by Beau Wicker
Logansport’s boys basketball team faces quite a challenge this weekend to keep its undefeated season going.
The 4-0 Berries travel to Frankfort tonight and Lafayette Jeff Saturday night in what looks to be two difficult tests.
Frankfort (3-1) is coming off a runner-up finish at the annual Lafayette J&C Hoops Classic. The Hot Dogs defeated Benton Central and West Lafayette by double-digits before losing to McCutcheon 64-52 in the title game. Tonight is Frankfort’s home opener in historic Case Arena.
“It’s going to be an extremely tough game. They have a really nice team,” Logan coach Mark Victor said. “They have all the pieces to the puzzle.”
The Hot Dogs were a regional finalist a year ago in Class 3A. Dakota Isgrigg, a 6-foot-7 senior, scored 20 points last year against Logan in a 67-60 loss to the Berries.
“We had a tough time containing Isgrigg last year,” Victor said. “He’s got a couple of good guards to go with him. [Brody] Kirby can handle the ball, and [Nathan] Wissman, who played at Harrison last year, is now a guard for them and is playing real well. He can shoot off the dribble. We had a tough time containing him when he was at Harrison last year.
“It’s always a tough battle down there, a knock-down drag-out. ... I’m sure it’ll be the same type of thing, a game that goes down to the last final possessions.”
The Berries enter having won four in a row against the Hot Dogs, including back-to-back three-point wins in Case Arena.
The last time the Berries played Jeff was their biggest win of last season, a 67-58 victory in sectional play.
The Bronchos (2-2) have opened this season with a win over Pioneer before a seventh-place finish in the J&C Hoops Classic, an event they had won the previous six years in a row. They defeated Benton Central to salvage seventh place after losses to Harrison and Twin Lakes.
“They’ve got some kids that can play a little bit,” Victor said. “It’s always a tough place to play. We get to play there and we’ll get to turn around and play there for the sectional this year.”
Victor likes how his squad has progressed on offense through the first four games.
“Antonio [Penny] and Jayson [Higgins] have given us a good 1-2 punch. The other guys are doing a nice job in their roles and are playing well,” Victor said. “Some games haven’t been too pretty, but that’s the stage of the season we’re at. Hopefully we’re playing our best by mid-February at the end pointing toward the tournament.”
The Logan coach added defense has been a point of emphasis.
“We were solid in the Peru game in the halfcourt. We were ragged against Maconaquah and in the county tournament we were ragged. We need to shore up there,” Victor said. “I’m happy with our rebounding. We’ve outrebounded all four of our opponents. We need to be more solid in our halfcourt defense. We’ve been taking chances and have gotten out of position instead of playing solid team defense. We also need to work on being patient and taking care of the basketball. We’ve had quite a few turnovers, and we need to cut those down, especially against good teams on the road like this weekend.”
Cass (2-1, 0-0 MIC) at H. Heights (0-0, 0-0 MIC)
The Kings will try to snap a four-game skid against the Huskies in their Mid-Indiana Conference opener. It’s Hamilton Heights’ season opener because the Huskies advanced to the Class 3A state title game in football.
The Huskies are led by 6-foot-5 senior Alex Etherington, a Division I prospect.
“It’ll be a tough one. The Etherington kid is one of the top players in the state,” Cass coach Jon Kitchel said. “Last year he had a really big second half on us. We’ve just got to contain him. He’s a human highlight film if we let him get loose.”
Etherington, the younger brother of IU’s Austin Etherington, has been offered by Kansas State and Xavier.
“He’s explosive off the floor, quick, has a tremendous vertical,” Kitchel said.
The Kings turn around and host Carroll (2-1) on Saturday night.
Kitchel has been happy with what he’s seen from his squad thus far.
“Our guard play has been really good. [Austin] Keisling and [Blake] Hadley play so hard. If you have good guards you’re going to be able to compete,” he said. “We got a lot of production from [David] Watterson in the county tournament both offensively and defensively. [Ryan] Aldridge and Jordan [Miller], they’ll have some big games. It was a tough tournament for them, but they’ll bounce back and be fine. When we have all five of them clicking we’re a pretty nice team.”
Frontier (1-3, 0-0 MWC) at Winamac (1-1, 0-0 MWC)
The Warriors are coming off a big win over Rochester on Tuesday when senior guard Zach Shidler scored 32 points. They’re facing a Frontier squad that defeated Clinton Central and lost to Carroll by five points in its last two.
“Frontier will bring several different defenses, kind of similar to Rochester,” Winamac coach Kyle Johnson said. “They’ll push out to a 3-2, a 1-3-1. They have some very athletic guys defensively. They were young last year, they’re getting a lot better. They’ve been able to put some points up on the board. When they spread us out offensively and try to do an open-up offense, we’re going to have to be disciplined and be willing to stop them six, seven, eight times. Coach [Rush] McColley has definitely been aiming for us. We’ve been lucky enough to get him the last couple years. So we’d sure like to start this conference schedule with a W.”
S. Newton (0-1, 0-0 MWC) at Pioneer (1-2, 0-0 MWC)
The Panthers are looking to bounce back from a 1-2 start in their MWC opener. Their losses are to Class 4A opponents Lafayette Jeff and Logan.
They’re facing a South Newton squad that enters on a 46-game losing streak. The Rebels’ last win was a sectional win over North White in 2010.
They have former coach Mike Hall, who enjoyed many success seasons at the helm, back on the sidelines. They have a young team but solid incoming freshman and eighth grade groups coming in.
South Newton opened with a 51-25 loss at Seeger last weekend.
Pioneer travels to North Miami (0-3) on Saturday night. The Warriors have opened with losses to Cass, Maconaquah and Triton, all by at least 20 points.
Carroll (2-1) at Caston (0-3)
The Comets are looking for their first win against one of the six teams that defeated them a year ago. The Cougars are a tough matchup for the Comets with their size advantage, and Caston hasn’t defeated Carroll since a double-overtime win during the 2006-07 season.
“They start 6-7, 6-5, 6-5, 6-3 and 5-11. They bring 6-6, 6-5 off the bench that would start for most schools,” Caston coach Ben Snyder said. “I saw them twice last week and on any given night they’re the best team on our schedule. We have to play extremely well to compete and hopefully have a chance at the end.”
The Cougars are guided by Matt Weaver, a former assistant at Kokomo. They feature Eric Miller, who will play at Grace College. They have wins over Faith Christian and Frontier after a five-point loss to Tri-County to start the season.
Caston travels to Taylor (0-3) on Saturday night.
“Taylor has 6-6, 6-4, 6-4. I’m watching them and thinking, finally, we’re playing a team that’s small,” joked Snyder, who doesn’t have a player taller than 6-foot on his roster.
“It’ll make us a lot better in the middle part of the season. We’re going up against teams with 6-3, 6-6, 6-7 post players. It’ll make our defense better. You can’t lunge and gamble against these teams. It’ll make our team better and our program better playing against these teams.”