TERRE HAUTE —
In the last month or so I figure I’ve seen at least four boys high school basketball teams with legitimate state-championship dreams as the season heads into its dog days.
While the girls’ teams — among whom Turkey Run seems to be the dreamiest — are hoping to reach their peaks in the final couple of weeks of the regular season, the boys are at a time when they need to grind it out, keep their edge and try to keep improving.
Which is why I was encouraged by Terre Haute North’s play on Friday.
The Patriots were playing a West Vigo team they knew very well, and there are times in the Vigo County series games when such familiarity results in sloppiness. The team that’s supposed to win sometimes does, but without doing itself much good in the process.
As West Vigo coach Joe Boehler said in Saturday’s Tribune-Star, that was definitely not the case when the Patriots played the Vikings on Friday.
West Vigo had a little bit of success spreading the court offensively — although getting behind in a hurry often fouls up the willingness to pursue that strategy — and quite a bit of success guarding Indiana All-Star candidate Justin Gant.
But North never blinked. The Patriots were brutally efficient offensively, all nine rotation players contributed, and there were no letups on the defensive end. By about midway through the second half, I had already formulated the question to pose to the players and coaches that would let me know if it was a completely successful evening for them.
So I asked them who their leading scorer was. And they didn’t know. Perfect. Individual agendas should be nowhere to be found the rest of the way.
Three other teams? Well, two of them are decidedly long shots, but I’m still waiting to see what Sullivan and Marshall look like when all their players are completely healthy, and I’m pretty sure Jeff Moore and Tom Brannan are too.
Eastern Greene, however, might not be a long shot, even though coach Andy Igel’s Thunderbirds aren’t a team we’re likely to follow to the finals. They are big, strong and deep, and they like to play defense. For basketball fans without a strong team rooting interest, they would be worth a one-hour trip to see.
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n He’s on the list — What do John Harbaugh, Sean Payton, Tom Coughlin, Pete Carroll, Raheem Morris and Tom Sappington have in common?
The first five you may recognize as head coaches in the National Football League. Tom, some of us remember, was a big lineman and slugging catcher in the early days of Terre Haute South High School.
But right now they are six of the 28 nominees for the first Don Shula NFL Coach of the Year Award, to be presented — along with a check for $25,000 — at the Super Bowl.
“Pretty humbling to be on that list,” Tom e-mailed last week.
Apparently each NFL team was allowed to make one nomination, and so was USA Football. Most of the teams didn’t nominate their own coaches — the Tennessee Titans nominated their cancer-stricken offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger — and a couple didn’t nominate any at all. The Colts’ nominee is Rick Wimmer, coach of Class 5A state champion Fishers, and the Bears nominated youth coach Reggie Medinger.
Tom, who coaches at Hastings Middle School in Columbus, Ohio, and was nominated by USA Football, is the only middle school coach on the list — and who knows, maybe one of the richest in a couple of weeks.
Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. at (812) 231-4277 or at 1-800-783-8742; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.