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Panthers Made Inroads Against Inexperience and Their Inner Demons
Before the basketball season started I sat down and had a chat with coach John Howell. The new Knightstown mentor was very much aware of the fact that he had inherited a young and inexperienced team. But there were other problems. The team was also very immature.
There were tempers that flared when things didn’t go their way. Fits were thrown. Some of the players were members of the 1-21 team from the year before and they didn’t want a repeat of that season.
There was plenty of raw talent, but they were an immature bunch nonetheless. I told Howell I thought he could possibly win nine or 10 games if he could get those kids to hold their tempers.
I watched the team grow up some this season, and I watch them back-peddle. There were several times those kids brought back memories of something my father once told me concerning experience.
If old dad said it once, he said it a hundred times. “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.”
Well, they didn’t get a sectional title, but no one thought they would. They did get the experience of losing a shot at that title, because every bit as much as Eastern Hancock won the sectional, Knightstown lost it.
This year’s Panther team was very entertaining. Despite losing 14 games, they were very much in 13 of those. The Panthers never won back-to-back games this season, so that means it’s been two years since the Knightstown Panthers have won two straight games.
But those guys were definitely fun to watch.
They gave new meaning to inconsistency along the way. You never knew what you were going to get from one quarter to the next. That never showed up more than in the sectional semifinal against the Royals. Knightstown outscored Eastern Hancock 33-16 in the first and third quarters, and was outscored 34-16 in the second and fourth periods. The breakdown by quarters went like this: 13-7, 8-16, 20-9, 8-20. That’s taking inconsistency to new levels.
The team never really got over that hump. They never managed to find that go-to-guy in the clutch who would stop the bleeding and take charge of the game. Part of that reason is the fact that the Panthers started five underclassmen at the sectional.
The good news is that those five starters will return to the team next year, as well as four more varsity players who saw a great deal of action.. They will be joined by some members of the junior varsity team that went 17-3 and had an outstanding year.
There wasn’t a coach in the Sectional 42 field that wouldn’t trade his roster for Knightstown’s next season, or for that matter, the next several years.
The Panthers have nothing to be ashamed of. They won nine games and with one less mistake could have stolen a sectional title this year. They lost the game against Eastern Hancock not because of a missed free throw, but because as a team they committed nine turnovers in the game’s final nine minutes.
You can’t do that against a team like Eastern Hancock, who returned all five starters and six seniors from the previous season.
Overall, the boys and girls basketball seasons at Knightstown almost mirrored one another. They both return an overwhelming majority of their talent next season, and both will have high expectations.
High school basketball at KHS this year was definitely a learning experience. Next season, that is all going to change.
The Banner’s All-Tourney team at Hagerstown had an unusual look to it this year, and all indications are that sectional is going to be very competitive for years to come. The youth movement in that sectional might be unmatched in Class 2A.
Two freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors joined four seniors on the All-Sectional team. That’s an extremely unusual number of underclassmen. What stands out most of all, however, is the talent level of the freshmen.
Knightstown’s Seth Apollos and Hagerstown’s Alex Houck are both outstanding freshmen, and have been starters and major forces on their teams all season long. Eastern Hancock’s Dustin Smith may be the best of the lot, however. He nabbed The Banner’s tourney MVP honor by scoring 64 points in the three tourney games. He and fellow frosh Steve Stunda will be quite a duo over the next three years for the Royals.
Knightstown’s Zach Apollos and Lincoln’s Brett Singer (both 16 points per game) are just sophomores and will be seeing a lot more of each other for the next two years. Those kids and a slew of talented young teammates are going to help make for some impressive rivalries in the coming years at the Hagerstown Sectional.
This realignment couldn’t have come at a better time.
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