Brad Stangel

Class 2A regional runner-up Andrean, coached by Brad Stangel, will look to build on its success with its base of young talent.

Just like that, the boys basketball season in the Region has come to an abrupt end.

For the first time in a decade, NWI doesn't have a team in the semistate.

It's a sudden finish for an area accustomed to advancing teams to the final four, if not the state finals.

The outcomes, while disappointing, were not shocking.

I remember former Wheeler coach Mike Jones, during the Bearcats' state run, talking about timing, that it's not just about when you're good, it's about who else is good at the same time and if the tournament path opens up in front of you.

None of those factors worked in the favor of local teams this season. There were good teams in every class but no great ones. There were great teams, state contenders, in the path in every class — South Bend Riley in 4A, Culver Academy in 3A, Westview in 2A and Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian in A — and every one of them made it to the regional.

No worries though. As the exodus of seniors last year was massive and the top talent this season, with a few exceptions — Johnny Bernard, DeAndre Gholston, Austin Peterson and Cade Albers just to name a few — was largely underclassmen. The list starts with Brandon Newman, Colin Kenney and Jake Wadding and goes on and on with junior, sophomore and even freshman studs all around the area.

Andrean is especially young with frosh force Kyle Ross among three ninth graders in coach Brad Stangel's rotation.

"We lose a lot, three great seniors, but we've got six guys, four freshmen and two juniors, with varsity experience," Stangel said after Saturday's loss to Westview in the 2A North Judson Regional final. "It's a good foundation where we can start."

For all the advantages private schools and charters have in drawing from a broader geographic area, one factor working against them is they don't typically have kids who have grown up playing together. Andrean lost to a precise Westview team with a core group that had been teammates since elementary school.

"It's definitely a major key, knowing where your teammates like the ball, knowing when they're open," 59ers freshman Kyle Ross said. "It doesn't take a lot of talent to run backcuts."

It's a good problem to have for Stangel, but developing chemistry isn't an overnight process.

"We had 20 days in June," he said. "They have to mesh together. We have good kids, so they're able to do it. The freshmen came into their own. We had three kids who had played varsity basketball at the start of the year. They've played a whole year of basketball now. You're going to see a big jump. Usually, you see that between their junior and senior year. We're going to have five sophomores on varsity next year."

Valparaiso loses some key character guys, but the Newman-Nate Aerts duo may be the area's best and the young supporting cast will be expected to take the next step.

"We've got a lot of great pieces," Newman said. "Every guy on the bench is going to have experience."

The good news in 4A is Riley is senior-heavy. The bad news for the Calumets, Andreans and 21st Centurys is the regional champions in the rest of the classes (Culver Academy, Westview and Blackhawk) all are young.

"There are no guarantees," Valpo coach Barak Coolman said. "You have to take advantage when you have the chance."

There will be more.

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


Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.