Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports

March 21, 2014

Cass seniors lead charge back to boys hoops prominence

Cass seniors lead charge back to boys hoops prominence

The Class 2A boys basketball final four is power packed. No. 7-ranked Lewis Cass (22-2) and Westview (22-4) are in the northern semistate while No. 1 Park Tudor (22-4) and No. 2 Clarksville (23-2) are in the southern semistate.

Westview, Park Tudor and Clarksville laid the foundations for their big seasons with strong showings in the 2012-13 campaign. They finished with 18 or more wins. Cass, on the other hand, sputtered to a 10-11 record.

Senior guard Blake Hadley and the Kings put in countless hours in the offseason to turn things around.

“It actually started right after our [postseason] banquet was over because Blake had come up to me and said, ‘Coach, we’d like to have open gyms.’ I said, ‘We’ll have open gyms,’ and he said, ‘No, immediately,’” third-year Cass coach Jon Kitchel recalled. “I said, ‘If we have guys wanting to start working for next year, we’ll make sure we have a gym available.’ So it started immediately and it’s paid off. They’ve increased [team] 3-point, 2-point and free throw percentages 10 points or better across the board.

“It was nothing more than these guys just deciding they wanted to leave this year as winners. They put in the work to make that happen.”

The Kings are shooting 49.4 percent from 2-point range, 34.8 percent from 3-land and 71.3 percent from the charity stripe. They are scoring 73.8 points per game — a whopping 16 points more per game than last season.

“Everybody bought in,” senior guard Austin Keisling said. “Blake was the first one who really wanted to get into it and he was totally right, we needed to get our shooting up. Last year, our shooting percentage wasn’t good. Now this year, it’s really good. If we can keep it up, we’ll have a good shot.”

Hadley noted he saw the hard work begin to pay off over the summer.

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