JIM PETERS: Light at the end of the tunnel for Portage boys basketball

2013-01-02T17:00:00Z 2013-01-03T01:17:02Z JIM PETERS: Light at the end of the tunnel for Portage boys basketballJim Peters Times Columnist nwitimes.com
January 02, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

I've never been any good at New Year's resolutions.

Back when I used to go through the motions of the annual ritual, I typically broke them by this date on the calendar.

That said, I am going to make one declaration as we move into 2013. This will be my last column about the future of Portage boys basketball. Feel free to clap. I'll wait.

The Indians are 7-4 and officially back from the grave.

Honestly, I didn't see it coming. I didn't think climbing Mount Everest in flip flops was possible, but maybe it is. Portage heads into Friday's game with Merrillville sporting its best mark starting January since the turn of the century, when they rung in 2000 at 6-2 in Tom Wells' first year as coach. 

Wells led the Indians to their last sectional title the next winter. They haven't finished above break even since 2004 under Steve Bartos, failing to top eight wins in a season from that point and bottoming out at 1-22 a year ago.

Apparently, it is darkest before the dawn.

Even Rick Snodgrass, the Indians coach and resident eternal optimist, was beginning to wonder not only when but if. He was playing a varsity schedule, in the Duneland Athletic Conference no less, with junior varsity talent. Portage was over-matched, night in and night out, sorely lacking in size, strength and ability.

With no returning seniors, there didn't seem to be great cause for hope. Undaunted, Snodgrass marched on, doing his best Rocky Balboa, and his patience has at long last been rewarded. Buoyed by a productive summer, he came in to the season with renewed hope.

Portage broke a 15-game DAC drought with a last-second win at Michigan City, part of a 3-0 start. While they're a modest 2-3 in the conference, the results are telling. Portage has been competitive in every game, losing by 10 to Valpo and Chesterton and 12 to Lake Central. Last season, they lost by 25 or more on a regular basis.

Last week, they went 3-1 at the Bob Wettig tournament in Richmond, the same event where the Indians went winless in four games a year ago.

With half of the regular season to go, we're not quite to the point where we can say the turnaround is complete at Portage, though like the Magic 8 Ball says, signs point to yes.

It has scoring punch in rising point guard Jordan Collazo, Luke Kizer and Jordan Simpson, some physical presence in David Clegg and Michael Lattanzi and, maybe most importantly, they can defend.

The Indians rely heavily on the 3, yet have been able to hang with teams on nights when the long ball isn't dropping.

The rugged back portion of the schedule is road heavy, so a winning season isn't even a sure thing at this point. Conference and sectional titles aren't in the immediate offing, but it's still good to see good things happening on the hardwood at Portage.

Snodgrass has been a great example to his players that you can buck long odds with hard work, dogged perseverance and plenty of faith.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at jim.peters@nwi.com.

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