LANE GILBERT By Austin Gordon
Sixty-four Indiana high school basketball teams – 16 in each of the four classes – celebrated sectional championships this past Saturday.
The other 339 teams saw their seasons come to an end Tuesday, Friday or Saturday.
The postseason brings with it a definite sense of finality. Every team – with the obvious exception of the four state champions – will at some point during the four weeks of the tournament lose its last game. And for the seniors it’s the last time they’ll put on the uniform and represent their high school on the basketball court.
South Knox coach Mark Rohrer has said when he’s going through the handshake line after a sectional game he chooses his words carefully when addressing an opposing senior who has just played his last game.
It’s a sad time indeed, especially to see it all end for a senior who had an otherwise fine high school career.
I won’t mention every Greene County senior player individually. To do so would require more space than a newspaper column allows.
Besides, the Bloomfield Cardinals are still playing, as are Rohrer’s South Knox Spartans.
But there is one senior I do want to mention – Shakamak’s Lane Gilbert.
Lane Gilbert has always been “my kind of player.” I’ve always had a spot for the “hustle guys” – the guys who play hard, leave it all out on the floor, defend, rebound and do all the little things that don’t necessarily show up in the stat sheet.
Gilbert has always been that guy. He’s been one of my favorite players to watch these past several seasons.
This year following the graduation of Tanner Yeryar, Gilbert became the Lakers’ No. 1 scoring option. Yeryar had been the area’s leading scorer each of the previous two seasons.
And Gilbert responded with a breakout season offensively.
He had a monster game against West Vigo in the Wabash Valley Classic, scoring 28 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Three weeks later he put up a then-career-high 30 against White River Valley.
And I’ll never forget the Shootout at Shakamak between Gilbert’s Lakers and Jalen Moore’s Cloverdale Clovers.
Gilbert nearly matched the Clovers’ ace point-for-point, scoring 39 to Moore’s 41.
Moore, remember is being mentioned as a possible Indiana All-Star candidate. The Cloverdale lefty finished the regular season with 2,234 points, 17th on Indiana’s all-time scoring list. With a lengthy postseason run – Cloverdale won its sectional – he might have an outside shot at making the top 10.
Moore now has 2,373 career points, good for 13th all-time. Former Cloverdale teammate Cooper Neese is ninth with 2,496. Billy Shepherd (Carmel, 1968) occupies the 10th spot at 2,465.
Gilbert scored an “efficient” 39, hitting 14 of his 18 shots and 10-of-13 at the stripe.
And unlike many prolific scorers, Gilbert doesn’t bring the ball up the court and let it fly from the volleyball line. He isn’t a ball-dominant, shoot-first volume shooter.
In the Cloverdale game, Gilbert’s teammates were finding him open in the lane. Gilbert did the rest, working to get to the rim and finishing.
Gilbert earned a fan in Indianapolis Star reporter Kyle Neddenreip during this year’s Greene County Invitational.
The IndyStar reporter made the trip to Switz City to do a feature story on the North Central Thunderbirds, then the owners of the state’s longest losing streak. But what he saw was Lane Gilbert.
Neddenreip was so impressed with Gilbert’s hustling style of play he became a Lane Gilbert fan that night. The Star reporter discovered what we in Greene County already knew.
Driving back from North Knox Saturday night I caught the last few minutes of Darren Clayton’s broadcast of the Bloomfield-Shakamak final on WQTY. The game at Switz City started half an hour later so I was able to catch the tail end of it.
After Lane Gilbert came off the floor one final time, Clayton – a former coach himself at Linton-Stockton – said, “If I was a coach I would want five Lane Gilberts on my team.”
I agree, Darren.
It's not often a player from the losing team is selected as Most Valuable Player of the sectional. But Lane Gilbert was.
As mentioned previously the Bloomfield Cardinals are still alive.
Bloomfield won the sectional for what seems like the 75th time. Actually it’s “only” 32.
The Cardinals will face a formidable foe in the Martinsville Regional this Saturday. Bloomfield takes on the defending Class A state champion Indianapolis Tindley Tigers at 10 a.m.
The Tigers (18-7) are led by Purdue University recruit Eric Hunter and his 28.2 points per game.
But I wouldn’t hand the regional trophy to Tindley just yet. The Tigers likely haven’t seen many teams with Bloomfield’s size. And with no starter taller than 6-3 Tindley will be at a decided height disadvantage against the Cardinals.
It doesn’t get any easier for whoever advances. Morristown (24-2) and University (21-2) await in the other bracket.
The University Trailblazers defeated Tindley 48-46 in early January. The Trailblazers also demolished Eastern Greene, 71-35 in the Vincennes Lincoln holiday tournament.
I hope to see all the Bloomfield faithful turn out in Cardinal Red Saturday at Martinsville.