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Prep basketball season tips off TuesdayPosted Monday, November 23, 2009, at 7:03 PM
With apologies to the six area high school girls basketball teams, whose season started a couple of weeks ago, the high school prep basketball season, boys that is, begins Tuesday night when Eastern Greene travels to Spencer to face the Owen Valley Patriots.
Fans should be reminded that the junior-varsity game is set to begin at 6:30 p.m., 30 minutes later than almost every boys basketball regular-season contests are scheduled to start this year.
"Owen Valley will have some size that we will have to contend with Tuesday," said Eastern Greene coach Andy Igel. "And that will be something we have to face all season.
"They lost some of their perimeter players, but I am sure they have found some younger kids ready to step up and shoot the three."
Zach Ingram and Miles Hutchison are both 6-3 while point guard J.T. Yoho is 6-5. They are the three tallest Thunderbirds.
Igel is hoping that pressure on the perimeter and good position post defense will help negate any height disadvantages they may encounter.
On Wednesday, Union (Dugger) will play at Bloomfield and White River Valley will travel to Shoals in the annual night before Thanksgiving openers.
John Bucher will be making his Bloomfield coaching debut at his alma mater, taking over for Ron McBride who stepped down to become athletic director.
Bucher, who has previously been the varsity man at Borden and Princeton, will inherit a team that lost four starters and seven seniors from last year's Class 2A Sectional championship team. Leading scorer Andy Cochrane does return.
Union (Dugger) also was hit hard by graduation. The Bulldogs, who have 17 players in the program including eight freshmen, will be young. Only reserves Trent Collins and Dustin Howard, both seniors, return with any varsity experience. Collins did have a couple of starts in 2008-09.
"Bloomfield has a new coach so I don't know exactly what to expect out of them," said Union (Dugger) coach Clarence Johnson. "But John played at Bloomfield and they probably will try to play a style similar to what they have played in the past. Their teams always play hard and play smart basketball.
"We will be asking several kids to step up from the junior varsity to the varsity this year. I believe they also lost key players from last year as well."
Former Eastern Greene standout and Lady Thunderbird coach J.B. Neill will be making his boys coaching debut for White River Valley when the Wolverines play at Shoals Wednesday. The Jug Rox are still be coached by former Worthington graduate Brian Smith.
Neill inherits a Wolverine team that stumbled at the end of last year, winning just nine games. WRV lost its last five and 8 of 10.
Jared Shelton, Levi Hostetter, Ethan Dyer, Bill Dove, Cole Goodman return with significant experience, along with Eastern Greene transfer David McNeal, a former double-figurer scorer for the T-Birds.
Then on Saturday, Linton-Stockton will host North Knox, Eastern Greene will play its annual war at Bloomfield and White River Valley will host Vincennes Rivet in the season-opener for the Patriots.
The Miners will likely have two freshmen in the starting line-up -- Dess Fougerousse and Austin Karazsia.
Chase Rhoten and Caleb Stuppy are both returning lettermen expected to play key roles for Linton-Stockton. The biggest key for the Miners will likely be at point guard. With Keith Cunningham lost to graduation and Evan Magni deciding not to play hoops this winter after a standout football season, the Miners will have to find someone to take care of and distribute the basketball.
Coach Darren Clayton said another key for the Miners will be defensive improvement. They allowed almost 60 points per game in 2008-09.
"That's just too many to give up in this area," he said.
What about Shakamak you ask? The Lakers, who used to open Thanksgiving week against North Vermillion and played in that traveling holiday tournament with Rivet, Washington Catholic and North Central over Thanksgiving weekend before that, will not play until Friday, Dec. 4 when they entertain Bloomfield.
The Lakers, along with Eastern Greene and Shakamak, have one of the most veteran teams returning, led by the area's leading scorer in Billy Newton. The biggest loss for the Lakers was Ethan Stanifer, who is now playing at North Central.
Coach Steve Brett, who is starting his second season at SHS, will try to harness all that talent, including John Smith, Tyler Richardson, Jarred VanHorn and Jordan Langford, into a cohesive unit.
Igel said that he expects that his Thunderbirds, Shakamak and White River Valley will be at the top of the SWIAC. He added that Linton-Stockton will be much improved and that Bloomfield will surprise.
Defending Class A Sectional champion Clay City lost several players to graduate and are now being coached by former North Central assistant Vance Edmondson.
Igel added that defending SWIAC champion North Daviess also should be competitive.
This is the last year of the Tri-River Conference. It served its purpose but having Shakamak, Linton-Stockton, Clay City and Union (Dugger) in both the TRC and SWIAC is too much duplication. Eminence is now free to find more opponents closer to the Indianapolis area.
I have been told by multiple sources that North Central will be joining the SWIAC next year.
All the boys teams are 0-0 and have dreams of winning the conference(s), invitational championships or more importantly the sectional.
Don't forget to pickup a copy of our annual 2009-10 Winter Sports Preview, which came out in Saturday's paper. You can still pick up a copy for 75 cents. All 12 area boys and girls basketball teams are previewed, including photos, rosters and schedules.
The basketball season is the longest of all prep sports and there are many twists and turns ahead. We will see you at the Class A White River Valley and Class 2A North Knox Sectionals in March.
Good luck to all players, coaches and fans.
B.J. Hargis is the sports editor at the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at (812) 847-4487, ext 12 or at email@example.com.
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