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 Hesitation, Indecision Getting the Best of Panther Boys Team

It’s been nearly 30 years since I learned my first life lesson about how painful hesitation or a bit of indecision can be.

In early 1979 I was at Ft. Benning, Georgia, going through basic training, when, in a moment of hesitation during a training exercise, I accidentally caused a five-gallon can of gasoline, a generator and eventually, a large truck to be blown up.

I was immediately punished and spent the rest of the night burying cigarette butts in the middle of a 40-acre field.

Each butt had to be buried individually in a six-inch by six-inch wide, 10-inches deep hole, and then the hole concealed beyond recognition in the middle of the field. The next morning, I had to retrieve all 10 cigarette butts, which, of course, I was unable to do.

After more than 15 hours of searching for my well-hidden butt graves, my punishment was finally over.

I’m not trying to bore you with an old army story that happened more than a dozen years before most of today’s Knightstown High School basketball players were even conceived. But I am trying to answer the question that more than two dozen Panther fans have posed to me over the last few days.

That is, “What’s wrong with the Knightstown boys basketball team?”

Many of you have been blaming the coaching staff. Some have been blaming the inability of players to get along. Others have blamed the team’s conditioning. Some, including the coaches, have suggested the problem is team chemistry.

I have an opinion on the matter, too. I believe it’s all about hesitation and indecision, and I have some experience in dealing with those issues.

Having watched these kids play all season, there’s no doubt in my mind that they played their best basketball Saturday afternoon at Conseco Fieldhouse against Rockville. They should have won the game, but the Achilles heel they’ve suffered from all year managed to return in time to take this one away.

I’ll give you the facts to support my argument and you decide for yourself.

Against Rockville, Knightstown committed 15 turnovers. Rockville was credited with 10 steals. Those steals came on lazy Panther passes, where a player hesitated long enough to allow a defender to easily take the ball away.

That’s been the team’s demon throughout the season. More than 50 percent of the turnovers the Panthers have committed all season long have been the result of indecision on passes. Most of those poor passes have also been nonchalant, as if the Wes-Del Warriors were the opponent every week.

The team also hesitates, failing to really get into the game until the second quarter, and then coming out slowly again in the third quarter. Want proof?

Over the last eight games, the Panthers have been outscored in the third quarter in six of those and tied in another. Knightstown has also been outscored in the first quarter in each of the past six games.

That tells me the problem is intensity and personal preparation. Knightstown has dominated opponents in the second and fourth quarters this year. The Panthers outscored Rockville 24-16 in the second frame, and then blew an eight-point lead in the third quarter by allowing a 19-6 run.

New Castle outscored Knightstown 34-26 in the first and third quarters. Lincoln outscored the Panthers 36-22 in the first and third periods, while Knightstown countered with a 40-15 run during the even numbered periods. Elwood won the first and third quarters 24-21, while the Panthers countered with a 39-30 run over the second and fourth frames.

Still want more? Wapahani bested Knightstown 25-18 in the first and third quarters, while the Panthers won the second and fourth 37-34. Lapel routed Knightstown 38-24 in the first and third frames and the other two periods were a draw in a 67-54 Bulldog win. Of 20 Knightstown turnovers in that game, 13 were on Lapel steals resulting from bad passes.

Eastern Hancock led KHS after one quarter 19-8, and Lincoln led 19-7.

The Panthers even follow this pattern when they win. Against Union County, Knightstown won the first and third quarter battle by just 26-24. They took the second and fourth quarters by a combined 43-32. Knightstown outscored Tri in the first and third frames 24-20, and then in the second and fourth quarters by a 28-18 count. I could go on and on because, frankly, I’m kind of lame when it comes to statistics.

But the point is, the exact same pattern has followed this team consistently through 10 games. Individually and as a team, the Panthers take more than one quarter to come up to the level of intensity they have seen for 32 minutes against the likes of New Castle, Rockville, Wapahani and Lapel.

The problem here isn’t coaching. I like John Howell because it’s obvious he went to the same coaching school as football mentor Bob Prescott. They stress conditioning, team play, defense, personal sacrifice and staying within your role. Some Knightstown fans, and players, are still trying to get used to seeing that.

The problem rests, more than likely, between the ears of the kids.

Fortunately, I think it’s a fairly easy problem to solve if these simple steps are taken by the players on the floor:

          1. Start playing the game with intensity at the tip-off to start the game. Then remember that the game starts back up when the referee hands the ball to a player to start the third quarter. The intensity level needs to kick in at those key points, not one quarter later.

          2. About those lazy passes – more than 100 through 10 games – put a little more zip on the ball and stop telegraphing your intended target.

Those two little adjustments should make all of the difference in the world.

If not, maybe we should bury some cigarette butts in the middle of a corn field. But around here, watch out for the suitcases.


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