By Tribune sports staff
Kokomo’s and Anderson’s boys basketball teams clash tonight in a battle of the last two squads unbeaten in North Central Conference play. The stakes could hardly be higher.
Both are 12-2 overall, and both are 3-0 in NCC play. It’ll be a rough test on the road for the Wildkats, who won their first 12 games before falling at Class 4A No. 2 Carmel two weekends ago, and to Class 2A No. 3 Tipton last Saturday.
“They’ve won 10 in a row,” Kokomo coach Brian McCauley said of the Indians. “They’re are a perfect example of what Anderson teams have been and what they’re known for throughout the years. They’re extremely athletic, they apply a lot of defensive pressure and they’re very deep. They’ve got a lot of seniors, they’ve got a lot of experience and they’re skilled. They’ve won 10 in a row for a reason, and they’re undefeated at home.
“This goes back to some of the better Anderson teams I think they’ve had when they were deep and athletic and skilled and fast. Coach [Joe] Nadaline was an assistant with [former] coach [Ron] Hecklinski. They went through a run where they had some really talented teams and I think this team, it’s a team that’s very similar to that.”
Forward Trey Boyd leads the Indians in scoring and rebounding, averaging 16.4 points and 7.8 rebounds. Guard Chris Lemon adds 12.4 points per game. The Indians shoot 48.9 percent from the field and hold opponents to 42.2. They outrebound the opposition by 6.2 rpg.
“I think we’ve got to take care of the ball. They thrive on turnovers,” McCauley said. “We’ve got to block out and rebound. They thrive on offensive rebounds. They’re very skilled so we’ve got to contest shots, and they’re very fast so we’ve got to defend well.”
Tayler Persons leads the Kats at 16.8 ppg, followed by LaBradford Sebree (15.5), Erik Bowen (9.8) and Hakim Burnett (7.9). Bowen leads the Kats in rebounding at 6.3 rpg, just ahead of Persons at 6.1. The Kats outrebound the opposition by 4.6, and shoot 51 percent from the field, while holding opponents to 40.4.
Kokomo follows tonight’s game with a matchup against sectional rival Harrison on Saturday. The Raiders are 7-6 on the season heading into tonight’s home date with Westfield.
“Harrison, under their new coach [Mark Rinehart], has done a good job of improving from last year and they’re at a point where they’ve already won more games at this point in the season than they did the entire last year. They’re big, they have excellent size and they play hard.”
Peru (6-6, 3-0 MIC) at Western (9-5, 3-1 MIC)
When Western dropped a 60-58 heartbreaker at Maconaquah last week — its first setback in Mid-Indiana Conference play — not all was lost.
The Panthers host the only undefeated team left in league play, Peru, tonight with a chance to forge a tie atop the standings in the loss column.
“That’s what we’ve been telling our kids all week, that we do control our own destiny as far as the conference goes,” Western coach Bart Miller said. “But we have to worry about ourselves and not what other teams do and control what we can. That starts [tonight] with Peru.”
The Bengal Tigers will challenge Western with their size. Sophomore guard Logan Primerano, at 6-foot-4, leads Peru in scoring at 16.2 ppg, 6-6 senior Joe Comerford adds 12.2 ppg, and 6-10 sophomore Andrew Adelsperger if one of five Tigers who score 5.7 ppg or more.
“They’re a very well-coached team,” Miller said. “Coach [Jim] Metcalfe has done a great job in his first year. They’re a very scrappy, fundamental bunch with both inside and outside threats. ... They have everything you fear in an offensive team, but at the same time, we feel like we can cover them up and gain some advantages of our own.
Western will counter with its own set of vast weaponry.
Junior guard Evan Warden leads the Panthers in scoring at 13.8 ppg, while his back court running mate, sophomore Des Balentine, adds 12.4 ppg. Senior post Ronnie Smith, at 6-7, adds double digit scoring at 10.5 ppg, and classmate Austin Townsend adds another formidable option at 9.2 ppg.
Carroll (7-6) at Northwestern (6-5)
The local rivals step out of conference for a clash in Northwestern’s barn. Carroll boasts a large, post-heavy squad led by 6-7 forward Eric Miller (14.6 ppg). Brandon Dillon adds 9.3 ppg, Ryan Spesard 8.4, and Jarin Bush 7.2. Dillon, Spesard and Bush are all 6-5.
Driving guard-forward Trenton Brazel leads Northwestern at 22.2 ppg, followed by 6-7 post Chase Johnson at 10.2, and Graham Ortmann at 7.9. Johnson leads the area in rebounding at 9.9 rpg.
Northwestern is on a two-game happy streak with wins over Cass and North Miami, but will likely be without the services of starting guard Logan Galbraith, who left the North Miami game with an apparent knee injury Tuesday night.
Carroll took a 43-point loss to Pioneer last Saturday, a day after beating Tri-Central.
Around the area
In Mid-Indiana Conference play tonight, Maconaquah (8-4, 3-1 MIC) visits Cass (6-6, 1-2 MIC). Hamilton Heights (8-4) steps out of the MIC to visit Tipton (14-1) in their annual grudge match. And Attica (6-6) visits Clinton Central (1-11).
On Saturday, Taylor (4-11) visits Madison-Grant (6-8 heading into tonight’s action) in an afternoon contest, Northwestern visits Sheridan (9-3 heading into tonight), Eastern (3-10) visits Tipton, Tri-Central (4-10) vists Manchester (3-8 heading into tonight), and Cass plays at Clinton Central.