Times Sports Editor
The Western Indiana Conference battle won't be for the feint of heart either with several teams returning plenty of experience.
Defending WIC champ and Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic champion, Sullivan, was looking solid, but suffered a huge blow when 6'7 junior Rhett Smith, who averaged 17.1 ppg. and 8.5 rpg., broke two fingers on his non-shooting hard in last week's scrimmage. Smith will likely miss up to two months after surgery the following day. The Golden Arrows have plenty of returning firepower however as David Bedwell and Kaleb Pirtle each had 15 points in a win over South Knox to open the season.
Caleb Turner (6'1) and James Lisman (6'0) are returning starters along with Bedwell and Sullivan also adds 6'1 senior transfer, Mason Gregory. The move-in from Scottsburg averaged 15 ppg. last year
Edgewood played a lot of sophomores last season and they've gotten a year stronger. The team returns Levi Garner, a three-year starter who begins his senior season with more than 800 career points. He averaged 18.9 ppg. for a 14-7 Mustangs squad last season. Alex Narey, a 5'11 guard, averaged 15.9 ppg. last year and he's joined by guard Brandon Owens, who averaged 6.9 ppg.
The Mustangs were left scratching their heads a bit after the season opening game on Wednesday night. Edgewood fell behind Bedford North Lawrence 17-0 before eventually dropping a 72-49 contest to the Stars.
"Edgewood and Sullivan basically return everyone from last year," Northview coach Ernie Maesch said. "Those are the teams we'll have to beat and West Vigo is always very competitive. Since I've been here the league has been very good. There hasn't been an easy game."
The Patriots of Owen Valley were 9-14 last season and have a new head coach in Chad Smith, who takes over from Trent Heckman. Smith started by coaching the seventh-grade and has moved up over 14 years of coaching, including 10 years as the JV coach. Heckman was 111-76 over eight seasons.
The Patriots are charged with replacing one of the biggest teams in the WIC last year. Gone are 6'7 Cody Vest (19.5 ppg.), Sean Hollows (7.1 ppg.), Woody Worland (7.7 ppg.) and Dylan Christenberry (5.1 ppg.) The team's leading returnees are guards Jared Gilstrap (4.7 ppg.) and Ethan Hoadley (3.0 ppg.) and forward Dalton Vest (3.8 ppg.).
In opening the season against a ranked Eastern (Greene) squad, the Patriots battled very gamely early on before relinquishing a 67-44 game on Wednesday.
Brown County had a breakout season last year, going 14-8 before losing to Sullivan in the sectional final. However, guard Bailey Howard (19.4 ppg.), forward Garrett Davis (10.9 ppg.) and James Allen (11.9 ppg.) have all graduated. However, the Eagles put together an 11-2 mark during summer league play.
Returning for the Eagles are junior guards Jordan Rose (5.2 ppg.) and Caleb Wedan (4.3 ppg.), but moving up will be plenty of size from the reserve ranks.
Caleb Parker is 6'10 and has reportedly improved markedly and 6'4 Dominique Walls gives the Eagles another big body. Quincy Robinson returns with some varsity experience and has grown to 6'6.
The West Vigo Vikings were disappointed with an 11-12 overall mark last season, but are looking for an improvement this season with some returning experience.
Scott West, a 5'11 guard, returns after averaging 12 points per game last year and he's joined by a pair of juniors in Cody Thornton and Jordan Houser. Both players have been contributors since their freshmen seasons.
Houser scored a game-high 20 points to help offset a rough shooting night from West in the season-opener, a 56-43 win over North Vermillion on Wednesday.
West will likely be expected to expand his scoring role, but the Vikings will add some size to the lineup in 6'5 sophomore Zach Lyon and classmates Adrien Corenflos and 5'10 Cade Linsey coming off the bench.
The South Vermillion Wildcats return only one starter from a 13-10 season as 5'10 senior Dylan Reyher is the lone returnee. Fellow senior, 5'10 Dylan Haltom will likely join the starting rotation along with 6'5 junior center Phillip Harpenau. Another big body in 6'4 senior James Craigmyle could be a starting forward and 6'0 junior Brad Chambers could man a forward spot.
Reyher had a big game in the season opener, tallying 20 points in a 58-43 loss to Clay City on Wednesday. However, no other player had more than six in the game.
The Northview boys finished a disappointing 1-5 in the conference last year, downing only Owen Valley 50-48. However, the Knights lost a one-point (56-55) decision to the Vikings and an overtime contest to South Vermillion, 50-42. A seven-point defeat to Sullivan was on the books so Northview is ready to bounce back in a big way to compete for another WIC game. However, coach Maesch isn't looking too far ahead.
"We just need to take it one game at a time. We tried to move our schedule around and we had a scrimmage with Princeton, who is unbelievable," Maesch said. "We moved the Vincennes game up so we can have a few more games under our belt before the conference gets underway."