COUGAR MEN BATTLING TO GET TO THE .500 MARK UNDER NEW LEADERSHIP

Trent Elliott launches a 3-pointer for IU Kokomo. (SJ photo/William Gibson)

The Indiana University Kokomo men’s basketball team inched closer to the .500 mark after a 99-78 victory over Midway University on the road in Kentucky. The Cougars stand 3-2 in River States Conference action following the win.

At 3:04 into the first half, the Eagles saw its final lead of the game (5-4) before a two-pointer from Eddie Miles propelled IU Kokomo to a lead that they grew for the rest of the contest. The Cougars were a strong force on offense, hitting 50.6-percent of its shots including 10 for 23 from 3-point range. IUK also outrebounded Midway 46-33.

“This was the most complete game we have played up to this point in the season,” said first-year

IUK head coach Tom Church. “We had a great week of practice and it definitely carried over to today.”

Leading the offensive attack was all-time leading scorer Trent Elliott, who had a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds. Also posting 19 points, Durante Lee went 8 for 8 from the field and 3 for 4 from the charity stripe. Antoin Clifton, Eddie Miles and Akil McClain each put up 11 points.

Kokomo graduate Ty Sparling, a Midway freshman guard, played seven minutes and missed both of his shot attempts but grabbed one offensive rebound. Sparling has played in all 12 games for the Eagles (4-8), averaging 2.5 points per game while gabbing 18 total rebounds with seven assists.

The Cougars remain on the road with a trip to Whiting to face off against Calumet College of St. Joseph on Dec. 19 at 7 p.m.

Women fall in Kentucky

The Indiana University Kokomo women’s basketball team suffered a low-scoring 65-58 loss at the hands of Midway University to drop the squad to 6-5 overall and 2-3 in RSC action.

Although the Cougars out-rebounded the Eagles 36-30, Midway’s defensive efforts were not lost as the Eagles posted four blocks and eight steals.

Whitney Williamson shot 6 for 12 on the day, including 2 for 4 from behind the arc, for a 15-point outing. Deja Felder also dropped in 15 points while grabbing nine rebounds and dishing three assists. Abby Scott added 11 points and Dejianna Butler captured a game-high 12 rebounds.

“We looked better as a team,” said IUK head coach Colie Trawick. “We just couldn’t find a way to get the result we wanted. Hoping we can turn the narrative around soon.”

The Lady Cougars return home to host Judson University on Dec. 19 at 5:30 p.m. before taking a short Holiday break.

Courtesy of Indiana University Kokomo

 

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BOB WONNELL IS VICTORIOUS IN HIS KOKOMO WILDKATS DEBUT

Bob Wonnell coaches the Kokomo Wildkats against Western in his Memorial Gym debut. (SJ photo/William Gibson)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. –  The Bob Wonnell era at Kokomo High School is off to a bang – at least inside the friendly confines of Memorial Gymnasium. After his Wildkat debut was delayed 13 days due to the success of the football team, Wonnell led Kokomo to a 69-44 victory over Western in his first game and the Kats improved to 2-1 with a thrilling come-from-behind 88-77 overtime win over Frankfort last Saturday.

For the coach who led Class 1A Indianapolis Tindley to a state championship inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse nine months ago, walking into Memorial Gymnasium for the first time was exactly how he envisioned it when he accepted the job as the 25th head coach in the 115th season of Wildkat boys basketball. His first Kats victory was played before a Tuesday night crowd of nearly 3,000 fans in the annual cross-county opening night rivalry game.

“This is what I was looking forward to; this is Indiana high school basketball,” said Wonnell after the Western victory. “There are movies made about this state and this sport. When you close your eyes and envision what that would and should look like, this was it.”

With his win over Western, Wonnell became the first head coach to win his debut game since Mike Wade defeated Western 76-72 in 2000. Along the way, Rick Baumgartner lost to Western 62-57 in 2005 after Wade became the Kats athletic director, Brian McCauley lost to Western 61-50 in 2006 and Matt Moore lost to the Panthers 54-47 in 2014.

“I had heard from colleagues and students (about this game),” said Wonnell. “And the student section and the Star Wars theme and performance – this is what every coach wants to be a part of. It is an environment in a community that cares about its team – it was everything I had hoped for … and more.”

Wonnell, who led Tindley to a 51-49 win over Lafayette Central Catholic on March 25 to win a state championship, said the delayed start to the season was tough but worth it.

“We had tryouts on Nov. 6 and are finally here on Dec. 5, but it was fun,” said Wonnell, who has a 157-88 record in 11 years on the bench. “Man, it exceeded my expectations. It had a big-game feel.”

The Kats season started with a fast-paced win over Western. Kokomo jumped to a 17-7 lead in the first stanza and led 47-22 at halftime. Trajan Deckard paced Kokomo with 16 points (6 for 8 shooting), four assists and three steals. Jeremy Baker added 16 points, Anthony Barnard scored 11 and Nate Hemmerich added nine.

Western was led by the 17 points of Zyaire Kelley, who hit 4 of 5 3-point attempts.

Kokomo fell on the road in its second game to Class 4A No. 11 McCutcheon 84-55 but recovered with a thrilling win in game three at home. Down by 17 in the fourth stanza, Kokomo mounted an improbable comeback that was sealed by a step-back 3-pointer from the deep corner near the Wildkats bench by Trajan Deckard to tie the game at 73.

The comeback was propelled by Barnard, a senior bound for Purdue Northwest this fall. While the Hot Dogs were red hot through three quarters (62.9-percent from the field), Barnard struggled on 6 for 15 shooting. But with the game on the line, he caught fire and hit 7 of his last 12 shots and scored 21 of his game-high 34 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. In OT, Barnard sealed the game with a slam dunk that electrified the already raucous crowd.

“Man, we could have tucked our tail, but we fought,” said Wonnell.

In the 30-point fourth quarter, Barnard scored 13 points and Deckard had 10 as the Kats kicked its pace-of-play into high gear – something the Hot Dogs could not match. Fundamentals also helped Kokomo as it finished 24 for 29 at the free throw line.

Deckard finished with 24 points, Jayveon White scored 11 and Shemar Robinson had six points, including four in the fourth quarter stretch run.

Kokomo has another double-header weekend when they travel to Marion (3-1) on Friday night before hosting Huntington North (5-0) on Saturday.

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NORTHWESTERN TIGERS OFF TO A 4-0 START IN BOYS BASKETBALL

Northwestern celebrates a road victory over Western in an early-season Hoosier Conference clash. (SJ photo/William Gibson)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

RUSSIAVILLE, Ind. – The Class 3A No. 17 Northwestern Tigers are hot, and it is only the first week of December. Following easy wins over Madison-Grant (79-45) and Tri-Central (84-42), the Tigers knocked off a feisty and surprising Western squad 57-49 in Russiaville before returning home and stunning Mississinewa 45-43. It is the second consecutive year Northwestern has started the boys basketball season 4-0.

Last Friday night, the Tigers traveled to a nearly sold-out Richard R. Rea Gymnasium looking for a fourth-straight win in the Hoosier Conference and cross-county rivalry. While they grabbed the victory, it was not easy. After jumping to a quick 16-8 lead after eight minutes, it was not until a final minute slam dunk by sophomore Tayson Parker that head coach Jim Gish could breathe easy.

In between the quick start and final slam dunk was a classic battle of the long-time rivals – and the emergence of two stars in the making. For the Tigers, it was Parker – a player who has been homeschooled and enrolled at Northwestern over the summer. Making his big-game debut in front of a raucous crowd, Parker scored 26 points and had six assists. With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, he scored 12 fourth quarter points – including the dunk, a 3-pointer and the Tigers final nine points.

For Western, it was freshman Kyle Sanders who made a statement. After hitting a first quarter 3-pointer, he came to life in the third stanza with a trio of triples to keep the Panthers within striking distance at 39-33. He did not slow in the fourth, scoring 11 en route to a 23-point scoring night, which included six 3-pointers. He accounted for 20 of Western’s 27 second half points.

For Northwestern, Ben Harris added 12 points and Cameron Austin had seven. For the Panthers (0-2), Cooper O’Neal had 16 points and Blake Constable added six.

The following night, Northwestern found itself down by 10 points to Mississinewa in the final minute of play before Parker took the game over once again. Down 41-31, Parker scored on a drive to start the improbable comeback. Parker took a turnover and scored on a jumper before Ole Miss missed on a two-shot free throw attempt. Brayden Maples was then fouled and hit both Tigers freebies to trim the lead to four with :44 remaining.

Conner Wilson put Mississinewa up six with a pair of free throws only to see T.J. Macaluso score on the other end. Another Ole Miss turnover resulted in Parker canning a 3-pointer with 21 seconds remaining. The Indians then missed another pair of free throws, and then they fouled Parker. The sophomore hit both to give Northwestern a 44-43 lead. After another Ole Miss turnover, Parker hit one of two charity stripe attempts with one second remaining to seal the win.

Parker finished with 23 points while Macaluso and Bowser each had six.

Northwestern travels to Taylor Friday night while Western is at Memorial Gymnasium for its annual test with Kokomo on Dec. 5 as part of a girls-boys doubleheader (girls tip at 6 p.m.).

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