Archive for Old School Sectional Tournament

WILDKAT DOMINATION: KOKOMO REPEATS AS COKE OLD SCHOOL SECTIONAL CHAMPIONS

The No. 4 Kokomo Wildkats repeated as Old School Sectional champions. (SJ Photo: William Gibson)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. - Total domination! That may be the best way to describe Kokomo’s run through the Coca-Coca Old School Sectional field as the Wildkats repeated as the tournament champions after outscoring its three opponents 204-80 in the second annual event. The Kats were crowned champions after beating Western 67-26 in the championship game. The Wildkats, ranked fourth in the state in the coaches all-class poll, knocked off Maconaquah 81-37 in the quarter-finals and Taylor 56-17 in the semi-finals.

“To hold Western to 26 points and single digits in every quarter, and the last quarter just three points, is one phenomenal defensive effort,” said Kokomo head coach Brian McCauley, who recorded his 100th win in the Taylor victory. “It was really a team effort, and I am proud of the way we played, especially defensively.”

In the championship game, Tayler Persons led Kokomo with 21 points (8 of 10 from inside the arc) and 10 rebounds. LaBradford Sebree added 12 points and Kylee Beheler grabbed a career-high nine rebounds. Western was led by the 12 point, seven rebound performance of Ronnie Smith, both team highs.

Persons, a junior, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after having a lights-out final day. In Saturday’s two games (Friday’s scheduled games were played on Saturday due to weather postponements), Persons scored 39 points on 17-26 shooting (16-19 from 2-point range). He also grabbed 14 rebounds and had five steals – all after learning his grandfather had passed away Friday night.

“I came in focused and I don’t really care about winning the MVP,” said Persons, who wrote a tribute to his grandfather, Eric Donelson, on his game shoes. “I just wanted to win the games and I wanted to play good for my grandpa – I really looked up to him and miss him already.”

McCauley said, “Tayler had a great week. It was an emotional week as he played for his grandfather, who was like a second father figure to him.”

Kokomo’s domination of the tournament included shooting 55-percent from the field (63-percent from 2-point range), forcing 75 turnovers and holding its opponents to single-digits in its last nine quarters and in 12 of 14 tournament quarters. The lowest Kokomo scored in a quarter was 12. The Kats outscored Maconaquah 35-7 in the fourth quarter, Taylor 34-7 in the first half and Western 38-11 in the second half. But that might be expected as Kokomo has the best record in Indiana and gives up just 38.7 points per game (sixth best in the state).

“We did a great job of contesting shots and playing aggressive defense,” said McCauley. “You can go down the line and every one of our players played well. This was really a total team effort because even when we put in our bench, they got the job done.”

The Taylor Titans finished in third place after upsetting Northwestern 49-38 in the consolation game. Eastern placed fifth after a 65-58 win over Maconaquah. The game of the tournament was a semi-final matchup in which Western nipped Northwestern 71-70 in triple overtime thanks to a buzzer-beater by Mitchell Shahan.

“I think fatigue was a factor for (Northwestern),” said Taylor head coach Andy Lewman after his squads upset win. “I feel for them – we were tired after playing Kokomo and we didn’t have a triple overtime game. But I thought we did a good job competing and were six for seven from the free throw line – so that is a good step forward. Winning two of three is nice. We did some good things and we are pleased with where our effort fell. Any time you can win two of three in a week, especially with the competition we have seen, is good. I look at the Kokomo game as the measuring stick, so getting Northwestern is big.”

Most Valuable Player: Tayler Persons, Kokomo.

All-Tournament Team: Tayler Persons, Kokomo; LaBradford Sebree, Kokomo; Des Balentine, Western; Ronnie Smith, Western; Nathan Gotshall, Taylor; Trenton Brazel, Northwestern.

Howard County boys basketball records: No. 4 Kokomo 9-0, Western 6-3 (two losses to Kokomo), Northwestern 5-3 (two losses to Western), Eastern 3-5, Taylor 2-7.

SPORTS JOURNAL: 2011 STORIES OF THE YEAR

Kokomo's run to the IHSAA Class 4A state championship game is the top sports story in Central Indiana for 2011. (SJ photo: WILLIAM GIBSON)

#1 KATS RETURN TO STATE PROMINENCE

What a run it was. It started with a 10-game winning streak to begin the season, witnessed a North Central Conference title in the middle, and ended in heartbreak at Conseco Fieldhouse. But any way that you look at it, the Kokomo Wildkats boys basketball team thrilled not only the city, but all of Howard County as they enjoyed a memorable run that culminated with an IHSAA Class 4A state runners-up finish. It marked the fifth bridesmaid honor in the 108-year history of the program but the first trip to the finals since 1997.

Kokomo’s historic run started with easy wins in the Logansport Sectional over Harrison (60-47), Lafayette Jefferson (68-51) and the host Berries (92-57). The Kats then downed Jay County 44-37 in the semi-final game of the Marion Regional, then won a thrilling double-overtime game against Pendleton Heights 58-55 when LaBradford Sebree beat the horn with a 3-pointer from deep in the corner of the Bill Green Athletic Complex. Next up was a trip to the Final Four in the Lafayette Semi-State against No. 1-ranked and undefeated Munster, and it took a last second 3-pointer by D.J. Balentine to send the 10th-ranked Kats to the state finals against No. 4 Bloomington South.

Unfortunately, the run ended as Kokomo was ice cold from the field and South downed the Kats 56-42 on the biggest stage of the high school season. Kokomo’s normally solid shooting squad only hit 1 of 15 from beyond the arc in the heartbreaking loss.

Regardless, the run was a thrill ride for the Wildkat Nation. Thousands of fans followed Kokomo throughout the tournament and it was apparent this group of Red and Blue uniformed Kats won the hearts of a community. Names like Balentine, Swain, Sebree, Persons, Tinder, Moses, Bridgeforth, Salinas, Bowen, Meriwether, Collins, Burnett, Fowler and Clark will be remembered for a long time. No doubt – this was the top sports story in Central Indiana for 2011.

The Kokomo boys basketball team became the darlings of the community as they made a run to the IHSAA Class 4A state finals (see page 9 for the story). After the season, head coach Brian McCauley was named as a coach for the Indiana Junior All-Star team and University of Evansville recruit D.J. Balentine was named a core-five member of the Indiana Junior All-Star team.

#2 BEACHY STRIKES OUT THE SIDE

Northwestern High School graduate Brandon Beachy took the Major League Baseball world by storm this year. After being called up to help the Atlanta Braves close the 2010 season, Beachy headed into the 2011 Spring Training with one goal – make the Braves rotation. He did and became a stalwart in the rotation. By the time he dusted off his Braves uniform for the final time of 2011, he had a record of 7-3 in 25 starts, with an ERA of 3.68 in 141.2 innings.

He also recorded 169 strikeouts to set the Braves franchise rookie strikeout mark, breaking the previous mark of 156 set in 1950. The righties 10.7 strikeout rate was second best in the Major Leagues and fourth best in MLB history for rookie pitchers. That is why he is the Sports Journal co-Athlete of the Year for 2011.

#3 GO SPARTANS!

For the next four-and-a-half years, Howard County will become fans of the Michigan State Spartans as two area players are friends with Sparty. Kokomo graduate Brandon Wood has done what few Wildkat basketball players have done before, break into the starting lineup of a Big Ten school. After being named to the All-Horizon League First Team and graduating from Valparaiso University with eligibility left, Wood chose to play one season for the Spartans and has made an immediate impact – even starting the Carrier Classic game in front of President Barack Obama.

Once Wood graduates this spring, Howard County residents will tune into Spartan football to watch soon-to-be Eastern graduate and three-sport standout Josiah Price play on the gridiron for MSU head coach Mark Dantonio. Price finished his high school football career by leading the Comets to within one win of an improbable Mid-Indiana Conference title. He was named Associated Press Class 2A First Team All-State and the Indiana Football Coaches Association placed him on its Top 50 All-State Team. Maybe a berth on the All-Big Ten Freshman squad is next.

#4 LET’S GO COUGARS!

It sounded ambitious – maybe even unattainable – when it was formally announced in early 2011. IU Kokomo Chancellor Dr. Michael Harris proclaimed that he wanted to start an athletic program and have a women’s volleyball team on the court by the start of the season in the fall. Never mind the fact that there were no coaches, players or facilities.

But when the fall season started, there was Dr. Harris standing in the Northwestern High School bleachers proudly cheering on his IU Kokomo Cougars volleyball team and head coach Kristen Snoddy. At the same time, Jace Thompson was busy signing players and forming a college basketball team – and when they took the court for the first time just two months later – the Cougar men promptly won its first game on the road in Gary against IU Northwest.

So congratulations to Dr. Harris and the new Cougar Nation on setting the bar high and going for broke. We hope the NAIA application is approved and more sports are added in the future. Let’s go Cou-gars (Clap. Clap. Clap, clap, clap)!

#5 AVERTING CATASTROPHE

On Dec. 3, 14 members of the Kokomo High School girls swim team found themselves on a bus with a driver who would eventually be tested with a blood alcohol concentration of .20-percent. According to the Howard County Sheriff Department, bus driver Theresa Mast was arrested for driving while intoxicated, but thanks to the quick thinking of the head coach and a parent following the bus in a privately owned vehicle, Mast pulled the bus over before anyone was hurt.

According to police reports, a witness said, “it was the scariest thing she ever witnessed.” Mast pled not guilty to the charges and is now awaiting a court date after being charged with three counts, including a D Felony Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated Endangering a Minor. The Kokomo-Center School Corporation terminated Mast.

See the January 3 edition of the Sports Journal for the whole list of top stories. Digital subscriptions are free!

OLD SCHOOL SECTIONAL TOURNEY FIELD IS SET

E.P. Severns, Jr., president of Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Kokomo, draws Western in the first position of the Old School Kokomo Sectional Tournament.

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

On Monday, approximately 100 players coaches, administrators and fans ate dinner at Whiskey Creek and watched as E.P. Severns, Jr. conducted the first-ever blind draw for the Inaugural Old School Sectional boys basketball tournament presented by the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Kokomo. Players and coaches from Eastern, Northwestern, Taylor, Western and Maconaquah have been on edge for months, wondering if they would draw mighty No. 3-ranked Kokomo in the first round, or perhaps have a shot at the upset in the championship game.

As the draw commenced, Severns drew Western out first, followed quickly by Eastern to complete the first match-up of the tourney. Taylor was drawn third and will face Northwestern in game two on the first night. That left Maconaquah and Kokomo to battle in the bye round on the second night of the tourney. So when the draw was done, for a Howard County team to meet the Kats, they will have to be the king of the county and hope Kokomo beats the Braves.

For those who are not familiar with this new event, Eastern, Taylor, Northwestern and Western will forgo the 2012 Howard County Boys Basketball Tournament and will join Maconaquah and Kokomo in the seven-game event to be played over the Christmas holiday season. These six schools competed in the Kokomo Sectional during the late 1960s and mid-1970s, and again from 1985 until class tournament play began in 1998.

Kokomo’s historic Memorial Gymnasium will serve as the host facility, with the first two games being played on Dec. 23, starting at 6 p.m. The second night of games will consist of three contests on Dec. 27, beginning at 4 p.m. The championship and consolation games will start at 6 p.m. on Dec. 28.

Severns, president of the local Coca-Cola Bottling Company, said he and his employees were honored to play a part in the historic event.

“Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Kokomo has a long history of involvement with the athletic programs of the school corporations in Howard County and the surrounding area,” Severns said. “We were approached by the athletic directors, and we were very flattered that they considered Coca-Cola as their first choice to be the signature sponsor of this event. We are pleased to partner with these school corporations in a basketball tournament that may be able to fill Memorial Gym once again.”

Tournament ticket books for all seven games are on sale at all participating schools, priced at $12. Single session tickets priced at $6 will be sold at Memorial Gymnasium on game nights. All-sports tickets will not be in use for the tournament. For more information, contact any participating local athletic office.

FOR A COMPLETE BRACKET, SEE THE NOV. 29 SPORTS JOURNAL

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2011

ALL GAMES AT KOKOMO'S MEMORIAL GYMNASIUM

Game 1 - 6 p.m. - Western vs Eastern (Greentown)

Game 2 - 8 p.m. - Taylor vs Northwestern

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2011

Game 3 - 4 p.m. - Loser game 1 vs loser game 2

Game 4 - 6 p.m. - Winner game 1 vs winner game 2

Game 5 - 8 p.m. - Maconaquah vs Kokomo (bye game)

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2011

Game 6 - 6 p.m. - Winner game 3 vs loser game 5

Game 7 - 8 p.m. - CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - Winner game 4 vs winner game 5