Nov. 18—Veteran coach Mike Springer takes over a Winamac boys basketball program that has high hopes with its three leading scorers back.
Springer said he had a good first offseason at Winamac. He is taking over for Cameron Bennington, who went 9-16 in his one season at Winamac before he left to take the Western job.
"We've really had a good summer, we've had a good fall," Springer said. "The kids have been working hard this November and things are slowly starting to come together. We have got to know each other pretty well, so that was probably the biggest thing we got out of the summertime was they kind of got an idea about what I wanted and I kind of got an idea about who they were."
The Warriors matched their nine wins from the previous year last season despite losing four starters to graduation.
This year the Warriors have to replace two senior regulars, Michael Loehmer (5 ppg, 2 apg) and Sawyer Depoy (4 ppg, 4.5 rpg), but they return most of their scoring and production.
They will be led by the trio of 6-2 senior John Malchow (14 ppg, 6 rpg, 2 apg), 5-10 junior Brendan Hines (9.5 ppg, 2.5 apg) and 6-2 senior Jayse Bentle (8.5 ppg).
"We've got some decent numbers back as far as those three kids and scoring points, we just are kind of slim on the size," Springer said. "The tallest kid is about 6-3. That's all right some nights, some nights it won't be."
Springer added he's been implementing his system this offseason.
"We're trying to do some things a little different than what they've done in the past," he said. "But they have been moving the basketball. They've been finding the open man. We're working constantly on shot selection and taking care of the ball. When we're moving the ball and we're getting up and down the floor the kids do a really nice job of finding the open man. When we do that it just makes shots easier instead of trying to force things. I think that's one thing we're really trying to emphasize is take the best shot and hopefully it's the easiest one because we've made the opponent have to defend us all. Those kids can stretch the floor from the 3-point line as well as drive it to the basket."
Will Malchow, a 6-2 sophomore, returns to the varsity and is active on the floor and is a good rebounder and passer, Springer said. Ayden Jimenez, a 6-3 senior, is back out for the basketball team and gives the Warriors a physical presence inside. Justin Potthoff, a 6-2 sophomore, and Ethan Burgess, a 6-1 sophomore, are stepping up to the varsity this year and bring quickness, athleticism and basketball IQ. Aiden Schooler, a 6-0 junior, is back out for the team and brings quickness and athleticism. Maddox Bucinski, a 6-0 senior, is a football player who brings toughness. Brayden Mathis, a 5-10 junior, is a baseball player who can handle the ball and is a good shooter.
"We've got a long way to go but I know our kids are working hard and they're really playing well together at this point," Springer said. "I think that's going to be something that I look to emphasize as the season goes is the kids just really work together and communicate well. If we're doing that on the floor than I think it'll be a positive year for us.
"We'll get better as the season goes because of the kind of kids that we have playing."
The Warriors are looking to be more competitive in HNAC play this year. They managed just one league win against Caston last year.
"It's a good conference, a lot of good teams," Springer said. "The conference is going to change a year from now with Knox and LaVille leaving. But Triton is a good ballclub, North Judson has a good ball team, Caston and Pioneer are competitive every year. There's no games where we can say 'oh, we're going to win this one.' We're going to have to battle and fight hard every night out."
The Warriors had a sectional win over North Miami last season but were shut down by Wabash in a semifinal. Springer said the Apaches look to be the sectional favorite with what they have coming back.
"Wabash has a really good group of seniors this year. They're going to be favored to win," he said. "I am sure they are going to get some rating points as the season progresses. They've got three kids that have played three good years of varsity basketball and they just have a nice team."
The Warriors are looking to pick up where they left off last season. After an 0-8 start, they went 9-8 over their last 17 games.
"The kids are excited. We've tried to get them in the gym as much as possible," Springer said. "The kids have worked hard and put some time in. We've got to figure out how to play without a big post player in there but we should have some kids that can do some things. We've got kids coming back that proved they were good, capable varsity players last year. I think they got a lot of confidence as the season progressed. Hopefully we'll be right there every night out playing some hard-nosed basketball."
Winamac hosts Twin Lakes Tuesday to open the season. The Indians have won five straight and 13 out of the last 14 in the series. The Indians are a defending Class 3A sectional champion. They will have a court dedication ceremony to name their court Kent Adams Court before their home opener against Western next Saturday. Adams, the Indians' head coach, has 444 career wins — 374 of which have come at Twin Lakes — and is the 13th winningest active coach in the state.