BOYS' PREVIEWS: Eagle seniors ready for breakout season they have long sought

Saturday, November 17, 2018
Thomas Fanning stops the ball in county tournament action last year.
Banner Graphic/JOEY BENNETT

This year is the one that South Putnam’s strong senior class has been waiting to arrive.

Now that it’s here, they need to fulfill the potential seen in them when they broke into varsity competition as freshmen.

“We have a lot of confidence in this group as both leaders and players,” coach Greg Dean said. “They are guys who are vocal and doing things the right way. We have a lot of guys who have gotten a lot of minutes and games played at the varsity level.

“They were thrown to the wolves four years ago, and they have grown and learned.”

It’s a good thing for Dean that his experience team knows how things go, since the football team winning the sectional title delayed the ability of several players to join the start of basketball practice.

“Since practice has started, we haven’t had to spend a lot of time installing a lot of things,” Dean said. “We have added a few little things and tweaked some of the things we’ve done, but the kids know everything we have done in the past. We are fortunate enough in that regard that we can work on fundamentals and the few new things we want to install.”

Austin Arnold plays tough defense against Turkey Run last year.
Banner Graphic/JOEY BENNETT

The Eagles will again be led by senior Allen Plunkett, who averaged 18.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last year.

Plunkett ran cross country in the fall, and while he didn’t win any races his goal was primarily to get in better shape and improve his times as that season went along.

Dean sees a difference.

“They are all learning in their own way,” Dean said. “Allen had a cross country season that was extremely productive for him. He feels he’s in the best shape of his life, especially cardiovascular-wise, and they’ve all gotten bigger, faster and stronger in the weight room. It’s a long, grinding season and that will help us to get through it.”

Among the other seniors, Dalton Scott averaged 7.9 points and 3.4 rebounds, Thomas Fanning averaged 7.2 points and 2.0 assists per game and Lane Watson chipped in with 2.5 points per game.

Austin Arnold averaged 3.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game, but was one of the team’s best defensive stoppers.

Ty VanSickle and Garrett Heavin split time between varsity and JV last year.

Junior Steven Schnepp averaged 2.5 points and 3.4 rebounds last year, while classmate Kain Gregory added 2.4 points and 2.1 rebounds.

“We have a few changes here and there,” Dean said. “We’re not going to be as confined to the low post as we have the past few years. We have some guards who can handle the ball and shoot it, and we want to play to their strengths more. We want to attack the basket off the dribble.

“We have some athletes who are long and tall, and that might change the way we defend a little.”

Cloverdale has dominated both the county and sectional tournaments during the careers of this year’s senior class.

The graduation of Clover standout Jalen Moore, a year after the graduation of Cooper Neese, makes the Eagles the favorite in the eyes of many observers to take over the county title.

Dean doesn’t mind being the “chased” team, instead of being the chasers.

Dalton Scott gets off a jumper in county tournament action last year.
Banner Graphic/JOEY BENNETT

“It’s new for us, especially the last 5-6 years when everybody has been chasing Cloverdale and Greencastle because they had so many great players,” he said. “It’s all kind of cyclical. It is what it is, and may put a little bit more pressure on the kids, but we want to live up to that recognition and those expectations. We have to focus on getting things done; if people are chasing us, we have to represent that notoriety in the right way.”

The Eagles had an up-and-down season last year, starting off 3-3, then winning three of their next four prior to a six-game losing streak against many of the toughest opponents on their schedule.

South then won four out of five games before dropping two of its last three, including a 64-37 defeat to Cloverdale in the sectional.

Dean hopes that his team’s experience pays off, not only in just shooting and rebounding but in overall mental approach.

“They’ve been through the wars and played in every gym in the conference by now, so there won’t be much new to them in that regard,” he said. “We are going to have a level of comfort in the Western Indiana Conference that we haven’t had before, but we still have to do it on the basketball court. It’s always competitive, no matter who lost which players.”

Adding Monrovia in the sectional mix will make dethroning Cloverdale a formidable task.

“They have so much size and length returning that they are definitely looked at as one of the sectional favorite,” Dean said. “They have a good skill level to go with that size and length. This sectional is always going to be really good, and it’s more open than it has been since I’ve been back here.””

“We had a good summer,” Dean said. “Kids are getting better and buying into it, and we’re playing a lot of basketball. We are kind of hanging our hat on that as a program.”

The Eagles had another successful fall sports season, with several team members on either the school’s sectional champion tennis or football teams.

“I am a firm believer that winning breeds winning,” Dean said. “We are hoping that carries over to this winter. We have a lot of guys who have found success throughout their high school careers.”

Dean sees a different level of confidence in his team than the past few years.

“There is a different level of comfort as seniors, and they know they are the leaders,” he said. “They have matured both mentally and physically. They understand this is their last year of high school basketball.

“They have played together for so long that they are very comfortable with each other and they all like each other,” Dean added. “They are pretty tight-knit and know everything about each other. They have fun, and as coaches we really enjoy coaching them.”

Dean feels the program will be in good hands even after this year’s senior group leaves, and some of the younger members could also contribute this year.

“If they earn some minutes and some spots, then they will get that opportunity,” he said. “It’s a great thing to have seniors and two juniors who have also gotten quite a bit of experience, and they are also chomping at the bit and are ready to go.”

2018-19 roster

Allen PlunkettSr.
Dalton ScottSr.
Thomas FanningSr.
Lane WatsonSr.
Austin ArnoldSr.
Ty VanSickleSr.
Garrett HeavinSr.
Steven SchneppJr.
Kain GregoryJr.
Demetrius LeoJr.
Trey BlaydesSo.
Dru TeipenSo.

Coach: Greg Dean

2017-18 results (11-13)

Clay City, W 53-40

at Turkey Run, W 55-45

North Putnam, L 47-41

Eminence, W 77-45

at Greencastle, L 51-43

at Cloverdale, L 72-53

West Vigo, W 56-47

at Monrovia, L 45-30

Bethesda Christian, W 50-46

Southwestern (Shelby), W 39-37

at Sullivan, L 75-38

Edgewood, L 47-35

at Cascade, L 63-48

at Northview, L 54-38

at Monrovia, L 57-36

Owen Valley, L 47-37

Bloomington Lighthouse, W 57-40

at Rockville, W 63-57

at Greencastle, L 55-40

North Putnam, W 57-56

Owen Valley, W 57-36

at North Vermillion, L 55-40

Riverton Parke, W 68-45


Cloverdale, L 64-37

2018-19 schedule

(Game times 7:30 p.m. unless noted otherwise)

Nov. 20 — at Clay City

Nov. 30 — at North Putnam

Dec. 1 — at Eminence

Dec. 7 — Greencastle

Dec. 11 — Cloverdale

Dec. 14 — at West Vigo

Dec. 22 — Parke Heritage

Dec. 28 — vs. Eastern Greene in Monrovia tourney, 10:30 a.m.

Jan. 4 — Sullivan

Jan. 5 — at Edgewood

Jan. 11 — Northview

Jan. 12 — Dugger Union

Jan. 15 — Cascade

Jan. 19 — Monrovia

Jan. 25 — at WIC crossover game

Feb. 7 — at Greencastle in county tourney

Feb. 15 — at Owen Valley

Feb. 16 — North Vermillion

Feb. 19 — at Riverton Parke

Feb. 22 — North Central (Farmersburg)