BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – With the fall sports season now complete and the girls hoops season in full swing, it is time to focus on the start of the boys basketball season – and fireworks started on opening night in Russiaville. In the traditional season opener, Kokomo and Western squared off at the Richard R. Rea Gymnasium, and for only the eighth time in the 69-game series, the Panthers knocked off the Wildkats 53-47.
With a near full-house at Western – and two rocking student sections – the Panthers led 8-5 after one quarter and 21-18 at the break. After an even third stanza, Western secured the win with free throws. Kyle Sanders led Western with 17 points while Deonta Chamberlain had a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds for Kokomo.
Unfortunately, the Panthers could not turn the win into a steak as it lost its next three contests in a busy first 11 days – dropping games to Lebanon (52-46), Northwestern (54-40) and Logansport (52-34).
Kokomo also dropped its next game 75-33 to Westfield – it marked the third-worst loss in the history of the Wildkats basketball program. They did rebound in game three with a 47-35 win at Peru. Kokomo will make its Memorial Gymnasium debut on Friday against North Central Conference foe McCutcheon.
Northwestern has started the season strong with three wins – Western, Madison-Grant (69-66) and Mississinewa (51-46). With a seasoned squad returning from last year’s 15-8 team – including junior all-state contender Tayson Parker and senior starters Logan Bowser and Ben Harris – coach Jim Gish and the Tigers should compete for a sectional title by season’s end.
Under second-year coach Jake Leicht, Taylor dropped its first two games (Frankton and Lewis Cass) before rebounding with a conference win at Tri-Central (54-47) and a home win against the Golden Eagles of Oak Hill (52-44). With single-digit wins the last two campaigns, Taylor is sitting in prime position to get back to a winning season.
After two consecutive eight-win seasons, Eastern is off to a strong start with a pair of road wins at Clinton Central (61-48) and Eastbrook (53-52). It was three short years ago that the Comets celebrated a sectional title – could one be on the horizon this year?
See the December 4 edition of the Sports Journal for complete boys basketball schedules and conference standings for Howard County teams.