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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

A group to be remembered

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

-- Knights' seniors experienced a 73 percent 4-year winning percentage --

Their numbers were few this year, but certainly their impact was immense.

The Northview seniors on the varsity basketball team numbered just three but they played such an important role for a team that had immense degrees of success over their four seasons.

Amos Wegner, Travis Hughes and Ryan Bitzegaio will all leave Northview High School this Spring knowing that they were part of one of the most successful classes of basketball players that have donned the maroon, black and white jersey of the Knights.

Over their four year career, the Knights have a winning percentage of 73 percent (66-25), a remarkable string considering the schedule that they most often play each year.

The trio was also a part of back-to-back Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic Championships the past two seasons and registered consecutive undefeated Western Indiana Conference records.

Senior guard Ryan Bitzegaio didn't necessarily see large amounts of court time in his final year with the Knights but never missed the opportunity to play hard when he was out there.

Bitzegaio, at 6'2, was one of the taller players on the squad and showed in his playing time that he was a solid rebounder and a scrappy defender as well as playing a heady game.

Guard Amos Wegner is the epitome of a hard-nosed, full bore type of player who only knows one speed.

He spent the majority of his time this year at the point, running an offense that was one of the top scoring clubs in the state at 75.7 points per game. That figure is impressive enough but consider that they also averaged 74.3 ppg. last year.

On the offensive side of the ball, Wegner topped the WIC with nearly six assists per contest while guiding the explosive Northview offense. He rarely was called on to score, but his rarefied leaping ability and quick first step off the dribble allowed him to penetrate to the basket with abandon when he made the decision. His seeming disregard for his own well-being on these drives was well noted by officials and sportswriters alike.

That reckless abandon carried over to the defensive side as well. God help you if you were anywhere between the sideline and a loose ball headed towards the stands. Wegner's flying leaps after loose balls became the stuff of legends since fans, announcers, band members and drum kits were never safe from his desire for the Knight's to keep possession of the ball.

He's what some more aged fans would call a "gamer," meaning a player that you wanted on your team not always because he was the best basketball player, but simply because of his desire to win.

Wegner's game, in my mind, epitomizes much of what is missing in professional basketball, heart. Though he can, at times, talk trash to the opposition with the best of them, he backed up his talk with sheer hustle and desire which was contagious. His presence will certainly be missed next year.

Travis Hughes rarely got the headlines or publicity that his high scoring teammates often did, but he could possibly be the most valuable of all the Knights to their system.

Hughes could score when called upon, but his real forte was defense and putting the clamps on an opposition's most dangerous person.

Northview coach Mitch Lancaster mentioned often Hughes' importance to what the Knights do on offense and defense.

His ability to guard both 6'6 centers or 5'11 guards gave the Knights the advantage in matching up their smaller lineup with an opposing team. Hughes' defensive knack was never more prevalent than in sectional play.

In the sectional opener his assignment was to shut down Terre Haute South's 6'6, 240 pound center, Jeremy Lock who had lit up the Knights in a pair of games earlier in the season. Though Hughes is only 6'2 and perhaps 160 pounds, he limited Lock to just five points and three rebounds as Northview won.

In the sectional semifinal he drew the top Martinsville scorer, 6'1 senior, Dustin Huff, who averaged nearly 20 points per game. Though Hughes eventually fouled out in the fourth quarter, he held Huff to just nine points through three periods of work.

He was the top rebounder on the Knights at 6.2 per game and also hit over 54 percent of his shots this season while averaging nearly double figures.

What he brought to the table was great instinct on both sides of the ball. Hughes could drive the hoop and hit the short jumper and rarely took the ill-advised shot. He brought a lot to the table for the Knights who finished a combined 42-6 the past two seasons while these three seniors' ability came to final fruition.

The Northview program will miss each in different ways, but will always be that much better for the legacy and memories that they left behind.

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