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November 18, 2012

Boys Basketball Preview: New-look Arabians have same high goals

PENDLETON, Ind. — The names that are gone leap off the page for the Pendleton Heights boys basketball team.

Four starters — Kellen Dunham, Matt Wehner, Parker Aul and Nick Swartz — have graduated from a 23-3 team that finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in Class 4A won the school’s second straight sectional crown.

They were part of a senior class that posted a 73-24 overall record, won three Madison County championships and advanced to one Sweet 16. It’s a run of success that won’t soon be forgotten.

But that doesn’t mean the Arabians are living in the past.

“It’s obviously going to be a year of big changes,” Pendleton Heights coach Brian Hahn said. “We lost a lot of players who were key components in this program for a number of years. But we’re going into the season with the same expectations we always have, which is to win championships.”

It all starts with a pair of senior guards — Brogan Gary and Nick Moore.

Gary, the lone returning starter, averaged 8.7 points and 4.6 assists per game last season. He also shot 36.4 percent from 3-point range and was the team’s second-most accurate free throw shooter with a 76.1 clip.

Moore was a key reserve who finished second on the team in assists and fourth in steals despite playing limited minutes.

“Brogan and Nick are our most experienced players,” Hahn said. “Also, being guards, they’re going to have the ball in their hands a lot. They’ve shown they can make good decisions and protect the basketball. That’s something that’s going to be very important to us.”

Defensive specialist Peyton McCardwell and post presence Kurt Talbert are the only other returnees who have played significant varsity minutes.

Talbert, a senior who focused on football for most of his career, shot 75.5 percent from the field and showed plenty of promise in his first season of high school basketball.

“Kurt is somebody who has a lot of ability,” Hahn said. “We’re looking for Kurt to have a big season.”

The rest of the roster will be filled by players being promoted from the junior varsity. Among those expected to make an impact are Levi Buck, Austin Brizendine, Matt Brown, Matt Phillips and Nathan Phillips.

Buck, in particular, has caught Hahn’s eye after a strong summer of improvement.

“We have so many new faces,” Hahn said. “We’ll have to find our way as the season goes along.”

The Arabians have been in this position before. Four years ago, when the players in Dunham’s class were freshmen, Pendleton Heights relied heavily on senior Michael Maxwell, junior Nathan Hendershot and a host of new faces.

This year’s team isn’t as young as that season’s was. But there’s a correlation between the two teams’ experience levels. That team finished 12-9 and improved each week.

Hahn expects no less this time around.

“We know this is going to be a process,” Hahn said. “We’re young, and we’ll need to get better every week. But that doesn’t excuse us from being a good team.”

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