Tourney provides growth, exposure for local teamsDecember 9, 2018
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
EVANSVILLE — Prior to Friday evening, high school basketball had never taken place in Evansville’s Ford Center.
Sure, there have been plenty of opportunities to watch college basketball games featuring the NCAA Division I Evansville Aces in the seven-year old facility, but the River City Showcase that was held this past weekend gave fans the opportunity to see the eight Evansville high schools in the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference compete against eight other teams from around the area.
Three Dubois County boys basketball teams — Jasper, Southridge and Forest Park — competed in the annual event as all three teams played their games on Saturday while two other games took place on Friday. And while the Wildcats were the only local program to come away with a victory, the experience and exposure each team got was well worth the trip.
“I mean, this is a once in a lifetime type of thing,” said Southridge sophomore Colson Montgomery who finished with 21 points in the Raiders 65-52 loss to Evansville Mater Dei. “It’s a great experience for us, we all came out here and wanted to be competitive but we also wanted to have fun with it.”
Jasper junior guard Jackson Kabrick, who led the Cats with 17 points in their 58-52 victory over Evansville Reitz, could tell the atmosphere would be something different as soon as he arrived at the Ford Center.
Whether it was the professional-esque presentation or the appearance of individuals such as first-year Aces men’s basketball head coach Walter McCarty, the players knew they were in for something special as soon as they arrived to Evansville.
“When we stepped into the locker room, we were kind of in awe of exactly what was going on,” Kabrick said. “It’s a really cool, new experience for us and I think we came into it well after a tough (Friday) night against (Evansville) Memorial. We wanted to prove to everyone else that we did (Friday) wasn’t who we are at all and I think we did that.”
The first local team to step on the court on Saturday was the Southridge Raiders who tipped off against the Wildcats of Evansville Mater Dei at 1 p.m. Southridge started off rather well as they exchanged blows in an offensive battle in the first quarter but Mater Dei started to gain control in the second quarter thanks to some timely shots as well as poor free throw shooting from Southridge.
The Raiders were able to trim Mater Dei’s lead to just six points with seven minutes to play but were unable to make it any closer to that, falling 65-52 for their first defeat of the season. A night after storming back on the road to defeat Pocket Athletic Conference foe Tell City, Southridge head coach Mark Rohrer believes the Raiders can learn a lot from this past weekend heading forward.
“Once we get our basketball legs under us, we’ll be able to drill it a little more I think,” Rohrer said. “Playing these good teams is only going to help us figure out what we need to do in the short term and what we need to do in the long term to help us prepare for March.”
Montgomery, who threw down a monster dunk in the first quarter on Saturday, agreed about how much the opportunity to play in these games will help the Raiders down the stretch.
“These games mean we’re not going to peak in December, we’ll be able to peak in sectional or regional,” Montgomery said. “These are all big games and mental games for us to get better — we love playing these big teams too because it can help us get on those boards and help us be known.”
The next local team in action was the Jasper Wildcats as they had a tough matchup against Evansville Reitz and their stud sophomore guard Khristian Lander.
Sure, Lander had yet another solid performance as he finished with 23 points (8-of-19 shooting) and six rebounds but Jasper was able to have a plethora of solid outings on their own as they defeated the Panthers 58-52 sending Reitz to their first loss of the season.
While Jackson Kabrick led Jasper in scoring with 17 points, the Cats also had solid performances from seniors Jared Englert (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Reece Milligan (12 points). Jasper head coach John Goebel was impressed with how the Wildcats bounced back from their loss on Friday night against a tough Evansville Memorial team.
“We knew this was going to be a tough weekend,” Goebel said. “These guys responded (after the loss on Friday) in a unique environment they’re not used to against one of the better players in the country in Khristian Lander and I felt we came out and handled ourselves with a lot of class and composure.”
Kabrick agreed: “I think we kind of came out of nowhere and no one really thought anything of us. But I think after this win, people are going to know who we are.”
The final game of the evening was between the Forest Park Rangers and the Evansville Bosse Bulldogs. The Rangers got off to a fast starting against the Class 3A No. 6 Bulldogs as they led 28-21 at the halftime break.
However, Bosse started to get things rolling in the second half thanks to junior center Kiyron Powell and senior guard Kolten Sanford. The Bulldogs eventually ended up pulling away late for a 69-59 victory. While the result wasn’t what the Rangers were hoping for, Forest Park head coach David Welp believes this battle will help make his team a better one in the long run.
“These tough teams we’re playing will help make us a tougher team,” Welp said. “We’re not executing very well right now but this (game) will help us execute better. We’re taking it step by step, learning as a team.”
Sophomore center Curt Hopf had a monstrous game with 22 points and 15 rebounds — all while battling Powell, a player who has a few inches on him as well as an extra year of varsity experience.
“The day before, (Coach Welp) told me I was going to be guarding Kiyron (Powell),” Hopf said. “The whole time I just kept saying that I wanted him and I wanted the challenge — I wanted to see what I could do against him.”
For all local teams involved, the River City Showcase was a success no matter the final result on the scoreboard. With a long way to go in the regular season, the teams expect these tough matchups to help shape what lies ahead in their future.
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