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Calumet College sophomore basketball player Anthony Cole's holiday was a rough one.

His uncle, who was the father figure in Cole's life, died on Dec. 9. Cole admits it was very hard, but the memories of his "dad" helped get him through.

Ernest Lee Cole was 63 years old, and Anthony said Ernest Lee was a big influence.

"He raised me since I was 2 weeks old," Anthony Cole said. "He always encouraged me to get better in whatever I did. He was so proud that I was going to college and also having the opportunity to play basketball. He came to almost all of my games — at Bowman (Academy), Oakton (Community College) and at Calumet College."

Cole graduated from Bowman in 2014, then played his freshman year at Oakton before transferring to Calumet College.

Cole said he prays before every game and will think of Ernest.

"I know he will be there looking down, cheering me on," Cole said. "He taught me that you should always look to improve yourself, get better, get an education. I want to do him proud."

Crimson Wave coach Ryan Sexson said Cole's enthusiasm for the game rubs off on his teammates.

"Anthony is our energy guy," Sexson said. "He embraces the defensive side of the ball and can guard multiple positions. He plays all out all the time. He doesn't know any other way."

Cole is averaging 6.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, but Sexson said Cole is one who does the intangibles.

"Anthony makes a lot of winning plays on the court," Sexson said. "He makes plays that don't show up in the box score."

Among the elite: Indiana Northwest freshmen women's basketball players Tara Zlotkowski and Gina Rubino are ninth and 10th, respectively, in NAIA Division II in 3-point field goal percentage.

Both are Lake Central grads.

Zlotkowski has made 30 of 64 attempts (47 percent) and Rubino is 25-of-64 (46 percent).

Building a foundation: When he took over the Calumet College women's basketball program right before the start of the season, Steve Helm knew he and his staff had some work to do.

The Crimson Wave started 0-12 before beating Great Lakes Christian College 80-20 on Dec. 19.

"That was good for us to get a win, but we have a lot of things to work on," Helm said. "We really have to work on getting better each day and that means doing things in practice every day to make ourselves get better.

"We are struggling, but as long as I see an effort, see them working to get better, that is a good thing. It is tough when you don't win, but you look at doing the little things every day to put yourself in a position to win."

Panthers on a roll: The Purdue North Central men's basketball team equaled last year's win total, beginning this season 10-6.

They took a three-game winning streak into Wednesday's game at NCAA Division II Southern Indiana. PNC plays at NCAA Division I IPFW on Saturday.

Coach Matt Bush said the team has played well and he is excited for the second half of the season.

"Obviously 10 wins is a good start, but we are not satisfied," he said. "We want to do well in conference and work to get better."

The most wins in program history are 15 in 2005-06, according to a school spokesman.

Pumas looking for big second half: After winning six games last year, the St. Joseph's College men's basketball team is 4-7. It hosts Kalamazoo College on Sunday, and coach Tom Church is anxious to see how his team will come back from an NCAA-mandated seven-day break.

"The break was good in that it gave us a chance to evaluate what we did in the first 11 games," Church said. "We have young kids with four freshmen playing regularly, so it was good for them."

He said the team has played together and that has showed.

"We do not have a big scorer, but a few guys around 8-9 points per game," Church said. "I think in our 11 games, we have had eight or nine different leading scorers."

Senior Nathan Tidwell leads the team with 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Freshman Nick Jeffirs (Crown Point) is averaging 10.7 and 6. Senior Jordan Seele is averaging 10.2 ppg.

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Sports Director

Hillary has covered prep, pro and college sports -- and even a Dixie Baseball World Series -- for newspapers north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1995.

Sports Copy Editor

Jim is a copy editor for The Times who works out of Valparaiso. A South Central High School (1984) and Ball State ('89) grad, he’s covered preps most of his career. He received the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association’s Media Award in 1997.