Last season had lasting effect on SHS basketball


Niki Smithers, Sports Editor

The score was 49-48. Pike had just scored off of an SHS turnover. The ball was inbounded to then-senior Malik Bennett. He took a step and shot. As the ball soared through the air, everyone in the gym held their breath. Bennett’s shot bounced off of the rebound into the hands of then-junior Eli Walton. After bobbling the ball in the air, Walton tried to tip the ball into the net, but it hit the rim and fell to the floor.
They might not have been able to get past Pike, but the 2014-15 boys basketball team was the best team to play in my four years at SHS. They wanted to be the best, and they were willing to do whatever it took to prove themselves. However, this year’s team has the chance to make history. They have a chance to get to the state finals and win.
But before last season, no one took SHS’s boys basketball team seriously. Even though they didn’t have much tournament success, the 2014-15 team made a statement last season, saying SHS had a basketball team that could compete against anyone in Indiana. That team had a lasting effect on this year’s team and SHS’s basketball program.
This year the Cards entered the season ranked first in the state. But, they lost sight of what the program Kyle Simpson had built was about. Simpson’s program isn’t solely based on winning. It’s about hard work and striving to be the best team they can possibly be. Players on his team had to buy into his program, or the Cards wouldn’t have success.
According to Simpson, the Cards struggled to find their identity this year. Their identity last year lied within Bennett, Scruggs and Brunk, who combined for an average of 51.8 points per game. The Cards missed the leadership of Bennett this season. Bennett averaged 18 points per game last year. He drove everyone else on the court to perform at a higher level. No one even came close to filling the void that was left when he graduated.
No one had stepped up to be the cold-blooded shooter the Cards were missing. Scruggs and Brunk were left alone to lead the team this season. Even though they averaged almost 40 points a game combined, the duo needed one person who could make up for the points Bennett had been contributing. They just didn’t have it.
Unlike this year, the Cards won 15 games straight to start the season last year before losing to Pike in a four OT Marion County Tournament game. They were beating their opponents by an average of 19 points. Simpson says that people didn’t respect them, so they had to play with a chip on their shoulder. That set a new standard for SHS basketball by going 7-0 in conference and 23-3 on the season. Teams all around the state had to take the Cards seriously, or they would get killed.
However, this season SHS forgot that in order to gain respect, they had to give respect. After falling to an underrated Franklin Central team on Jan. 8, the Cards were forced to make several changes. They worked harder and began to buy into what Simpson’s program was about and began to remember that they need to scratch and claw every play and every point, just like they had done last year.
Since then, the Cards haven’t looked back. They are riding on a 15-game win streak, beating teams by an average of 9.3 points per game. The Cards took their revenge against Pike, rolled past Ben Davis, took down Connersville, pummeled Terre Haute South and went on to raise the sectional and regional championship trophies and cut down the nets on their home court.
This team has the chance to make history. The Cards have overcome adversity and, with the mark left by the 2014-15 team, they have proven themselves as legitimate contenders to win the state title.