Greentown — Much like other coaches, Jeremy Dexter has developed a close bond with the members of his program.
The Eastern girls basketball coach has seen his current senior class re-write the school’s athletic record books while holding themselves and others to a high standard off the playing surface.
For all the things they’ve done for the Greentown community, Dexter feels compelled to give a maximum effort as he leads the program’s preparation for Saturday’s Class 2A Warsaw Semistate against Fort Wayne Bishop Luers.
“As a coach, I talk about this year. I don’t want to see it end,” Dexter said. “I don’t want to see these seniors’ careers end. They are such winners. I’ve told them I believe they could sustain this as long as they want. The sky is the limit, and they just have to keep pushing to get better and stay together. I can’t even measure what they mean to me as individuals.”
While it’s not their No. 1 sport, the members of the current senior class, led by Brittany and Bethany Neeley, are excited as always to be adding another chapter to the ever-growing storybook of their four years at Eastern.
The twin sisters this week inked their letters of intent to run track and cross country at Indiana University.
“It was our goal coming into the season that we could make a deep run in the tournament,” Bethany Neeley said. “But you never put it into reality. These last two weeks have been awesome, to be one of four teams left playing. We feel really blessed to have this experience. We’re just trying to enjoy it every day.”
Awaiting the No. 6-ranked Comets are the six-time state-champion Knights, who are seeking their fourth straight appearance in the Class 2A state finals.
Luers enters semistate play with a 14-11 record. The Knights’ top six scorers all have at least one year of eligibility left, including three freshmen.
“We know that we’ll be facing a lot of athletes, [but] maybe not the best basketball players,” Brittany Neeley said. “But, they’ll be athletic, so we have to be on our toes at all times. Practicing against the boys has really helped us prepare. We have to sprint back in transition. You can’t get beat on those kinds of buckets.”
One common ingredient in this Luers team, when compared to teams of the past, is their ability to dictate a fast pace, led by twin junior guards Allison and Emily Butler.
Allison ranks second for the Knights in scoring at 11.0 points per game. She adds a team-high 5.9 assists per outing. Erin adds 7.4 ppg and 3.0 apg.
Luers is led by 5-11 freshman post player Tashayla Sutorius, who averages 12.5 ppg and 5.7 rebounds per night. Junior forward Addie Rembold adds 9.6 ppg and a team-best 7.6 rpg. Freshmen Emma Wolfe (8.2 ppg) and Taya Andrews (5.5 ppg) add scoring depth.
“Both teams have some athletes, which leads me to think that, in opportunities, we can get up and down,” Dexter said. “Tempo at times will play a major role as far as us needing to get out in transition and push the tempo. They like to get out and push the tempo too. We like to get the ball out quick, but we’ve also talked in the last few days about being able to probe and be patient, where you’re not settling for 50-50 shots. We want to be executing and getting high-percentage shots. If that leads to a slower paced game, I think we’ve proven to ourselves that we can win that type of game, too.”
Eastern sports its own dynamic twin backcourt duo with the Neeleys.
Brittany leads the Comets (21-3) in scoring at 17.7 ppg and adds 8.3 rpb, 5.0 apg and 5.6 steals.
Bethany adds 15.2 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 6.0 spg and 4.2 apg. Both sisters have gone over the 1,000-point mark for their careers this season.
Six-foot sophomore post Taylor Holliday adds 7.6 ppg and 6.9 rpg, but has scored nine or more points in each of Eastern’s postseason games, including a 14-point, nine-rebound performance in the regional championship victory over Wabash.
Junior guard Ally Oyler adds a long-range shooting threat at 8.7 ppg.
“The great thing about this team is that we enjoy being together, helping and picking each other up on and off the floor,” Dexter said. “We’re going to put the effort in and be ready to compete in the semistate. We have built a mentality that we believe we can win when we step on the floor. These kids will walk in Saturday believing they can win the semistate.”