by Beau Wicker
Logansport boys basketball coach Mark Victor will not be on the sidelines for tonight’s North Central Conference game against New Castle at the Berry Bowl.
That’s because Victor picked up two technical fouls and was ejected from last week’s game at Richmond, a 50-18 loss. Thus, he has to sit out tonight’s game per IHSAA rule.
Victor said he certainly wasn’t looking to get ejected from the Richmond game. He picked up his second tech with 6:13 left in the contest.
“I just said he hadn’t made a good call all night and he was a better official than that, so those were the two technicals I got,” Victor said. “Sometimes in a coaching situation you may try to intentionally get one just to get your team going, but I really hadn’t planned on getting either one. It’s just kind of the way it worked out, and then things just kind of fell apart at the end right there. But you know, we’re resilient. We’ll bounce back. We’ve got a big weekend this weekend with New Castle, so we’ll be ready to go.”
It’s been an up and down season for the Berries (8-6, 1-2 NCC). After an impressive weekend of defeating Marion by 24 points and Lewis Cass by 8, the Berries were shut down in the 32-point loss at Richmond. They shot just 15 percent from the field including an ice-cold 1 of 17 from 3-point range. Richmond closed the game with a 21-0 run over the final seven minutes.
“It was just one of those games,” Victor said. “I thought defensively both teams were just grinding it out. I know it was seven points, 11 points, it just stayed around there for awhile. We could just never get anything going offensively. They took Antonio [Penny] out of the game and we didn’t have other guys that could step up or were willing to step up. It was just a struggle all night the whole night, really.”
Victor did not say who would be filling in as head coach tonight. His assistants this season are all first-year basketball coaches for the Berries. Jay Jones is the varsity assistant, Eric Wiederhoeft is the JV coach and Matt Lange is the freshman coach.
“There’s no comment on that one yet,” Victor said. “We’ll know [today].”
New Castle (9-4, 2-1) enters having won four of five, with the only loss during that time coming in overtime against Kokomo. Korey Ryan averages 18.8 points per game and Steven Bennett adds 18.5 ppg for the Trojans.
“They’re pretty good. They’re playing well right now,” Victor said. “The Bennett kid is back at full strength. Last year when we played them, he tore his ACL the game before we played them so he didn’t play. ... Bennett, we’ve just got to be able to contain him. He’s a really good shooter. He’s got range from about 20 feet or 21 feet. They’ve got a couple of big kids who will bang on the inside with us, and they also go out and screen like crazy for Bennett. We’ve got to be able to go out and guard the ball screen and just defend that way.
“It’s typical New Castle. We’ve got to be able to defend the 3-point line more than anything. The arc is going to be the key.”
Though he won’t be on the sidelines, Victor will be looking for a better effort from his squad. He talked about the season to this point.
“It’s been up and down. That goes all the way back to the Anderson game into the McCutcheon game the next night. We’re just trying to find our stride. The big thing is we’ve got about four weeks to go before the tournament. Just looking up and down, Kokomo got beat by Tipton last weekend. So to me, Kokomo is probably the favorite in the conference and in the sectional, but anybody else I think can win it as far as the sectional goes. We’re going to play tough in the conference games and get tuned up for the sectional.”
Caston (10-4, 4-0 MWC) at Pioneer (10-3, 3-0 MWC)
After a one-week hiatus out of the state rankings, Pioneer is back in at No. 10 in Class A this week.
The Panthers host arch-rival Caston tonight for a crucial game in the Midwest Conference standings.
A year ago Caston knocked off Pioneer and the two eventually shared the MWC crown. This season Pioneer already owns a win over Caston at the county tournament when the Panthers shut down the Comets in a 47-35 defeat back on Nov. 27. The Comets were within two points with two minutes to go in that contest.
“The last time we played it was early in the season and it was definitely a closer game than the final score,” Pioneer coach Pat Skaggs said.
The Comets enter having won six in a row and 10 of 11.
“They’re really playing really well right now,” Skaggs said. “I expect a close battle.
“Caston should be ranked in the top 10 as well.”
Caston coach Ben Snyder of course has been following the Panthers closely this season and is very impressed with what he has seen. The Panthers have won two in a row and 9 of 10.
“They’re probably to be honest the most talented 1A team I’ve ever seen,” Snyder said. “They’re a more talented team than the Triton team when I was at Plymouth that won a state title [in 2008]. They’re loaded with talent and are playing extremely well right now.”
Currently there are two teams in the northern half of the state that are ranked ahead of Pioneer in Class A, No. 6 Marquette Catholic and No. 7 Fort Wayne Canterbury. Snyder isn’t buying it.
“If there’s a better team in 1A, they’re coming out of the south,” he said. “Pioneer has size, athleticism, leadership, a point guard [Brandon Scruggs], a great shooter [Carter Skaggs], they’re well coached. You go down the gamut with them.”
How does Snyder think his squad can win tonight’s game?
“Oh man. Obviously we have to handle the ball. They’re going to get after it,” he said. “They know they’re more talented so they’re going to want to create more and more possessions. Hip-ins will be a big thing for us because they’re an extremely good rebounding team. We’ll have to take care of the ball against their pressure. They’re going to score points know matter how good a defensive team you are. You hope to make them earn it and don’t give them uncontested shots and layups.”
Caston travels to Lafayette Faith Christian (2-12) on Saturday night.
“They’re athletic. It’s on their court,” Snyder said. “I haven’t really even looked at that game a whole lot, preparation-wise. I’ve spent the whole week trying to close a 40-point gap.”
Pioneer travels to Rossville (8-6) Saturday night.
“Rossville has a very, very nice team, and going to Rossville is definitely going to make it tougher,” Pat Skaggs said.
Maconaquah (8-4, 3-1 MIC) at Cass (6-6, 1-2 MIC)
The Kings have dropped three in a row after the big win at Pioneer. All three losses have been close games against Logansport, Northwestern and Delphi.
“We can compete with the top teams. Delphi was ranked seventh at one point,” Cass coach Jon Kitchel said. “You hit 50 percent of your free throws, you’re right in it. We missed 17 free throws and got beat by three against a team that’s been ranked seventh. It’s a matter of finishing games and being confident and knocking down shots.”
The Braves enter having won four of five, including a 2-point win over Western last Friday.
“They beat Western, they’re capable of beating anybody, too,” Kitchel said. “They have 6-10 [Micah] Pier, who has great touch inside. They have athletes in [K.J.] Walton and [Tyler] Bradley. They’re a nice team.”
The Kings travel to Clinton Central (1-11) on Saturday night.
“They’re having a rough year, but if we shoot the ball like we’ve shot the last couple game we can’t take anybody for granted,” Kitchel said.
Austin Keisling is averaging 16 ppg to lead the Kings. Ryan Aldridge, Jordan Miller and Blake Hadley each add 9 ppg.
W. Central (4-9, 1-3 MWC) at Winamac (4-7, 0-2 MWC)
The Warriors are looking to pick up their first win in MWC play. They were defeated 47-40 by visiting Tri-County last weekend.
“We just didn’t finish down the stretch,” Winamac coach Kyle Johnson said. “We needed to make big free throws. We were 5 of 12 from the line down the stretch and they were 10 of 12.
“We did a lot of good things. We just have to put 32 minutes together.”
Winamac won at West Central 42-28 in Winter Classic play.
“Every game for us is a huge game,” Johnson said. “Records aren’t important. We need to get over the hump and get our first conference win. We beat them at West Central. We haven’t shown we can beat a team twice in the same season. We didn’t against Knox. We’ll have a chance next week against North Judson. We need to take care of business at home and protect our home court. We haven’t done a good job of that this year. We’re still building team chemistry. I still believe in this team a great deal.”
Zach Shidler is averaging 17.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.9 steals and 3.4 assists per game to lead the Warriors. He’s followed in scoring by Adam Gruenig (7.3 ppg), Parker Fox (6.9 ppg) and Jeremy Bentle (6.6 ppg).