The 2002-03 season was perhaps the best ever for Clay County as both Northview and Clay City each had outstanding seasons.
The Knights posted a 21-3 mark overall and a second consecutive undefeated Western Indiana Conference record and another Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic Championship. The Clay City Eels posted an 18-5 record and won the Greene County Tournament while being ranked as high as fourth in the state by the Indiana High School Basketball Coaches' Association.
Though both fell in the second round of sectional play that couldn't overshadow special team efforts as well as several outstanding individual performances this season.
The Northview Knights opened this season with several question marks after graduating a wealth of talent from last year's 21-3 squad.
With former Rockville Rox head coach Mitch Lancaster taking over the reigns from Jon Crooks in the offseason, eyes turned towards the returning talent the Knights possessed.
Junior Logan Whitman was the only returning starter and he did not disappoint in what turned out to be one of the best individual efforts in school history.
His athletic ability has enabled him to do things that few can on the basketball court. That ability coupled with one of the best shooting strokes in the Wabash Valley, if not the state, earns him the nod as Player of the Year in Clay County.
Whitman was third in the Wabash Valley in scoring this year at 21.8 ppg. which also landed him 16th in the entire state. His total of 94 3-pointers this season should land him near the top of the Hoosier state as well. No one in the Wabash Valley had more than 70.
Along with his ability to shoot from long range, Whitman also made 61 percent of his 2-point shots that came on a variety of drives and pull up jumpers. His quick first step and explosive leaping ability enabled him to get off a shot regardless of who was guarding him on most nights.
He also reached the 1,000 point plateau this year with another full season remaining in his career. He ended the 2002-03 season with a total of 522 points for the year and 1,175 for his career.
A great deal of Northview's success can be attributed to a team that had plenty of excellent scorers who balanced the offensive load each night.
Junior forward Zach Keyes came off the bench as a high-scoring sixth man for Northview last year before taking a starter's role this year.
Keyes made the transition a smooth one as he finished second on the team with a scoring average of 20.5 per game.
Matched up in the paint against taller oppositions on most evening's, Keyes used a variety of head fakes and spin moves early in the season before developing a fade away jumper and a consistent shot from beyond the arc late in the season.
Keyes powered the inside game for the Knights where he also pulled down over five boards per game. His field goal percentage of 59 percent (191-of-323) was near the top of the Wabash Valley. He also lead the Valley in fieldgoals made this year.
Part of what makes a good team great is having a reliable third scoring option and that person for the Knights was junior Josh Timm.
Timm averaged 13.7 ppg. and was one of the best shooters in the area when he was on. He finished the season with 42 3-pointers, second on the team to Whitman and good for sixth in the Valley. He showed the ability to both drive and shoot from long range and added a fiery disposition that was, at times, lacking in the even tempered Knights. He was the top free throw shooter in the WIC this year, hitting 88 percent (45-of-51).
Any basketball coach will tell you that defense wins games and Northview senior Travis Hughes was the best purveyor of that art for the Knights.
At 6'2 he wasn't always the tallest defender on the floor, however, he was able to use his long arms to deflect and deny passes to his man on a regular basis.
He was generally employed to stop an opposing teams best offensive threat and more often than not succeeded in his job. A tireless worker, he also showed an ability to score this season with nearly double-digit scoring. He was also one of the team's best rebounders at 6.5 per game. His ability will be sorely missed next year when the Knights return nine of 12 varsity players.
While a great deal of attention was paid to the high scoring Knights, the workman-like Clay City Eels thrived down I-59.
Seniors Matt Farmer and Elliott Booe helped drive a squad that reached as high as fourth in the state this season before falling to Bloomfield in their sectional semifinal.
The pair earned All-SWIAC and All-TRC honors this week in helping lead the Eels to one of their best season's in recent history.
Booe was the top scorer on the Eels at 18.3 ppg. and registered a total of 47 3-pointers this season.
One of seven seniors on the team, Booe was a natural leader by example. His hardwork and dedication allowed him to add a consistent outside shot to a game that was characterized mostly by his ability to slash to the basket in previous years. He also added over four rebounds per game and three assists per contest as part of his well-rounded game. On the defensive side he averaged over two steals per game as well.
Farmer was one of the most dominant inside players in the area this season. With a solid build at 6'4, Farmer was able to post up and abuse opponents in the paint when he was aggressive.
He tallied 12 points per game to go with over seven rebounds per game. He hit over 50 percent of his shots this season and gave the Eels an inside presence that helped carry the team when his teammates'' outside shots weren't falling.
These six players have displayed outstanding individual ability as well as a knack for making their team better as a whole. The combined 39-8 mark for these two teams is a credit to what these players have accomplished this year.