HUNTINGTON — On Friday, Lewis Cass’ boys basketball team spent a major bulk of the day at its at the corporation’s elementary schools, spending time with wide-eyed youngsters shooting hoops and signing autographs.
It was an eye-opening experience, especially for the squad’s six seniors. They’d experienced a similar scenario as 6- and 7-year-olds in 2003, albeit in a reversed role, when the Basil Mawbey-led Kings went 26-0 and claimed a Class 2A state championship.
And although this Cass team fell one win short of getting back to that threshold, in the end, one major goal had already been attained: The Kings are back among the elite of Class 2A.
“We always looked up to those guys that Basil coached,” senior Blake Hadley said. “We wanted to be like them, and I think we brought it back. Now, everyone sees it and the younger kids are going to want to be like us. We hope this gives the program momentum for the future.”
Cass’ return to prominence was three years in the making. Athletic director Greg Marschand tabbed former Kings great Jon Kitchel, a member of Cass’ first sectional title team in 1978 who went on to play at Purdue, to help turn around a program in a funk by its standards since Mawbey semi-retired in 2008.
After 11-12 and 10-11 campaigns in Kitchel’s first two seasons, the Kings surged to a 22-3 mark and the No. 7 ranking this season, riding a 20-game win streak before a 65-58 loss to Westview in Saturday’s 2A northern semistate at Huntington North.
“That’s what our goal was — to get Lewis Cass basketball back,” Kitchel remarked. “That’s why they hired me. I’m in a stage of my life that I have enough going on that I probably didn’t want to do it. But, I love Lewis Cass. I’ve been a Lewis Cass guy forever, and we wanted to get it back.”