By Dennis Glade Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — LOOGOOTEE — Year in and year out, there is one game that is circled on the boys basketball schedule for every man, woman and child in the towns of Montgomery and Loogootee.
The Class A No. 1 Barr-Reeve Vikings and Loogootee Lions will do battle for the 94th time Saturday night at Jack Butcher Arena in one of the most hotly contested hoops rivalries in a state known for basketball.
Barr-Reeve (9-1) is coming off a tough 51-40 loss at the hands of Elizabethtown in the Indiana-Kentucky and Loogootee (3-8) has lost its last two games to Wood Memorial and North Daviess by a combined five points — both on the Lions’ home court. The Vikings have been the top-ranked team in Class A since the start of the season and they kept that position despite Saturday’s 11-point defeat.
”We’re no different than we were a week ago,” said Barr-Reeve coach Bryan Hughes. “One loss is not going to do anything to what this basketball team is striving for. Our No. 1 priority has been to show up every night and get better and that’s been the case.”
While the Vikings are enjoying another excellent season, the Lions are enduring some growing pains. Loogootee returned zero starters from last year’s team that won the regular season matchup at Barr-Reeve by three points, but lost the sectional championship game to the Vikings by 10 at Jack Butcher Arena. The loss of so much senior leadership has led to a rough start to the 2013-14 season for a program so used to a specific level of play.
”We’re are learning every practice and learning every game what we have to do to get better,” said Loogootee coach Mike Wagoner. “I think our last two games against Wood Memorial and North Daviess have been very good games for about three and a half quarters. Those are two games that we should have pulled out in the end and should have finished. We have young guys learning the ropes, and I know we’re 11 games into the season, but we are still trying to find a way to get over the hump as far as finishing out games.”
Barr-Reeve and Loogootee is always an extremely competitive game despite the teams records and this year’s game should be no different. Loogootee will be at home, but in past years home court advantage hasn’t meant as much as one would think. The road team has won the past four regular season games in this rivalry.
”We’re going to have to handle the ball a whole lot better than we did Saturday — we can’t have 16 turnovers,” Hughes said. “We’re going to have to make shots and we’re probably going to see some zone at some point and other than that, you’re just trying to do the things you do every game — play good defensive basketball and rebound the basketball.”
The three-point shot is an aspect of Loogootee’s game that has helped to keep some games close and that was evident Friday night. Loogootee’s Ryan Howell hit 6 3-pointers and scored a team-high 18 points, but the Lions fell 49-45 to North Daviess. Hughes said getting out on shooters will be an important part of the Vikings’ defensive game plan Saturday night.
”They’ve been hitting a lot of threes with the situation where they drive and kick the ball out,” Hughes said. “They have a couple of kids that shoot the ball pretty well, so we have to make sure we have guys covered up.”
The nine opponents that have fallen to Barr-Reeve this year have had their hands full attempting to contain senior Micah Bullock and junior Addison Wagler. Loogootee will have that same problem Saturday night. Wagoner said upon looking at the film of this year’s Vikings, he a special group that can go deep in the state tournament.
“I see a team that’s similiar to the one I coached two years ago that won the state championship,” Wagoner said. “You have a big man that can score inside, (Addison Wagler), a guard (Micah Bullock) who is strong and tall that can dominate a game and good role players that know what they’re doing out there as far as taking care of the basketball. It’s a team with a lot of depth and experience and I also see a team that can go as far as they want to go. The fact that they are ranked No. 1 is no coincidence with what they got back from last year. They’re as good a team as you’re going to see in Class A and probably as good a team in the top 20 in the state that you’re going to see. Our work is cut out for us and it is on our home floor and we try to protect our floor the best we can.”
For Wagoner this game has special meaning. He played for the Lions in the mid 70s and was a member of the 1975 team that was state runner-up under Hall of Fame coach Jack Butcher. Wagoner grew up wanting to play for the Lions and was fortunate enough to coach them to the school’s first boys basketball state championship in 2012.
“I think the rivalry is great for both communities,” Wagoner said. “You are both very small communities that depend on successful sports teams and we’ve had that in the past and we’ve had that in the past. Our program has been built by Coach (Jack) Butcher for years and he’s the one that got us on the map. We understand what it takes to be successful. By the time they’re born and pick up a basketball, Loogootee athletes know what is expected of them. For us to have a season like this, it’s very tough mentally on a lot of people and not just players, but the fans and ex-players. I think modern day fans understand that their are a lot of factors that are outside of our control and we’re doing the best we can. The rivalry has been great for years. I can remember playing and coaching against people from Montgomery and after I can talk to and be very polite and relax with. We want to beat each other’s brains out on the court, but when the game is over that’s all said and done. It’s great for both communities and they both put a lot of effort into it.”
Loogootee will honor 1,000 point scorers Saturday night The Loogootee athletic department plans to recognize the 1,000 point club members, male and female, who put together stellar hoops careers at both Loogootee and St. John's High Schools. Nearly all of the honored guests plan to be in attendance for the presentation or have someone stand in for them as they get their long-awaited basketballs. With Hall-of-Fame coach Jack Butcher, who plans to participate in the ceremony, 22 of this town's finest will be given their due together, many for the first time. In the past decade or so, giving game balls to those reaching the thousand-point marker had become customary. Brian Canada, Jeff Doyle, Junior Gee, Wilmer Wittmer, Bill Butcher, Brett Bradley, Conner Wittmer, Jeff Bledsoe, Mike Bohlinger, Bill Nigg, Bryant Ackerman, Todd Baker, Nick Toy, Jim Trout, Leslie Wade VanHoy, Ashley Fraley Salmon, Wynter Wagoner, Jennifer Bullock Guinn, Amanda Green, Larry Reynolds, Steve Downey and John O'Maley will be among those honored Saturday night.