Patience is a Virtue: Blackford Basketball
NEW CASTLE, Ind. (NewsLink)- “Good things come to those who wait.” An old saying that may not mean much to some; but to the four-year returning seniors on the Blackford Boys Basketball team, it holds tremendous significance.
Blackford's team features Indiana High School Basketball’s leading scorer, Luke Brown, who averages 35.9 points per game. Brown, Coach Jerry Hoover and the rest of the team have undoubtedly made a splash in the Hartford City community by turning Blackford’s basketball program around by finishing above .500 the past two seasons. What often goes unnoticed, however, is the story of the Bruins in the pre-Brown/Hoover era.
From the 2014-2016 season, Blackford’s struggles were superficial. Losing 72 out of 73 games during those three seasons, including 61 straight, Blackford High School was in the doldrums of one of the longest losing streaks in recent memory. Out of nowhere, in the most unlikely of scenarios, enters Luke Brown, Steffen, and Jerry Hoover.
The 2017-2018 season started off on the right foot, opening the year with a three-game winning streak. After winning several substantial games down the stretch, a nightmare that no one saw coming became all too much of a reality.
In one of the most anticipated matchups of the season, a rivalry game against Jay County, Luke Brown went down with what appeared to be a serious leg injury. Brown was carried off the court early in the first quarter and did not return to the game. After a few long days of waiting to hear results, Blackford fans received devastating news that no one wanted to hear; Brown had a broken ankle and was out for the remainder of the season.
Blackford used the motivation of losing Brown to finish the 2017-2018 season with a winning record led by Brown’s teammates Steffen Hoover, Mark White, Nathan Brown and Andrew Beckley. Going 14-9, Blackford had hope going into this season with what would be a stronger, rejuvenated Brown with seasoned veterans surrounding him who often fly under the radar.
Senior forwards Mark White and Nathan Brown (shown above) said that sticking with the program through the tough times was a decision they will never regret.
“It makes it more sentimental, I think, just because you went through those hard times and you had those lows but now, you’re on the high so it’s good that we’re leaving on a good note,” said Nathan Brown.
The perseverance of the Blackford seniors is something that taught them many lessons in basketball, but more importantly, in life.
“It’s a transition that I’ll never forget,” said White. “It’s one that is probably the best learning experience that I’ve ever had in sports and athletics that I can transfer into life.”
In the past two seasons under Coach Jerry Hoover, (Nathan) Brown and White have enjoyed the fruits of their labor, winning 31 of 45 games since the beginning of the 2017-2018 season.
During the days of the losing spell, Blackford scored under 50 points in 65 of their 73 games. In the 2015-2016 season, they did not hit the 50-point mark even once, and only twice in 2016-2017. Since the arrival of Coach Hoover and Luke Brown, Blackford has scored under 50 points just three times, two of which being games that (Luke) Brown was injured. The Bruins are enjoying a streak of scoring over 50 in the last 27 games.
Sophomore Luke Brown is averaging more points per game this year (35.9) than the entire 2014-2015 team (33.7) and 2015-2016 team did (31.0) in the days before the transformation. From 2014-2016 Blackford Gym would have games with less than 100 tickets sold. Now, with a winning team, a revitalized program, and the support of a community behind them, Blackford games sell out more often than not, with between 3,500 and 4,000 people in attendance at each contest.
Blackford has their best odds at winning their first sectional title since 1991 this season. It’s apparent what (Luke) Brown can bring to the table, but as the team looks to come together as a unit in the tough Sectional 24 field, White said the key to winning is to play like themselves.
“From the very beginning we have to come out here, we have to knock down our shots, we have to be prepared for how they’re going to play. They’re a good team, but we’re a good team, so we have a shot, we’re just going to have to play a good game, going to have to play our game, and going to have to play Blackford Basketball,” White said.
Blackford is set to take on the number one team in the state, Delta High School. Delta is 23-0, the only team in Indiana to go undefeated this season. Delta is favored to win Sectional 24 by odds of just over 50%.
Blackford on the other hand, has a 4.17% chance of taking the sectional title. After receiving the first-round bye, the Bruins look to rain on Delta’s parade Friday night at 8 p.m. at New Castle Fieldhouse. The winner of the game will advance to the sectional championship game. Winning would give Blackford their first sectional championship since 1991, a goal that Bruin fans feel the team is more than capable of accomplishing.