By Heather Bremer
For The Herald Bulletin
ELWOOD, Ind. —
The Central Indiana Conference boys basketball title was split four ways last season. Alexandria, Frankton, Madison-Grant and Oak Hill each took home a piece of the championship.
Elwood is determined to be in the fray this year.
“Certainly our conference will be very strong, very competitive and balanced like it was last year,” Panthers coach Corey Jackson said. “(We’re) going to see probably close to the same outcome where there’s going to be a lot of good teams and it will be tough to win on any night.”
Elwood scored wins over two of the four top teams last season — Madison-Grant and Alexandria — but in the county tourney. That has the Panthers excited about their prospects and setting big goals for the season.
“(Our) guys want to win the CIC championship just like they did in football. Also we’re looking to put that first sectional title up for Elwood in 62 years,” Jackson said. “So I think we’re aiming high, our goals are high. But we know that we have a good team, a solid team, and if we continue to work hard and play as a team, we’re gonna get better every day and we’ll have a chance to accomplish those.”
The Panthers will chase their dreams without the leader of their pack for the past several years. Korbin Buster averaged 19.5 points per game in his senior season for Elwood and amassed more than 1,000 during his career there. Buster — and his ability to score at will — will be hard to replace.
But the Panthers return a strong core — Steven Fletcher, Collin Hoskins, Jared Bourff, Dakin Updegraff and Bryce Graves — and boast four newcomers — Anthony Bennett, Austin Dauenhauer, Jordan Arehart and Griffin Hughes. Jackson will rely on Fletcher, Hoskins and fellow senior Dylan Downey for leadership and the entire team for scoring. Elwood’s already shown great balance in an early scrimmage. Four Panthers were in double figures, with another scoring nine.
“We picked up right where we left off at the end of the summer. I felt like practice has been real productive at both ends, both offense and defense,” Jackson said. “The guys were pretty sharp in their execution even early on, so I think it’s been good, a good start.”
Jackson will know how good of start next Saturday in Elwood’s first game of the season. The Panthers face the Lapel Bulldogs, their first opponent last season as well. The Elwood coach has a lot of respect for the program Lapel’s built over the past 10 to 15 years and knows the game will be a good measuring stick for his squad.
“We didn’t compete to start last season, or at least to start that game last season,” Jackson said. “The second half was better after we settled down, but we’re looking to go out and compete right away at the start and have a chance to win that game this year, and I think that will tell us a lot.”