Raiders hungry for even more successNovember 28, 2018
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
After winning their first sectional championship since 2007, the Southridge boys basketball team knows that everyone else in their sectional is going to try their hardest to dethrone the Raiders this upcoming season.
While a challenge like that may scare some teams, Southridge is fully welcoming to the idea of having a target on their back as they aim to repeat as sectional champions and perhaps even take it a little further the second time around.
“I think winning that sectional was like blood in the water,” said senior Jaden Hayes. “We smelled that and now it’s just fuels the fire to go to regional, semistate and possibly even state. Having that experience and winning mentality will help us because now we know what it takes.”
The Raiders enter this season with a new leader at the helm as Mark Rohrer takes over as Southridge’s head coach. Rohrer spent the last six seasons at South Knox where he compiled a 94-58 record while winning back-to-back sectional titles in 2017 and 2018.
What’s impressed Rohrer the most so far at Southridge’s offseason workouts and early season practices is the mentality the Raiders have. It’s something that Rohrer has already started to see throughout the entire Southridge athletic program and it’s led him to be rather excited about what lies ahead in the future.
“I love that the whole athletic program here has had so much success and (each team) just feeds off of one another,” Rohrer said. “The thing I’ve been the most impressed with is how quickly they’ve been able to pick up on things and how locked in they are mentally. They’re really allowing themselves to be coached and we’ve always been on the same page — their competitiveness and toughness is rather special, too.”
The players have been excited with the competitive nature that’s been seen early at practices so far this season. They’re anxious to play with the same tenacity and intensity when their regular season kicks off this Saturday evening at home against Corydon Central.
“Our practices have been very competitive and intense which is always a good thing to have this early in the season,” senior Joe LaGrange said. “We’ve been really getting after it and we’re already finding ways to make each other better.”
Hayes added: “Having the (football) guys come back was great because you can just see on their faces how excited they are to be here for another good year. It feels like we’re able to pick back up where we left off last season without missing a beat.”
One of the reasons that Southridge feels like they’ll be able to pick back up right where they left off last season is because they’ll return a major core of their rotation from last season. They return their three top scorers from a year ago — sophomore Colson Montgomery (17.7 points per game), Hayes (12.5 ppg) and LaGrange (11.7 ppg). They also return starter Garrett Voegerl (3.9 points per game) and Matt Price, who missed most of last season due to injury.
Sophomore Camden Gasser will be a new addition to the varsity roster this season as he is expected to be the Raiders sixth man while the other rotation spots will be between sophomore Sam Sermersheim (“a natural rebounding and post presence”) and freshmen Kaden Neukam and Carter Whitehead will also look to play important roles in the Raiders depth this season.
While the Raiders know they may have to work on building some more depth this season, the core group of players returning from last year’s sectional championship team gives Southridge a good starting point heading into this year.
“Last year, we were trying to get used to each other but now we’re all just coming back again,” LaGrange said. “Our chemistry was really built last year and it’s going to be really key once tournament time rolls around again.”
In terms of the schedule, Southridge will be facing a few new teams this year. The Raiders will face Evansville Mater Dei on December 8 at the Ford Center in Evansville for the first ever River City Showcase, they’ll face sectional foe Princeton at home on December 15 and they’ll travel to Jeffersonville on December 21.
While Rohrer knows the Pocket Athletic Conference will be filled with several tough teams including Heritage Hills and Tell City, he believes the three teams the Raiders picked up this season could be some of their toughest matchups of the year.
“Those three games will make us better by the end of the season and will be a good measuring stick for us,” Rohrer said. “If we win it would be great but no matter what we’re going to learn from these games regardless. These guys want to compete and play in these big games — if we want to be the best, we have to play the best.”
The Raiders definitely have high expectations for the season as they hope to not only repeat as sectional champions, but perhaps even make a deeper run than they did as a group last year.
What will be the biggest keys for Southridge to reach their goals?
“Mindset — day-to-day we have to keep improving and have a hunger to get better,” Rohrer said. “I’m going to learn from them as much as they’re going to learn from me and the goal is to be peaking in March. In the six years I’ve been a head coach, we’ve been able to do that and hopefully we’re able to continue that here.”
Hayes added: “We have to be sure to bring our effort everyday, no matter what. We know that since we won sectional last year we’re going to have a target on our back but we just have to continue to stay focused. Even if you have a bad day, you just have to continue to put in the effort because it’s more than just rebounding and scoring — effort is a big part of it.”
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