Archive for March 29, 2017


Craig Simmons drives by Jessica Green during the annual Bona Vista Disability Awareness Basketball Game at Memorial Gymnasium. (SJ photo/Dean Hockney)



KOKOMO, Ind. – In Indiana, basketball in March is king, and for the 16th year, Bona Vista Programs hosted its own version of Hoosier Hysteria with its annual Disability Awareness Basketball Game. And for at least the eighth consecutive year, the Bona Vista All-Star team defeated the Celebrities Team 79-58 in front of hundreds of cheering fans at Memorial Gymnasium.

“It is always a great event and a fantastic way to support Bona Vista,” said Allison Brantley, development and public relations coordinator at Bona Vista. “This will also people to interact with some of our adult persons served at Bona Vista – they are very social.”

After a slow start by Bona Vista – the Celebrities led 12-8 after one quarter thanks in part to Bart Irwin dropping in five points – the home team got things going in period two. Eric Chalk and Craig Simmons took over the offense, combing for 14 points to give the All-Stars a 34-26 lead at the break.

The Celebrities tried to get back in the game in the third quarter with 3-pointers from Rodney Ogle, Brian Pier and Troy Stiner, but Nate McFarland got hot for Bona Vista and responded with eight points. With Simmons adding another six points, the All-Stars led 62-39 going into the final stanza. Holding a 23-point lead, Tallis Bowers sealed the win with a 3-pointer for Bona Vista.

McFarland led all scorers with 16 points for Bona Vista. Chalk added 14 and Simmons scored 12 for the champs. Tristan Rogers scored 10 with the rest of the points coming from Steven Martin (6), Robert Weaver (4), Patrick Hamilton (4), Jessica Brewer (4), Charles McKinney (4), Tallis Bowers (3) and Dorman Miller (2). Other members of the team included Eli Alexander and Ally Oyler; Donta Rogers served as the head coach.

For the Celebrity Team, Stiner scored 13 and Irwin dropped in 10. Other scorers included Pier (9), Ogle (8), Tom Hughes (6), Jason Snyder (5), Torrey Roe (4) and Ryan Smalley (3). The rest of the team included Jessica Green, Kevin Sprinkle and Mark Jansen. Steve Geiselman and Chad McCarter served as coaches; Green and McCarter earned technical fouls during the contest.

Despite the technical foul – which was made in jest – Green said she loves the event and getting on the floor of Memorial Gymnasium. The former Nebraska high school sharp-shooter and current morning host on Z92.5 is always a crowd favorite.

“We participate and promote the Bona Vista basketball game because we 100-percent support the services provided. They are changing lives daily and providing opportunities for people who might not have them otherwise,” she said. “We feel it’s important that all members of our community feel a sense of belonging and realize that their piece to the Kokomo puzzle is just as important as everyone else’s. We love Bona Vista.”

The evening started with a declaration read by Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight and the National Anthem sung by Kim Sprinkle. During breaks in the action, there were performances by Kickin’ It with Kari junior and senior group, Kokomo High School cheerleaders, Central Middle International School Fusion Class and the Kokomo Dance Team (KHS and CMIS pom and hip hop).

The event also served as a fundraiser for programs at Bona Vista.

“It had not been a fundraiser in the past,” she said. “Because we have an amazing community, we thought we could generate some funds for Bona Vista programs. And we had great celebrities who helped. We also solicited sponsorships this year, and we are excited about that.”

Brantley said this year’s game was the most successful ever, raising more than $17,000 to far surpass the original goal of $10,000. Maple Crest STEM Middle School Principal Tom Hughes won an award for the celebrity who raised the most money. With the help of teacher Vicki Boles and Maple Crest students, Hughes presented a check to Bona Vista for $5,653.85.

Brantley said she would like to thank the following for donating time to the event: basketball officials Tim Knowland, Greg Cunningham and Dick Smith; scorekeeper Noah Zunick; PA announcer James Robinson; Kellie Weaver and family for concessions; Felicia Lowrey; Expressions Design; Z92.5, WIOU 1350 and Rock 98.5; Kokomo Center Schools; Kokomo Herald; Kokomo Perspective; Kokomo Tribune; Sports Journal of Central Indiana; and the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council.



RUSSIAVILLE, Ind. – Bart Miller has been a fixture on the Western High School boys basketball sidelines for decades – first as a player and continuing as the head coach. But on March 21, that era came to a close with Athletic Director Josh Larsh’s announcement that Miller had resigned.

“Bart Miller resigned today as head boys varsity basketball coach at Western,” Larsh said in a prepared statement. “Coach Miller began coaching at Western in 2002, and was named the varsity coach in 2012.”

Miller compiled a record of 49-65 during his five seasons, including a sectional runners-up finish in 2014. His first campaign was a 13-9 season and the Panthers were 15-7 when it lost to Twin Lakes in the sectional finals. In year three, Western was 13-11, but the last two years saw the squad win just eight games – four in each season. The Panthers started this campaign 0-16 before winning three of its final five regular season contests.

As a player, he helped lead the Panthers to the 1990 Kokomo Sectional championship. He then spent 14 years as an assistant coach to Andy Weaver, who departed for Plainfield prior to the 2012 season.

Miller’s tenure was not always smooth – he suffered a minor heart attack at the start of the 2015-2016 campaign and endured a knee injury to standout Des Balentine in 2014-2015. After the heart issue, he quickly returned to the Richard Rea Gymnasium sideline he loved.

“We would like to thank Coach Miller for his dedication to the Western boys basketball program and wish him only the best,” said Larsh. “The search for Western’s next varsity boys basketball coach will begin immediately.”



KOKOMO, Ind. – The cloud that has hovered over the Indiana University Kokomo basketball team has been lifted as school administrators announced Tom Church was hired as the new head coach of the Cougars men’s basketball program. Church replaces interim head coach Alex Birge. Church is currently ending his four-year reign at NCAA Division II Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, which recently announced it is ceasing operations.


(Editor’s note: Neither Church or IUK administrators were available for comment prior to the Sports Journal deadline.)


Church will be the third coach in IUK history and second on a full-time basis. While he replaces Birge, Jace Thompson coached the first five-plus seasons before suddenly resigning midway through the 2016-2017 campaign. Church takes over a team that was 10-20 this season – it marked the first double-digit win mark in the short six-year history of the Cougars program.


Church was the 18th coach at St. Joseph’s and led the team to a 31-82 mark in his four seasons, but had improved the Pumas record each year. He followed a 4-24 inaugural season with records of 6-22, 9-19 and 12-17 this year while playing in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.


Prior to his time at St. Joseph’s, Church spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Florida Southern College (2010-2013) and St. Joe (2007-2010).


During his time as the top assistant coach for Florida Southern, the Moccasins were 70-25 with two Sunshine State Conference Tournament championships (2012 and 2013). The program made three NCAA Division II Tournament appearances, winning the South Regional in 2013 for an Elite Eight appearance.


He had similar success during his time as an assistant at St. Joseph’s – the Pumas held a 53-37 record with two NCAA Division II Tournament appearances in 2008 and 2010.  In 2010 the Pumas won the Great Lakes Valley Conference North Division and won three straight games as the eighth seed in the Midwest Regional to advance to the Elite Eight.


According to his official SJC bio, Church attended Ashland University for four years, where he was twice named to the Academic All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Team and was a team captain as a senior in 2003. He started all but one game that year, averaging 8.9 points and 4.3 rebounds, and was second on the team in both three-pointers and three-point shooting percentage (40 for 105). In his collegiate career, Church made 104 three-point field goals and shot 38 percent from behind the arc.


He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Education in 2003, and later earned his Master’s of Education in Administration from Ashland in 2006. Church and his wife Jennifer welcomed their first child, Harrison, into the world over the summer of 2015 and have a second child on the way.


IU Kokomo is still working on filling its vacant women’s basketball coaching position.