TERRE HAUTE —
High school basketball fans who doubt the future of the Terre Haute South team are welcome to do so, Conner Shipley said this week.
It might even do the Braves good, he added.
Although South goes into this weekend’s games with Evansville North and Indianapolis Arlington having lost 10 of its last 11 games — and although there are two big rivalry losses among them the Braves would like to have back — the rest of that string reflects one of the tougher schedules in the state.
And the current slump came on the heels of the Braves’ best stretch of the season, four wins in five days to take the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic championship in late December.
“A lot of people didn’t expect us to win the Pizza Hut Classic,” Shipley remembered this week. “It helped that a lot of people doubted us. We’ve got to get back to that fight, that urgency [that helped win the tournament].”
South has also battled that tough schedule with one of the younger teams in the state — another reason, Shipley says, that there is still room for optimism.
“We’ve stressed a lot about discipline, on and off the court, staying together as a family,” the junior guard said this week. “A lot of these guys will be back next year, so chemistry is a big thing for us.”
Although Shipley is coming off a team-high 14-point performance Tuesday against Guerin Catholic, it’s his contributions to that chemistry that are even more important.
“He’s our speaking captain, and he was named that for a reason,” coach Scott Ridge said. “He shows up early, he stays late, and he goes just as hard every day in practice as he does in a game; it’s hard to get kids to do that.”
“I’ve tried to play that [captain’s] role,” Shipley said. “I’ve tried to be more vocal. We need to do more talking on defense, and that’s my fault, partly. We need to trust ourselves and trust the players around us.”
It’s probably safe to say that the rest of the Braves trust their captain. Already in his second year as a varsity basketball regular, and a baseball starter since late in his freshman season, Shipley has earned his leadership role.
“He’s very talented all around,” Ridge pointed out. “He’s fundamentally sound, he’s a good shooter, a good ball handler, he’s very smart and he always puts the team first. … Maybe he’s too unselfish, in fact. I’d like to see him shoot a little bit more.”
For his part, Shipley is just happy to have the teammates he has, and sees better things ahead.
“We’re a pretty close group,” he noted. “We’ve played together a long time, and we all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
“We’re on a losing streak; we haven’t played well at all since the Pizza Hut Classic,” Shipley acknowledged. “[But] if we keep working hard at practice and keep our heads up, I think we can still bring home a sectional title.”
And if people doubt that latter statement, so much the better.