GREENFIELD REGIONAL: Players confident this regional trip will be different
Cloverdale’s players know that defense will decide how much longer their basketball season gets to continue past Saturday.
They feel their defense was much improved in the sectional, and plan to continue that strong play as they meet Shenandoah in Saturday’s second semifinal game at the Greenfield-Central Regional.
“We played great defense in the sectional,” senior guard Jalen Moore said. “We went to every game with that mindset, and our offense got flowing as our defense did.”
Moore frequently sees double teams as teams try to shut him down, and he has no problem with passing the ball as much as he did in the three sectional wins.
“I’m not worried about my points, but I’m worried about getting the others the ball and have them knock down shots to get their confidence up,” he said.
Moore recognizes that his team has had defensive shortcomings in its regional losses the past three seasons, and thinks this increased focus on that area of the game will be beneficial.
“We may have played defense for 20 or 24 minutes, but then gave up and depended on our offense more,” he said. “The plan this year is to play good defense and let our offense catch up.”
Moore thinks the team’s experience should also be helpful.
“Going there for three years straight is an advantage,” he said. “We already know what it’s like and what to expect. Some teams don’t have that.
“We’ve been thinking about this regional for the whole off-season,” he said. “I want to make it different this year, get the first game out of the way and get the championship.”
Senior Nick Winders has also made a lot of bus trips to Greenfield, and thinks his team’s play this year will lead to better play this weekend.
“The season has gone great,” he said. “Everyone is playing their roles and we’re doing great out there. The sectional was something to prove to everybody.”
Winders, a 6-3 all-state football player who will continue his career in that sport next fall at Franklin College, often finds himself defending the opponent’s biggest player.
In the sectional opener, that was 6-7 Monrovia standout Max Newman.
“It’s an opportunity for me and Jake [Kelley] to show ourselves,” Winders said. “It was fun to go against him.”
Moore scores more than half of the team’s points on average, but Winders said the team accepts how things play out in terms of scoring.
“Jalen puts in so much work that people don’t see,” he said. “It’s been great to get to play with Cooper [Neese] and him over the past few years and see how much heart they have. It shows all of us how to work.
“This is the most confident we’ve been this season,” he added. “We are showing great effort.”
Parker Watts has seen his role increase from last year.
“Going into this regional, our focus is on defense,” he said. “We are always a confident team. We spread the floor pretty well. Nolan Kelley had a big game the other night from the corners and we spread the defense out really well.”
Watts agrees that the regional has been a main focus since last year.
“We talked about it all summer and during workouts,” he said. “We hope to have even better success this year.”
Jake Wilkes has turned himself into an all-Western Indiana Conference player this year.
“We have been doing better than people thought we would,” he said. “We lost a great player in Cooper, and we have proven people wrong as a team. For myself, I think I have improved a lot since last year by getting rebounds and doing what coach wants me to do.”
Wilkes has hit 43 percent of his 3-point shots this year to lead the team.
“I’ve been working on it a lot,” he said. “Coach has been more lenient on me in shooting. I always wanted to be more than just a post player and be able to do everything. This year we feel a lot better than we did the past two years. We feel more confident, and we feel a lot better about how we play as a team.”
Wilkes notes that the team has made great strides since last year.
“Jalen has always done his thing, and everyone else has stepped it up,” he said.
Jake Kelley has also seen his role increase this year, and often finds himself defending post players despite being just 5-11.
“We have been working hard on our defense,” he said. “Coach [Greg] Thomas does a great job with us in the weight room, and that makes it easier to guard people in the post.”
He thought the team played well in the sectional after the first quarter against Monrovia.
“We needed to do that to win the game,” he said. “We got behind against North Putnam, but we knew were rushing shots at the beginning and we had to get things going.”
Kelley remembers last year as being another defensive shortcoming.
“This week we’re going to know what they’re doing and work hard,” he said. “We are very confident going in. This is the last chance for Jalen and Nick, and we try to whatever we can to help the whole team to win.”
Nolan Kelley has gone to the past regional games as a fan.
“It’s definitely a faster game than middle school,” he said. “I felt more confident on Saturday night. I felt really good shooting the ball. I was in a slump earlier in the year, but I felt a lot better and I was glad I could hit some shots.”
He fondly remembers the atmosphere from last year.
“It was packed full of fans and it was a really intense game,” he said. “It was really exciting. I’m looking forward to getting to play this year. I think we can do well this year.”