BY PEDRO VELAZCO and BRYAN GASKINS KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — Kokomo’s boys basketball team gets its first look at North Central Conference play today when the Wildkats visit Muncie Central. The Wildkats are 1-1 after a loss to Fishers last weekend. Central is 3-0 with wins over Muncie South, Yorktown and Fort Wayne Snider.
”They’re as good a team as you’ll face,” Kokomo coach Brian McCauley said. “They’ve got shooting, speed, size, strength. They play tremendous defense. They’re very well coached. We won’t play a better team on our schedule. They’re right up there with top teams like Fishers.”
McCauley noted the Bearcats will line up three interchangeable guards who are all adept at shooting, driving and apply sticky pressure defense. In addition, Central is getting a major boost from 6-foot-8 post player Tyler Arens.
Arens, a senior, sat out last season after transferring from Marion, and is averaging 20 points per game this campaign. More scoring comes from the interchangeable guards. Sophomore guard Marcus Dukes adds 14.7 ppg, sophomore Phil Corthen scores 13 ppg and senior Joe Williams 8.3.
Kokomo took a 49-35 victory at home last season. McCauley said this season’s Muncie Central squad is “significantly” better than last season’s.
”They were young last year and now those young guys are a year older, better, they’re more confident,” McCauley said. “You couple that with a transfer [Arens], an Indiana All-Star transfer.”
McCauley wants the Kats to get sharper tonight.
”I really loved our effort, our attitudes [against Fishers], they were tremendous,” McCauley said. “We’re going to have the same effort, attitude, focus, we’re just going to have to play smarter offensively and tougher defensively. Defensively we were even with Fishers on the boards and that’s not going to get the job done against Muncie Central.”
• The Wildkats host Westfield on Saturday. The Shamrocks have a date with Lafayette Jeff today. That will be Westfield’s first game because the start of its season was delayed by a run to the Class 5A state final football game.
”They’re very well coached and they’ll be hungry. They’ve been obviously waiting for quite a while now to begin their season,” McCauley said. “They’ll be very good shooters, they’ll be very disciplined, and they’re strong and physical.”
WESTERN (2-1, 1-0 MIC) AT EASTERN (0-2, 0-0 MIC)
The Panthers visit the Comets tonight looking for a 2-0 conference start.
Western beat Eastern 50-48 last year to continue its domination of the rivalry series. The Panthers have won seven straight and 19 of the last 20 against the Comets.
Tonight is a girls-boys doubleheader. The girls game starts at 6 p.m. an pits the Class 3A No. 2-ranked Panthers (7-0, 3-0 MIC) vs. the Comets (1-6, 0-2).
* Western’s boys host Rossville (3-2) on Saturday. Eastern’s boys visit Southwood (1-1).
NW (0-3, 0-1 MIC)AT TAYLOR (1-1, 0-0 MIC)
The Purple Tigers visit the Titans tonight for their second of three games this week. Northwestern dropped an 80-71 decision to Frankfort on Tuesday. The Tigers host Mississinewa (0-2) on Saturday.
Taylor also has a double weekend ahead, with a road game against Caston (2-1) on Saturday.
Northwestern and Taylor split a pair of meetings last season. Overall, the Titans have won four of the last six meetings.
Tonight is a girls-boys doubleheader. Northwestern’s girls team is 2-6 overall and 1-2 in the MIC while Taylor is 2-5 and 1-1.
AROUND THE AREA TONIGHT
There is one other MIC boys game tonight: Hamilton Heights (2-1, 0-0) is at Cass (2-1, 0-0).
In the Hoosier Heartland Conference, Sheridan (1-1, 0-1) visits Clinton Central (2-2, 0-0).
In the big non-conference game of the night, Tri-Central (0-0) visits Tipton (2-1) for the delayed Pilgrim Cup. Normally played the night before Thanksgiving, the Tipton County clash was delayed this year by football. Both schools reached the state finals in football.
In other non-conference games tonight, Caston (2-1) is at Carroll (3-2); Maconaquah (1-1) visits Wabash (2-1); and Peru (0-2) visits Plymouth (2-2).