five job, officials typically move up the chain based on skill levels.

I really get peeved when fans berate junior varsity or middle school officials who are out there supporting our student-athletes. Why should young officials want to continue in the profession if they are getting screamed at in a junior varsity game? Or why would a seasoned official want to continue to work at the JV level with some of the abuse I hear. It is no wonder there is a shortage of officials in most sports across the state.

Please note, an official is working a game – key on the word “working.” If someone would walk into nearly any business in the country and yell and scream at employees, the business would call the police and have the person removed. Why is a high school basketball game any different considering that the court is a game officials place of work?

Basketball games should be an enjoyable experience for everyone in attendance and reacting to a questionable call is fine. But do fans really need to scream at the top of their lungs, “You are terrible, ref” or “That’s horrible, I am going to kick…” Have some respect, just like you would demand respect in your own workspace.

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. You can follow him on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) for the latest in local sports news and game reports.



Northwestern freshman Kendall Bostic in action against Southwood. (SJ photo/William Gibson)

Northwestern freshman Kendall Bostic in action against Southwood. (SJ photo/William Gibson)



KOKOMO, Ind. – In case you haven’t been paying attention, something special is happening in the northwest part of Howard County and it is called Lady Tigers basketball. Through the first 13 games of the season, the Northwestern girls basketball team has taken on all-comers – and all 13 teams have left the gym with a loss.

This Lady Tigers team is good – and I mean really good. Sure, people have been talking about this group of players for years as they swept through the middle schools ranks with dominance. Tiger Nation has been talking about this group of young women and how they would make a run at a state title by the time they are juniors and seniors. Well guess what, they are freshmen and sophomores right now and currently are ranked No. 18 in the IBCA all-class poll, No. 4 in the ICGSA Class 3A poll and No. 10 in the all-class Sagarin Ratings.

Under the guidance of fifth-year coach Kathie Layden – a Howard County Sports Hall of Fame inductee who led Tri-Central to three state championships – this team is clicking on all cylinders. The three seniors – Sophia Beachy, Brianna Hahn and Beza Townsend – mixed with a solid crop of juniors and underclassmen have turned more than one head this season. At 13-0, they have the best record in the state and are one of 15 unbeatens remaining.

Looking at the stat sheet, the Lady Tigers are not just beating teams, they are destroying them despite playing up to 15-deep during a game. The squads 74.62 points per game is third best in the state behind 1A Indianapolis Tindley (101.00) and 4A Zionsville (74.82). The defense is giving up 34.69 points per game – 21st best in the state – for an average margin of 36.92 (only Tindley is better at a whopping 76.29).

The well-balanced team is led statistically by 6-foot-1 freshman Kendall Bostic, who is averaging 14.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Last weekend, she picked up an offer from NCAA Division I Xavier University. Fellow 6-foot-1 freshman Madison Layden is dropping in 13.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game. I have watched these two play for years at the middle school level, and they are the real deal – Layden has the best court vision I have seen in quite a while.

But those two are not alone – this squad is loaded. Hahn, a senior, is averaging 12.8 points and 2.3 assists per game. Taylor Boruff, a 5-foot-10 sophomore with an offer from Murray State, is averaging 9.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per outing. Beachy drops in 7.5 points and 4.2 assists per game from a guard slot. A trio of juniors – Kara Doer, Sarah Vas and Morgan Mercer – have been active and are averaging a combined 14.1 points per game. And 6-foot-1 sophomore Stephanie Burns has a knee injury and has not played yet after averaging nearly seven points and seven rebounds as a freshman.

On Thursday, the Lady Tigers travel to Indianapolis to battle a traditional state power –  3A No. 2 Heritage Christian (8-1). The three-time defending state champions – Class 3A last year and 2A the previous two – have won seven state championships. The Eagles only loss this season came on opening night, a 69-58 setback to 4A No. 3 Carmel (10-1). Since that loss, they have defeated 4A No. 9 Lawrence North (53-52) and 3A No. 5 Fort Wayne Concordia (50-39). The Northwestern vs. Heritage Christian battle has the potential to be epic – the state champs against the up-and-comers.

Coach Layden will know exactly where her squad stands after the game. But no matter the outcome Thursday night, this is a fun team to watch and teams will need to be ready come tournament time. The Lady Tigers have only won four sectional titles (2000, 2002, 2003 and 2008), and despite a tough 11-1 West Lafayette team in the bracket, they should capture a fifth in two months – and quite possibly end-up in a rematch with Heritage Christian down the road. If you haven’t already, I would highly suggest making your way out to Northwestern to catch this group in action.

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 for IU Kokomo athletics. You can follow him on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) for the latest in local sports news and game reports.