It's impossible to argue that the season came to a close much to early for Northview fans' tastes this year. With a second round sectional loss to the same Martinsville squad who downed them the year before, the Knights finished with an excellent 21-3 record.
Though the disappointment is still fresh in the players, coaches and fans minds, no one can dispute that the 2002-'03 year had a plethora of high points that will bring smiles until hoops season next winter.
This season began with some question marks as much of last year's starting lineup left through graduation after a 21-3 mark.
But with coach Mitch Lancaster taking the coaching reigns from Jon Crooks, the baton was passed with nary a hitch.
What can only be described as one special group of juniors and seniors were there to lead the way.
Returning starter Logan Whitman picked up his scoring pace with ease and Zach Keyes moved from the sixth-man spot last year to a frontline starter with special results.
Defensive stalwart Travis Hughes jumped into the rotation along with junior Josh Timm who added even more scoring punch along with guard Amos Wegner and the Knights were loaded for bear once more.
If there was any doubts in the early going, they were erased in a flurry of early season wins. Twelve in a row to be exact, including a repeat of last year's Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic that showed exactly what these kids were capable of achieving.
Who can forget Keyes' dominating four game run in the tournament when he blew up Sullivan in the opening round with a 30 point, eight rebound night before cramming 26 points and six boards down Terre Haute North's craw. If that wasn't enough, Turkey Run got no love from the Knights in the semifinal game when he rang up a season-high 34 points.
For the four game tournament, he averaged 26.5 points a game. He would later add 31 versus Mooresville and another 30 against South Putnam on the way to 491 season points and a 20.5 ppg. average.
His game is extraordinary to watch up close as I did most often from underneath the basket with camera in hand. His headfakes and up-and-under moves left big men across the Valley flailing in mid-air as he ducked under for layins to the tune of a 60 percent shooting percentage. He also developed a fadeaway jumper as the season progressed and a knack for hitting the trey in key spots which should leave teams quite wary for the 2003-'04 year.
But what I'll remember most from Keyes' year is the superlative attitude with which he played. The competitive fire that burned between the buzzers but washed away with a smile afterwards. I haven't met an opposing coach yet that hasn't had the utmost respect for him as Terre Haute South coach Pat Rady displayed when he hugged Keyes as he left the court after fouling out in the sectional opener versus the Braves.
Running mate Logan Whitman finished the year as the team's top scorer and, hands down, the sickest shooting stroke in the Wabash Valley, if not the state.
Anyone who can follow up a sophomore year of 72 3-pointers with a remarkable 94 this year, can drop a couple of jaws.
If your remembering highlights of Whitman's year, it's hard to decide where to begin.
Evenings that stood bright in my mind were the 27 point game with EIGHT 3-pointers versus Terre Haute North in the Wabash Valley Tournament. Or maybe Jan. 10 when he unconsciously hit for 32 versus Owen Valley and knocked down nine 3-pointers.
Sitting in the stands that night both Tribune Star reporter Steve Fields and myself just kept shaking our heads and grinning as Whitman hit shot after shot with hands, bodies and the kitchen sink in his face.
Immediately after hitting his seventh 3-pointer, a Patriot fan leaned down from behind me with a gasp and asked me if Whitman did this all the time. I had to answer honestly. "Well, pretty much." The fan's response was to ask me if he was a senior. "Uh, sorry," I replied. "He'll be back next year too." The fan's response can't really be printed in a family newspaper such as this.
The junior later would post another 30 point night, including the game-winning freethrows versus Sullivan on Jan. 31 and registered his 1,000th point, a mark that Keyes will likely hit next season.
Perhaps the most talked about highlight reel moment came versus Mooresville on Feb. 7 when he drove past the high block before throwing down a vicious one-handed dunk over a defender.
Less than two weeks later when talking to a Greencastle fan during the Knight's game I was asked about the play which had evidently grown to legendary proportions.
With wide eyes the, perhaps middle-aged man, leaned forward as if telling a secret and asked if it was true that #23 (Whitman) had dunked from the foul line in a game about two weeks earlier. Though I corrected him a little closer to the truth, I still remember the awe that I felt when I saw the play. I realized then that the word was getting out about his ability.
Whitman would finish the season with 522 points or 21.75 ppg., good for the 18th best average in the state.
Another special junior was guard Josh Timm who had some ups and downs this year but was one of the better clutch shooters the Knights could boast.
Timm averaged 13.7 points a game for the Knights and was a valuable third option for Northview who often needed his points when the opposition double and triple teamed Whitman and Keyes. He added 42 3-pointers this year and will certainly be a big factor for the Knight's chances next year.
Even more important than his outside shooting is his ability to get into the lane and hit the midrange shot from the paint. The junior guard also made defense's think twice before converging on him because he was able to dish the ball often to the waiting Keyes or Whitman on the perimeter for the open shot.
These three returning starters will make up a strong contingent for the Knights along with forward Craig Greenwood and guards Tyler Akers and Matt Brand who will probably get the responsibility of running the point next year.
Greenwood provided the muscle off the bench and did some spot starting for the Knights during the year. He was solely missed in sectional play after a weekend car accident that kept him out of the lineup.
Akers and Brand came off the bench to keep opposing teams on the run.
Brand did little shooting for the most part, but did a solid job of handling the rock while senior guard Wegner got a breather. Akers added some more heighth into the Northview lineup and was a danger from the perimeter when his stroke was on. Both will be key in the guard rotation next year.
It's still hard to believe that the season came to a close for a team that seemed to always have that something extra that got them the "W." However there will be plenty of bright spots to remember from what was a very special season for the Northview Knights.