TERRE HAUTE —
Jake Newton had a long time between playing in competitive basketball games, a span of about 18 months, and used the frustration from that long dry spell to produce a stellar freshman season for Lincoln Trail College this winter.
Newton was unable to play for Terre Haute North due to illness in what would have been the last high school game of his career, a regional tournament game at Seymour against Castle in March of 2011.
He originally signed to play collegiately for Oakland City, but never suited up for the Oaks and transferred to LTC.
Finally, on Nov. 1, Newton was able to resume playing the game he loves. He had three points in a two-point win over Parkland that night, and eventually raised his role to a much higher level and finished the season as a first-team all-Great River Athletic Conference selection and a second-team all-Region 24 choice.
“It was safe to say I was ready to get back in the swing of things,” Newton said. “Although it was definitely tough being on the sidelines last year, it helped me grow mentally as well as physically and motivated me even more.”
Newton was one of 14 players on the all-freshman LTC roster this year — which also included Wabash Valley natives Jordan Houser of West Vigo, Jacob Duncan of Marshall, Greencastle’s Jesse Tesmer, Jake Weaver of Turkey Run and Austin Callahan of Hutsonville.
“Coming to LTC I knew it was going to be a challenge,” Newton said. “Coach [Mike] Ray and the staff have done a great job in turning this program around. Being surrounded with a lot of great teammates and the support of the community has made it a smooth transition.”
Ray was thrilled to see Newton’s improvement this year.
“I was really happy with Jake this year,” Ray said. “He progressed really well for us, and I’m really happy with where he ended up. He’s a good all-around player, but his forte is the ability to put the ball in the basket.”
Newton wound up starting 27 of 30 games for the Statesmen this year, averaging 11.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.
Ray liked Newton’s offensive output, but felt he improved most on the defensive end of the court.
“Depending upon who we’re playing, we could have Jake to guard a 2, a 3 or a 4 and he did a great job against everybody,” Ray said. “He was able to guard the perimeter really well, and he has good lateral movement. His basketball IQ is what sets him apart.”
Lincoln Trail has had a lot of rough seasons lately, and finished this year with a 16-14 record.
“We surprised a lot people with having the first winning season here in eight or nine years,” Newton said. “But my teammates and I weren’t satisfied with ending the way we did [an 84-79 loss to Wabash Valley].
“I wasn’t satisfied with my play this year either, and there is always room for improvement,” he added. “JUCO basketball is full of great ball players looking for an opportunity to play at the highest level.”
You can count Newton as one of those.
“He’s a qualifier [for an NCAA school], and he can leave if he wants,” Ray said. “He’s happy at LTC, and he likes the direction the program is going. I expect him to be back, and I’m looking forward to helping him work on his confidence.
“His biggest deficiency is that he gets down on himself,” Ray continued. “When he plays with confidence, he’s really, really good. He’s definitely a Division I player — Ohio Valley Conference, or maybe even the Missouri
Ray added that Newton, now 6-4 and 185 pounds, needs to continue to work hard in the weight room in order to make that transition, whether this year or next.
“As of now I’m planning on returning to LTC for another year,” Newton said Friday. “After getting back in the groove of playing and seeing what this level is all about, I’m looking forward to next season as we try to win a championship.”
n Local DACC connection gets honors — Derek Shouse of Terre Haute South also earned first-team All-Region 24 honors, and his coach — Linton native Mike Carpenter — also picked up some awards.
Carpenter was named the Region 24 Coach of the Year and Midwest Athletic Conference Coach of the Year after leading the Jaguars to a No. 2 national ranking in the Division II junior college polls, an undefeated conference season and a 28-4 overall record.
DACC was upset 66-58 by John Wood, however, in the semifinals of the Region 24 tournament earlier this month.
n Seibert gets career high — Terre Haute South sophomore Haley Seibert had her best collegiate game in the first round of the Summit League tournament earlier this month for Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne.
Seibert scored a career-high total of 33 points in a 106-101 double-overtime win over Western Illinois on March 10.
Seibert hit 9 of 16 field goals, including 4 of 9 from 3-point range, and added 11 of 12 free throws. She played all 50 minutes, and added three rebounds, five assists and two steals.
A free throw from Seibert tied the Leathernecks at 78-78 and a second gave IPFW a one-point lead.
Seibert was a key player in crunch time as she hit a 3-point field goal, made two free throws and recorded a steal in the final 30 seconds of the second overtime.
The Mastadons ended their season at 13-17 with an 86-59 loss to South Dakota State in the semifinals. Seibert finished the season as the team’s third leading scorer at 9.5 points per game, also averaging 2.8 assists while shooting 37 percent from 3-point range and 86 percent from the free throw line.
n Chambers honored — Haley Chambers was named the Ohio Valley Conference Pitcher of the Week last week after tossing shutouts against Loyola and Temple for Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.
Chambers, who led Riverton Parke to a Class 1A state title in 2010 before winding up her career at Cascade, threw a three-hit shutout versus Loyola and followed that with a two-hit shutout over Temple. Only one Temple batter reached base during the game.
She provided 22⁄3 innings of scoreless relief versus Central Florida. For the week, she did not give up an earned run and struck out six in 142⁄3 innings of work.
n Funkhouser gets win — Kyle Funkhouser, son of former Terre Haute resident Dennis Funkhouser, picked up his first pitching victory of the year on Saturday night as No. 4-ranked Louisville defeated Xavier 8-6.
Funkhouser pitched 21⁄3 innings of relief and struck out two batters for the 16-2 Cardinals.
n Francis on title team — DePauw’s women’s team completed a magical season over the weekend, completing a perfect 34-0 season by winning the Division III national championship with a 69-51 win over Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Chelsea Francis of Turkey Run did not play in the title game, but was a reserve sophomore guard for the Tigers.
Joey Bennett is a former Tribune-Star sports reporter and copy editor who now teaches at Northview High School in Brazil. He can be reached at tribstarcollegereport@yahoo.