INSTANT CLASSIC: KOKOMO TOPS WESTERN IN MUNICIPAL STADIUM SOFTBALL DEBUT

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – There have been many firsts since Kokomo Municipal Stadium opened its gates four year ago, but until April 30, it had not included high school softball. That changed when Kokomo and Western brought its annual Cancer Awareness Game to the downtown venue, and in front of nearly 1,000 fans, the two squads put on an instant classic.

The night opened with a ceremonial first pitch, thrown out by four women affected by cancer – survivors Juanita Tebbe, Sherri Parish and Janis Cooper along with Kokomo educator Megan McConnell, who is currently battling the disease. Once players and fans cleared away tears from the emotional ceremony, the game was on and Western struck first courtesy of a Chase Epp solo home run.

Down 1-0, Kokomo took a 4-1 lead in the top of the third. Olivia Branch singled, Baleigh Keesling-Mayer walked, Ellie Trine ripped an RBI single and Lauryn Hicks knocked home two with a double. Savanah Emmons closed the scoring with an RBI single. Western earned a run back in the bottom of the fourth on a Kinsey Smith solo home run, only to see the Lady Kats tack one on in the top of the fifth – Hicks singled and scored on an error.

Down 5-2, Western stormed back in the bottom of the fifth as Karlyne Shepherd and Tori Turner had back-to-back singles to start the inning. Chase Epp was hit with a pitch to load the bases and clean-up hitter Emma Key showed why she was in the power batting position by launching a grand slam to give the Panthers a 6-5 lead.

That lead held until the top of the seventh, but Kokomo was not done. Keelsing-Mayer walked and pinch-runner Tionna Brown stole second base. Hicks was then intentionally walked with two outs. Number three hitter Taylor Simmons sent a pitch to the base of the temporary outfield fence for a two-run double and Savannah Emmons followed with an RBI single to give the Lady Kats an 8-6 lead.

With starting pitcher Hicks still on the mound for Kokomo in the bottom of the seventh, Key led off with a single and the game appeared to be tied when Smith sent a ball to dead center field only to be caught by Branch near the fence. After a Sadie Harding single to put the tying run on base, Hicks retired the final two hitters to preserve the win.

Hicks pitched all seven innings to earn the nine-hit, eight-strikeout victory. She was also 2-for-3 at the plate with a single and double, two RBIs and three runs scored. Western reliever Brooklyn Shelton absorbed the loss.

The event raised more than $600 for the American Cancer Society. 

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KATS BRETT COLBY AND JAVIAS GRAY EARN FOOTBALL GRIDDY AWARDS

Kokomo’s Brett Colby and Javias Gray show off their IHSAA state finalist rings and newly acquired Griddy’s. (SJ photo/Dean Hockney)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

Lebanon, Ind. – Kokomo High School enjoyed a record-setting 2017 football season. Led my head coach Brett Colby, several Wildkat players earned all-conference and all-state accolades as part of a squad that finished as the Class 5A state runners-up. Last Sunday afternoon in Lebanon, the awards continued for the Kats.

At the 11th Annual Griddy Awards, presented by the Indiana Football Digest and Regional Radio Sports Network, a pair of Wildkats walked away with a Griddy. Head coach Brett Colby, who recently announced his retirement, earned the Class 5A Coach of the Year Award while junior Javias Gray was named to the 2018 Prime Time 25 squad.

For Colby, the Coach of the Year Award marked his second consecutive Griddy after receiving the 2017 Badge of Courage Griddy for leading his squad in tornado relief efforts. Colby and Gray also accepted a Griddy to represent Kokomo’s appearance in the IHSAA state finals.

The state-wide award also caps a sensational 28-year career that saw the football mentor finish with a 205-98 mark. Colby, the six-time North Central Conference Football Coach of the Year and the 2016-2017 NCC Boys Coach of the Year, departs Kokomo with a 90-31 record – his 90 wins are second best in Kokomo history behind Bob Hamilton (147) and his .747 winning percentage is unmatched. He posted a 66-10 (.868) record in NCC competition, finishing with seven conference titles in his 11 years. While at Kokomo, Colby coached more than three dozen All-State performers, six Indiana All-Stars and one IHSAA Mental Attitude Award recipient.

Colby has one more game to coach as he was selected as the head coach of the North squad in the annual Indiana North-South All-Star Game to be held on July 13 at North Central High School.

Gray, who will now grace the cover of the 2018 Indiana Football Digest as a member of the Prime Time 25, is a 5-foot-11, 265-pound nose guard who was a key ingredient to the state finals run of the Wildkats last November. A two-time all-state selection, he had 54 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, three quarterback sacks and two fumble recoveries. He was also a lineman for an offense that ran for more than 2,500 yards.

Kokomo was not the only local team to earn a Griddy. Now retired Tri-Central head coach George Gilbert was presented the Griddy for Lifetime Achievement. The 2017 inductee into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame, Gilbert ended his 38-year career with a 222-176 record, including a 61-40 mark with the Trojans. He highlighted his career when he led Tri-Central to the 2013 Class 1A state championship.

Tipton junior K.J. Roudebush, a 6-foot, 185-pound quarterback, will join Gray and 23 other players on the cover of the Indiana Football Digest after he was named to the 2018 Prime Time team. Last season, he completed 154 of 276 passes for 2,433 yards and 20 touchdowns. He added 12 more scores on the ground while rushing for 516 yards on 123 carries.

The Griddy Awards were held for the first time in 2007, at the Indianapolis Colts practice facilities and pavilion in Indianapolis. Although it was the first year, the concept started well before that first event. Indiana High School Football authority Paul Condry and his team at the Indiana Football Digest as well as Regional Radio Sports Network collaborated with the Colts organization as well high school coaches to create a celebration of Indiana High School Football once per year. This event would become the Oscars or ESPY’s of football in Indiana.

Each year, over 400 attendees to this banquet and award ceremony gather together to recognize the best players, coaches, and media representatives in Indiana High School Football. These award recipients are chosen after a panel of media and coaches review over 18,000 varsity players in Indiana.

Other award winners included: Coach of the Year in 1A Joey Paridaen of Eastern Greene, 2A Scott Buening of Southridge, 3A Mic Roessler of Brebeuf, 4A Justin Roden of East Central and 6A Mike Kirschner of Ben Davis; Defensive Coordinator of the Year was Derek Thompson of Lowell; Offensive Coordinator of the Year was Bob Gaddis of Columbus East; Excellence in Football Media Award went to Mike Skvara of Evansville and the National Football Foundation; Jason Kuntz Badge of Courage Award was earned by Kirschner; Brad Breyfogle Spirit of Sports Award went to Mark Jaynes, voice of the Indianapolis 500; Player of the Year in 1A Caleb Hamilton of Eastern Greene, 2A Jayce Harter of Southridge, 3A Michael Lindauer of Evansville Memorial, 4A Jordan Jusevitch of Lowell, 5A Jamon Hogan of Columbus East and 6A Reese Taylor of Ben Davis.

A complete list of all award winners and all-state selections can be found at www.griddys.com.

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NORTHWESTERN LADY TIGERS TO PLAY IN PRESTIGIOUS INDIANA BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME CLASSIC IN DECEMBER

NEW CASTLE, Ind. – 2018 IHSAA 3A girls champion Northwestern and undefeated 4A boys champion Warren Central are among stellar fields of outstanding teams, players and coaches for the 2018 Raymond James Hall of Fame Classic, to be played at the New Castle Fieldhouse on Friday, December 28 and Saturday, December 29.

The prestigious event, spotlighting the best in Indiana high school basketball, will be held for the 35th time for girls and it will be the 42nd edition for the boys. 

2018 Girls’ Raymond James Hall of Fame Classic
New Castle Fieldhouse – Friday, December 28, 2018

11:00 a.m. (ET) – Bedford North Lawrence vs. Northwestern
to follow – Jeffersonville vs. Homestead
6:00 p.m. – Consolation Game
to follow – Championship Game

2018 Boys’ Raymond James Hall of Fame Classic
New Castle Fieldhouse – Saturday, December 29, 2018

11:00 a.m. (ET) – Westview vs. Center Grove
to follow – Valparaiso vs. Warren Central
6:00 p.m. – Consolation Game
to follow – Championship Game

Selecting from the best teams in the state, the girls’ tournament has included 18 teams that went on to win a state championship that season, including 11 class champions and six class runner-up teams in the past 16 years alone. 

On the boys side, 14 participating teams have gone on to win their state championship – including 2018 2A champion Oak Hill – with six more finishing as state runner-up that season. 

Tickets for the tournaments will be available through participating schools and the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in the 2018-19 school year.

ABOUT THE GIRLS TEAMS

Bedford North Lawrence – The Lady Stars return four starters and nine total players from their 23-5 squad that reached the final four of the 2018 4A girls state tournament.

6’1” junior Jorie Allen (Indiana University), who has been named a member of the 2018 Indiana Junior All-Stars Core team, averaged 17.1 points and 8.0 rebounds, 6’2” sophomore Madison Webb averaged 8.1 points and 4.6 rebounds and 5’8” freshman Chloe McKnight averaged 8.0 points.

One of the  most decorated girls basketball programs in state history, BNL has won 19 or more games for seven straight seasons with a 167-23 (.879) record in that time, including two 4A championships, seven sectional titles, three regional championships and two semi-state victories in that span.

Jeff Allen is 89-19 in four seasons as head coach at Bedford North Lawrence.

The BNL girls become just the second program to make four appearances in Girls Classic history and are one of only three programs to have previously won the Girls Classic twice.  After a 1986 appearance, the Lady Stars won the 1990 and 2013 events, each of those occurring en route to a state tournament title (1991 state championship and 2014 4A championship) later that same season.

Northwestern – Following the most dominating postseason in IHSAA girls basketball history, the Lady Tigers return four starters and over 86% of their scoring from their 29-1 2018 3A championship squad.

6’1” sophomore guard Madison Layden averaged 18.7 points, 5.3 assists and 4.1 steals, 6’1” sophomore post Kendall Bostic averaged 15.6 points and 8.1 rebounds and 5’10” junior forward Taylor Boruff averaged 9.9 points.

Northwestern outscored their state tournament opponents by 42.9 points per game this postseason, the highest average by a champion team in IHSAA girls state tournament history.  They are 51-5 over the past two seasons and averaged 68.5 points per game this past season, 3rd best in the state.

Kathie Layden is 98-45 in six seasons as head coach at Northwestern and 276-145 in 18 seasons overall, including leading Tri-Central to 1A championships in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Northwestern makes their first appearance in the Classic.

Jeffersonville – Following a 20-6 campaign, the Lady Devils return significant weapons from a team that finished the 2017-18 season ranked #7 in the state polls. 

5’11” sophomore Nan Garcia averaged 16.7 points and 6.8 rebounds while 5’8” junior Tori Handley averaged 8.5 points this past season.

Another traditional girls basketball success, the Jeffersonville girls have won 15 or more games in each of head coach Mike Warren’s five seasons at the helm.

Warren has an 84-60 record in his five-year tenure.

Jeffersonville makes their third appearance in the Girls Classic.  After appearing in the 2003 event, they were runner-up in the 2010 event.

Homestead – Among the state’s most successful programs over the past decade, the Spartans expect to return 11 of their top 12 players from a 19-3 season that concluded ranked #6 in the state.

5’8” junior Sylare Starks, named a 2018 Indiana Junior All-Star, averaged 17.8 points and 3.1 assists, 6’0” sophomore Sydney Graber averaged 15.1 points and 7.7 rebounds, 6’0” junior Haley Swing averaged 8.4 points and 5.9 rebounds and 5’6” junior Kara Gealy averaged 7.4 points and 4.6 assists. 

The Homestead girls program is 202-29 (.874) over the past nine seasons, including a pair of 4A championship game appearances and 2017 4A championship victory.

Rod Parker is 289-115 in 17 seasons as head coach at Homestead.

Homestead makes their 2nd appearance in the Classic.  They were runners-up to Bedford North Lawrence in the 2013 event, with both programs appearing again in the event in 2018.

Courtesy of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame

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