WHITING — How many high school basketball players would love to play for a coach who didn't care what kind of shot you took, or how often?

Well, almost.

I traveled to The Cabin at Clark High School on Friday night to take in one of the Region's top school rivalries in almost every sport. The Whiting Oilers came into the neighborhood pick-up game after scoring 104 points in Wednesday's win over Hammond Academy.

I don't care who you played or where, getting to triple digits is almost impossible.

"We always talked about scoring 100," Whiting junior guard G'Angelo Reillo said after scoring 28 in the 74-69 win over the Pioneers. "It was pretty cool."

"I didn't know we broke the school record until I saw it on Twitter," said junior Frank Senteno after he scored 16 in the win.

Yes, this run and gun Oilers squad broke the old 98 points scored in a game by the heralded 1982 Whiting team.

Whiting coach Aaron Mercer coached at Clark the past three seasons. When he drove down 119th Street to take the job at Whiting over the summer, he walked into the gym and realized something had to change.

Consequently, Loyola Marymount of the late '80s and early '90s gents to dance with some Region flare. And this is not a slow dance.

"We run the floor," Reillo said with a very big smile. "We shoot the ball."

Mercer saw nine extremely athletic players on the floor the first time he walked into the gym. The old Hoosiers' demand of four passes before of thinking of a shot goes out the window this winter.

These guys were shooting 3s like some like to fish in the summertime on nearby Wolf Lake. Unceasingly.

Mercer played for Jack Gabor at Bishop Noll, where the Warriors often went to a four-corner slow-down game plan. He's been an assistant coach at schools that thought that more than four shots in a quarter were too many.

"I didn't want to bog these guys down with a bunch of plays," Mercer said. "They're athletes. I want them to run."

This style of hoops is not Helter Skelter, even though it looks like it to passers by. Mercer wasn't happy a 23-point lead turned into a towel grabber in the final minutes of Friday's game. Lack of rebounding and turnovers allowed a much-improved Clark team to claw back.

Mercer wanted to give props to his former employer.

"There's a lot of great people over here," he said. "They've got some players. Jeremy Shannon is one of the best players in the Region."

And 6-foot-6 freshman center Darrell Reed has a chance to become something very special.

Few teams I've seen through the years has a pulse like this Whiting team. It is rapid fire. They're looking for cherry-picked layups and if you sprint back to stop that, there's three guys lining up for an open trey.

For a second I thought Paul Westhead was walking around Robertsdale on this night.

"A lot of teams aren't ready for this style because they never see it," Reillo said.

"A lot of people doubted us," said Senteno, who moved to Whiting from East Chicago after middle school.

Both are 6-1. Both are juniors. Both can push the pill. And both can shoot the long-range shots.

Their hair has a similar look and they laughed and said about five times a game an opposing player, or someone in the bleachers, asks them the same questions: "Are you guys brothers?" "Are you related."

The answer is no, unless the lights in the gym are on.

"If these guys keep working I think we can have a special season," Mercer said. "I honestly think we can play with almost anyone in the area."

Time will tell. But if you're looking for a different brand of basketball, something you don't see every day, come check these Oilers out.

You'll be glad you did.

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This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at steve.hanlon@nwi.com.


Sports reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.