TERRE HAUTE —
In marked contrast to my recent whiny column about girls basketball, I was blessed this winter to see virtually every high school team in the Wabash Valley during the boys season.
Some might suggest that was a mixed blessing, since a few of our teams weren’t as successful as they are used to being (particularly in the 2014 portion of the season), but the Tribune-Star was still involved with two teams that came within a game of the state finals, one of them in an Indiana final four (no capitalization anymore, new system) and two teams that were in the top eight of their class. That’s only three great teams — Paris was both a game away and in the final eight — but that’s still a pretty good haul.
The teams that weren’t as successful — and even a couple that were, come to think of it — had injuries or youth as their common denominator (one had both, which comes later), and that’s a problem that will be fixed by next winter. So there should be optimism about boys basketball in a lot of schools right now, and for that reason I’m altering the order in which the Andy Amey Teams are usually presented.
We’ll start, therefore, with the Promising Team and its many captains. Two Vigo County newcomers, Jaylen Minnett of Terre Haute South and Keshaun Sandifer of Terre Haute North, were standouts for their respective teams all season; two more, Austin Sappingfield of West Vigo and Josiah Wallace of South, had moments of brilliance (the Braves, incidentally, might be so loaded in backcourt that the two freshmen just mentioned won’t even start together for awhile); and the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic gave me some those-kids-are-FRESHMEN? moments for both Lance Hopkins of Rockville and Spencer Shaffner of Marshall.
Others I’m looking forward to seeing more of are Casius Bell of North; Parker Bopp, Dylan Dirks, Ethan White and Joey Wright of Robinson; Corey Carver and Isaac Elkins of Casey; Brandon Chapman and Chandler Russell of South Vermillion; Jacob Clothier, Josh Dieball and Dylan Morris of Linton; Brandon Compton, Dylan Hyatt, Drew Lumsdon, Kalen Schane and Nathan Thomas of Northview; Hunter Cornelius of White River Valley; Matt Deady, Chase Mahurin and Trystan Reece of South (yes, the Braves will be deep next season); Caleb Dickey and Jordan Lowe of Riverton Parke; Brock Finkbiner of Marshall; Chris Gilmore and Brandon Van Sant of Bloomfield; Reece Hunt and George Munoz of Turkey Run; Mason Kendall and Brayden Talley of Union; Tyler Kernstein and Corey Vickers of West Vigo; Dalton Laney and Rayden Wilkey of Rockville; and Braden Scott of Shakamak.
Leadership and willingness to take responsibility for the big play are what the Clutch Team is all about, and there is no shortage of captains for this team either — Charlie Aimone of North, Conner Shipley of South, Brandon Wolfe of Casey and my personal choice for the best athlete in west-central Indiana this year, North Vermillion’s Brayden Woodard.
More leadership was provided by Jake Amstutz of Turkey Run; Jordan Branz and Tristan Spivey of South Vermillion; C.J. Brown and Austin Kurashima of North; Dylan Collins of Shakamak; Hayden Corenflos of West Vigo; Noah Denker, Evan Rogers and Trevor Singer of Clay CIty (the Eels got the farthest because a couple of kids on other teams would be appropriate on this one too); Beau Eaton and Ryan Woodward of Linton; Michael Fisher of White River Valley; Jared Myers of Bloomfield; Andrew Nikirk and Gavin Standifer of North Central; Jason Richart of Robinson; Ethan Whitson of Northview; and Keiontre’ Wilkey of Rockville.
Even more captains are available for the Competitors Team: Audie Temples of Paris, who provided the best one-game example; Braxton Poore of North, for his season-long and occasionally game-changing enthusiasm; two seniors with legendary grit, Zack Murphy of Casey and Brooks Weszely of Sullivan; two more seniors who fought for every missed shot, Jim Mace of Northview and Brandon Morin of Shakamak; and my favorite player of this year and I hope for the next three, Bill Smith of Union. There had better be a place for him — for that matter, for all the Dugger kids — to play next winter.
Other players who brought it every night were Michael Akande and Landen Hoagland of Robinson; Justin Barnett and Trey Gamble of White River Valley; Dalton Bogetto and Logan Waldrop of South Vermillion; Jacob Budd, Austin Jones and Noah Nevins of Turkey Run; Braiden Cardinal, Tyler Hayes and Hunter Voils of West Vigo; Logan Cesinger and Josh Miller of Clay City; Eli Combs of Bloomfield; Jacob Earl, Will Martin and Cody Wright of North Vermillion; Tanner Edge and Kole Sanders of Riverton Parke; Christian Ellis and Daniel Kimball of Northview; Parker Green of Shakamak; Timmy Herrin, Greg Newton and Spence Tofaute of South; Cody Hollensbe of Casey; Austin Jewell of North Central; Floyd Johnson and A.J. Smith of North; Parker Lovelace and Melidian Maze of Union; Ian Perkinson of Sullivan; Zach Riddell of Linton; Riley Spencer of Paris; and Keegan Steele of Marshall.
Guys who do their jobs without fanfare make up most of the Unsung Team, and my two captains were easy to select: Derrick Davidson of Marshall, not overly concerned with scoring as long as he could rebound and play defense, and Max Gregory of Sullivan, who filled his stat line with assists, steals and other unnoticed plays without ever changing expression.
Other contributors like them were Alec Blair and Jordan Schaffer of West Vigo; Jared Bond, Conner Dowden and Kyle Robinson of Bloomfield; Denver Brewer, Zack Lueken and Logan McDaniel of Paris; John Brown, Cole Griffin and Kyle Paddock of Rockville; Christian Burris and Griffin Terrell of Shakamak; Trent Carpenter, Colten Gregory, Conner Hill and Trent Myers of White River Valley; Payton Chism, Sam Huisinga and Dylan Lawrence of Casey; Lucas Clark, Corey Davis and Levi Watson of North Vermillion; Mitchell Dennany, Brian Stevens and Jackson Wolaver of North; Loren Drake and Mitchell Peterson of North Central; Jake Ferguson of Turkey Run; Jerad Fuson, Tre Minnett and LaMarkis Stevenson of South; Wes Harrison and Bucky Stevens of Robinson; Pierce Jackson and Drew Witty of Linton; Nathan Luft of South Vermillion; Daniel Organ, Brogan Thomas and Kaleb Walker of Riverton Parke; Hunter Ragan and Mark Underwood of Northview; Preston Stone of Union; and Hunter Wolfe and Kurtis Yocom of Clay City.
Members of the Unselfish Team might be guys who play their best even if they have to wait their turn, like Grant Daley of West Vigo, or who are stars in other sports who willingly take a supporting role, like Hunter Morris of Paris.
Others like them are Parker Ames, John Hyatt and Paiden Myers of Clay City; Cody Ault and Jorden English of White River Valley; Austin Benson of North; Jeff Bessling and Jeremy Morrow of Shakamak; Logan Blacketer of Riverton Parke; Alex Brown and Wes Wright of Robinson; Adam Crouch and Davey Francis of South Vermillion; Parker Drake of North Central; Craig Eldridge, Isaiah Thurman and Kyle Weisheit of Rockville; Drew Ferguson and Jarred Russell of Turkey Run; Kelly Hawkins of Northview; Dalton Hefner and Jon Newbold of Marshall; Da’Shon Heyen of South; J.J. Kingsley and Taylor Skinner of Bloomfield; Cam Malone of Paris; A.J. McNeil of Casey; Raylee and Skyer Mesey of Union; and Zack Phegley of Linton.
I don’t usually have two players from the same team as captains of one of my teams, but Linton has two of the leaders of the Most Improved Team — maybe only fair, since the Miners, from preseason expectations to top eight in the state, were probably our Most Improved Team. Bryant Jackson of the Miners was, to me, the player who improved most from last year to this, and Joe Dieball one of the players who improved most from the beginning of the season to its end. Others like Joe, better in March than in November, included D.J. McMasters of South Vermillion, Kobi Riley of North and Michael Willis of Sullivan.
Others who got better were Dewey Ashley and Tyler Davis of Turkey Run; Trey Bedwell, Carson Gaines and Austin Robertson of Union; Easton Booe of Clay City; Logan Dinkel of South; Hunter Falls, Michael Lowe and Luther Mathas of Riverton Parke; Andrew Farmer of North; D.C. Fisher and Trey Thompson of Casey; Neal Greene and Nick Stucker of North Central; Connor Griffin and Noah Tennison of Robinson; Quinton Hayes of Northview; Aaron Hines and Dru Strayer of South Vermillion; Michael Huddleston, Jake Walters and Mark West of Shakamak; Zach Johnson of Linton; Hunter King and Luke McPhail of Sullivan; Jonathan Koenig of White River Valley; Jordan Leach of Rockville; Chazz Lindsey and Cotey Thompson of Marshall; Jeffrey Martin of Paris; Keagan McClain and Alex West of West Vigo; and Devon Sams of North Vermillion.
South’s Timmy Herrin is the leader of my Left-handed Team, joined by Marshall’s Lane Brown, Casey’s Fisher and Huisinga, Shakamak’s Scott and Clay City’s Wolfe.
And the Injured Team has just two members (told you I’d get to this) and Joe Boehler unfortunately knows who they are: Cardinal and Voils of West Vigo.
Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. (except the next two weeks) at 812-231-4277 or 1-800-783-8742; by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at 812-231-4321. Follow TribStarAndy on Twitter.