Rob Hunt: Basketball leads an exciting winter season

Nov. 17—If the frigid temperatures and frozen precipitation weren't a dead giveaway, then the sounds of basketballs bouncing on gym floors and swishing as they go through nets should be confirmation enough winter sports have arrived.

In basketball-crazy Indiana, it is a time when everyone gets a little extra excited anyway, and there is plenty of reason to have high expectations for this season in the area. In fact, plenty of the girls teams have already grabbed our attention.

One sad eventuality from the last two seasons has already been avoided. In 2020 Anderson Prep and in 2021 Elwood finished their seasons without a win, but both won their season openers to avoid a repeat and every team in the area has already notched at least one victory.

In fact, at the moment, the Jets are a perfect 5-0 with a very young team. Sophomores Alivia Peoples and Kaylynn Orr and senior Kanyla Wills have been joined by a number of freshmen including Arianna Flowers, Tameah Eldridge and Clara Fulton to form a group that should have a solid season and be a Class 1A postseason threat.

And the Jets aren't the only team off to a hot start as Alexandria (4-0) and Madison-Grant (3-0) are also unbeaten at the moment and are led by exciting guard play. Jacklynn Hosier is averaging 26 points for the Tigers while Daya Greene and Maddy Moore provide the experience to lead the young Argylls.

While Hosier chases the area scoring title and Greene continues her assault on the M-G record books — she is poised to become the school's all-time assist leader — they are far from the only great stories already brewing in area girls hoops.

The highly anticipated arrival of Lapel freshman Laniah Wills has not disappointed. The 6-foot swing player has posted a double-double in her first four games and seems to be developing chemistry with her experienced teammates Deannaya Haseman, Kerith Renihan, Jaylee Hubble and Maddy Poynter. The Bulldogs will be a team to watch this season.

Daleville freshman Addisyn Gothrup is averaging about 17 points in her first five outings for the Broncos, and the Warfel sisters — senior Whitney and sophomore Kaycie — are always worth the price of admission at Pendleton Heights. While Emma Sperry, Bella Dean and Amaya Collins are back for the defending state runners-up Frankton, senior Haylee Niccum has been one of the great individual stories for the Eagles. After three years in a reserve role for some great Eagles teams, she is finally getting her chance in the spotlight and is having a fantastic season already.

All that is a precursor for the boys season about to get underway, and it sounds like every coach and player is optimistic about the season, whether that means winning sectionals or simply just showing great improvement.

I'm particularly interested in the postseason chances for four teams. Anderson, Liberty Christian, Lapel and Madison-Grant all return key players to last year's success. Ahmere Carson and Ja'Quan Ingram for the Indians, Eric Troutman and Kobe Watson for the Lions, Bode and Brode Judge with Lapel and Jase Howell and Peyton Southerland for M-G are top-notch and have plenty of help around them.

And always watch out for Frankton and Daleville to have solid seasons and a very young Pendleton Heights team — it has no seniors this year — is very talented and will cause problems for opponents with its length and skill.

The fellas tip off their season Tuesday.

Always overshadowed by basketball, but wrestling and swimming will also be getting started shortly and we don't want to overlook them.

State finalist Hunter Branham is back for Frankton, and he hopes to make it back and maybe bring more area talent with him. Isaiah Fye (Alexandria), Clayton Stephens (Anderson), Dawson Brooks and Reazon Davenport (Daleville), Crew Farrell (Frankton), Jackson Todd (Pendleton Heights) and Mayson Lewis and Angel Deloney (Shenandoah) are all poised to go far in the postseason tournament later in the season.

I'm sure there will be surprises along the way as well.

In the pool, Pendleton Heights standouts Grace McKinney and Jama Link have graduated, but relay teammates Mallory Gentry and Sophie Kaster are back, and we'll see if other Arabians can join that duo and make a return trip to the finals, a possible third time in as many years for Gentry.

The area swim contingent — usually comprised of Anderson, Elwood, Liberty Christian and PH — will be joined by two new teams this year as Frankton and Lapel will field squads.

It should be fun. Let the games begin.

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.