Young Raiders eager to show energy, intensityDecember 7, 2017
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
The Southridge Raiders are entering their fifth week of basketball practice but for eight of the 12 members of the varsity roster, last week was their first time on the basketball court this season after an extended run on the gridiron.
While the Raiders Class 2A state football championship may have put a dent on the team’s basketball practices, no one is complaining one bit.
“You can’t replace winning,” Raider coach Ted O’Brien said. “We encourage our guys to play other sports because if they’re competitive year round it makes them better in the long run. It will be a little bit of a challenge early on but a lot of these guys have been competing in big moments for weeks now so we can trust those guys to face adversity just like they did in football season.”
Due to the championship ride the Raider football team went on, Southridge postponed their first two basketball games of the season against Washington and Corydon Central, which were scheduled for last Friday and Saturday. That means the Raiders will open the season up against a conference foe in Tell City in Huntingburg on Friday.
Jaden Hayes, who was the Raiders leading scorer last season averaging 12.2 ppg, is excited to see the chemistry the team plays with when Southridge opens up their season tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. after having to wait so long to play against someone other than their teammates.
“I definitely think our chemistry is on the rise,” Hayes said. “At the beginning of practice our energy was kind of low but now that the football guys are back it’s a whole new sense of energy, it was almost like a fresh start to camp so that was refreshing.”
The Raiders, who finished 5-19 last season, started three sophomores for the majority of the season — Hayes, Matt Price and Logan Seger.
While the team does have four seniors on the roster (Jacob Masterson, Jayce Harter, Colin Smith, Justin Lammers), O’Brien thinks the experience that guys like Hayes, Price and Seger got last season will help tremendously in the 2017 campaign.
“Last year we threw a lot of guys into situations they might not have been totally ready for,” O’Brien said.
“Starting three sophomores last year, those guys were just trying to learn how to be varsity athletes and run a team. They got a lot of that out of their system and now we’ll have depth to lean on, guys who can play multiple positions and guys who have bought in to play multiple roles.”
The Raiders are also excited for two new additions to the team this season — 6-foot-5 freshman Colson Montgomery and Joe LaGrange, the son of Southwest Dubois superintendent Tim LaGrange, who spent the last two seasons at Jeffersonville.
O’Brien said it’s not everyday that two newcomers to the team provide this much excitement.
“It’s definitely unique, not often do we see two potential starters and two potential guys who can lead your team in scoring come in after not being on your team last year,” O’Brien said. “Being able to have Joe who played at the varsity level in Jeffersonville and Colson who’s a pretty darn good basketball player is unique.”
Montgomery, who also was a member of Southridge’s football squad, said he’s been waiting for basketball season to roll around — although he’s okay that it may have took a little longer than he originally thought it would.
“I mean, playing at the state finals was pretty sweet too,” Montgomery said with a laugh.
While Montgomery is expected to be one of the team’s main scoring contributors this season, it’s clear that he’s already making it known that he wants to do whatever the team needs him to do.
“I just want to be a team player, I don’t want it to be all about me right now,” Montgomery said. “I’m excited to see the energy we’ll have (on Friday night) and hopefully we can take care of the ball more and limit our turnovers.”
The players have already begun to set both individual and team goals for themselves with the season set to begin.
Montgomery believes the team can win the Pocket Athletic Conference and also win the sectional championship.
Hayes is hoping to see himself get his teammates more involved this season by working on assets outside of scoring.
“I want to assist more, if I can get my teammates involved that helps take pressure off both me and off of them,” Hayes said. “I also want to rebound more, I should’ve rebounded way more than I did last season — it can help open up some things on the offense.”
When the season tips off tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. against PAC conference foe Tell City, O’Brien wants to see one improvement right out of the gate — an exciting brand of basketball.
“We’ve struggled on the offensive end for the last two or three years,” O’Brien said.
“Our defense has always been there and that’s going to always be a staple point of our program but this year’s team should be ahead offensively. The biggest thing for me is what’s our competitive level? If things aren’t going our way, will we still compete? These guys have a goal to win this conference and it starts with our first game and I think if we compete for four quarters, we’ll be just fine this year.”
Hayes says he’d like to see Huntingburg Memorial Gym go crazy tonight and that can only happen if the players on the court are providing the spark.
He believes that the tone for the season will be set early so it’s important for the Raiders to start the year off with a bang.
“We have to have an all-out intensity with everyone going at it and putting their bodies on the line,” Hayes said.
“If we can go out there, make a statement and turn some heads early in the season that would be great.”
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