CENTERVILLE, Ind. — Kodi Smith doesn’t need a new team. He doesn’t want one either. In fact, he said he’s “very lucky” to have the team he has.
“I truly, genuinely mean this — I would not trade our kids for anybody else in the state of Indiana,” Smith said. “I will take all these losses and put them on me. I would not trade these kids for anybody else.”
Saturday’s 55-30 loss to Randolph Southern marked Centerville boys basketball’s 12th consecutive loss to start the season.
So, without a win this deep into the schedule, why is Smith perfectly content with the team he has? It all comes down to culture.
“As the season has gone on, it’s actually gotten easier for me to coach culture on a daily basis in practice,” Smith said. “You would think that would be the opposite. Credit to our kids and their mentality and outlook on things … I just think it speaks to the kind of kids we have. They’re not going to give up.”
You can see it on the court. The Bulldogs were down by 27 points with less than 30 seconds left in the game. Still playing tight defense, they came away with a steal and got fouled going to the hoop. Senior Peyton Heaston made the first free throw and missed the second, but sophomore Brayden Ross battled for an offensive rebound and got fouled.
The game was over — all Randolph Southern needed was the clock to run out — but, in the final seconds, Centerville fought like it was tied.
“Even if we’re down, we fight until the very end because there’s no reason to give up,” sophomore Gavin Robinson said. “If we keep fighting and don’t give up, that just shows who we are as a team. No matter what the score is, no matter what our record is, we’re going to continue to fight day in and day out.”
Robinson has become the Bulldogs’ go-to scorer over the last handful of games, and he led the team again Saturday with 15 points. He also set an example for what his teammates should be focused on when games start to get out of hand.
Late in the second quarter, with the deficit already approaching 20 points, Robinson had the ball poked away from him. He sprinted back to help prevent an easy fast-break layup and grabbed the rebound. He turned the ball over, but his effort after the fact led to no damage on the scoreboard.
In the third quarter, multiple Bulldogs dove for loose balls heading out of bounds even when it looked like they had no shot to get to it in time. They didn’t get the ball, but their teammates applauded the effort every time.
All game long, the Rebels’ defensive pressure made it tough for the Bulldogs to even make it to the 3-point line before getting double-teamed. Every few possessions, they’d move the ball around enough to get an open shot, and the players on the bench stood up. They didn’t make every open shot, but they were already celebrating the fact that they got an open look.
At that point, it’s the little things that matter.
“Seriously, we really do have them running through brick walls for us,” Smith said. “We really emphasize culture. Without culture, there’s nothing else. Without culture, we will not get better with our skill or execution because there won’t be any motivation … If we aren’t celebrating the little things, what else is there? We can’t move on in any aspect of the game without it.”
It’s evident in their record that the Bulldogs aren’t where they want to ultimately be, but focusing on the little things is definitely a starting point.
“It’s important to celebrate the little things for us because we start getting momentum and energy, and it just leads to more and more,” Robinson said. “If we do the little things right, it will lead to bigger and better things.”
Centerville’s next game will be Jan. 22 at Blackford.
This article originally appeared on Richmond Palladium-Item: Centerville High School positive culture has shines through