Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 15, 2013

BOYS HOOPS PREVIEW: Title on the line for Kats

Richmond visits Kokomo tonight in battle of NCC leaders.

By Pedro Velazco
Tribune sportswriter

— Richmond travels to Kokomo today in the final North Central Conference date for both squads. Richmond is 5-1 in the NCC. Kokomo is 6-0.

You don’t need anything else to understand the magnitude of tonight’s game.

“It’s a championship game for both teams and they don’t get any bigger than that,” Kokomo coach Brian McCauley said.

The Class 4A No. 9 Kats (17-2) have wrapped up a share of the title but would like to win it outright. If Richmond wins, the Red Devils (14-6) will horn in on a share of the crown. McCauley expects an electric game, he hopes the atmosphere matches.

“For a championship, there’s no better place to play than at Memorial Gym,” he said. “We hope that we have a great crowd, great support. We’re going to need it and we’re looking forward to seeing Memorial Gym full and try to go after an NCC title outright.”

Richmond will make that task difficult. The Red Devils lost their NCC opener, at home, by a dozen points to Huntington North, but have won every league date since then by six points or more.

“They’re very, very athletic,” McCauley said. “They are very strong physically. They are very capable from the 3-point line, they do a very good job of penetrating, they’re good offensive rebounders, they apply a lot of pressure defensively. They’ve got great guard play and they’re good inside because they’re athletic and quick.”

Senior guard Charles Hampton leads Richmond at 14.4 points per game. Sophomore point guard Joel Oakafor averages 10.3 ppg and 4.5 assists and another sophomore guard, Davious Webster, adds 9.3 ppg.

“I think defensive transition’s going to be huge,” McCauley said. “Richmond is great, the best team we’ve played in the open court. Anderson was really good, but Richmond I think is more athletic than Anderson and even better in the open court. We had a very important win at Anderson [69-64], but Richmond did the same thing and beat them by 12 at Anderson.”

The Wildkats are also guard heavy and athletic, making for an interesting matchup. Guard Tayler Persons leads the squad at 17.2 ppg and 4 apg, followed by inside-outside player LaBradford Sebree (15.5 ppg), post forward Erik Bowen (10), and guard Hakim Burnett (7.7).

Northwestern (10-7, 3-3 MIC) at Eastern (3-14, 0-6 MIC)

The Purple Tigers are trying to secure a winning season in league play while the Comets hope to get one loop win before conference play ends. The Tigers have won the last four meetings between the two. Eastern enters on a nine-game losing skid after beating Maconaquah in the Coca-Cola Old School Sectional on Dec. 22.

Northwestern visits Twin Lakes on Saturday. The Indians are 10-8 heading into tonight’s game against Rensselaer.

Cass (10-8, 2-4 MIC) at Western (11-7, 4-2 MIC)

Western can take a share of third place in the Mid-Indiana Conference with a victory in its final league date. The Panthers are 5-5 in their last 10 games, alternating wins and losses. Cass has won three straight. The Panthers own the series recently, taking the last six games including a 56-50 overtime win last season at Cass.

Around the area

Taylor (5-14) tries to end a three-game skid tonight when the Titans visit Carroll. The Cougars are 11-8 and have won three straight. Mid-Indiana Conference co-leader Peru (9-8) also steps out of league play with a trip to Rochester (4-13)

Tri-Central (7-11, 2-2 Hoosier Heartland Conference) visits Clinton Prairie (2-15, 0-4 HHC) in the final league game for both teams.

Class 2A No. 1-ranked Tipton (18-1) takes an 11-game happy streak a home date with Frankfort in the Blue Devils’ first game since moving to the top of the poll. The Hot Dogs are 14-4 and have a five-game winning streak.

On Saturday, Southwood (9-7 before today’s game with Northfield) visits Maconaquah (9-9), and Clinton Central (1-17) plays at Bethesda Christian (3-14).