McClure promises Jets will attack Luers with intensity
Aaron McClure really likes basketball. He played it a lot as a youth, still plays a bit as an adult, and has been a coach for 10 years or more at his alma mater.
However, as much as Adams Central's head coach (and very good former Flying Jet) enjoys the game, he was stone-faced serious when he talked about AC's sectional matchup with powerful Bishop Luers, winner of two of the last three Indiana Class 2A championships.
The 13-7 Jets will play the 16-4 Knights at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 4, in the South Adams Stardome in Berne.
About that make-or-break, win-or-go-home contest, Coach McClure didn't crack a smile as he said this:
"WE WILL ATTACK THEM . . . and you can put that in big letters!
"We will be really ready to play: all 12 players and the coaches!
"We are going at them with plenty of fight!
"Our fans should look for a highly intense game! You'll want to be there on Friday night because we will get it on!"
The sectional preview statements were the most demonstrative in McClure's career, but it is the play of his team this year and the potential the AC players have every time they step onto the court that led him to speak in such a dramatic manner.
McClure points out that the varsity has eight guys with the capability to score in double figures and the offensive statistics of the 2010-11 Flying Jets bear him out:
•AC has hit a school-record 132 three-pointers in 362 attempts (36.4%), plus 272 of 554 two-point tries (49%) and 238 of 336 free throws (71%).
•Seven players have made three-point shots, with five of them hitting 10 or more.
•The team averages 59 points a game and holds opponents to 56 ppg.
The team has also blocked 81 shots, almost twice what opponents have blocked (47).
A year after Deshaun Thomas (now of Ohio State) graduated as only the third 3,000-point scorer in Indiana high school history, Bishop Luers remains a powerhouse, with this year's Summit Athletic Conference title and the Class 2A titles in 2008 and 2009. The school is very familiar with playing winner-take-all games.
Luers is a guard-oriented team, led by two cousins who average 20 points or more: senior Evan Blackmon, a Division One prospect with averages of 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 steals and has two state titles under his belt, and freshman James Blackmon Jr., who committed last year to Indiana and whose father is the team's head coach, an all-stater at Marion, and a star at the University of Kentucky.
Luers has several other very good players, such as senior Kenny Mullen, who averages eight assists a game, has been on two of Luers' state-title-winning football teams and both basketball champ teams, and will play football at Indiana University. McClure also says Luers has a player who stands 6-3 and "is built like an NFL linebacker."
Finally, McClure said Adams Central will be the first 2A team Luers has faced all year, since it played 3A and 4A schools in the regular season.
Turning back to his squad, the coach says he expected a winning season because of the abilities the players had and the great amount of work they put in to improve their talents.
The Jets are on the verge, said McClure, of having the fewest losses of any AC team in 30 to 40 years. AC was 9-2 at home this season.
The coach also thanked the fans for turning out in large numbers, especially at the 11 home games. There is, he said, "a joy in watching the kids" and "the players feed on that."
The Jets are loose and cohesive (no ballhogs), everyone is healthy (after two players missed games due to football injuries), the players remember playing evenly with Luers in last year's sectional through three quarters, and the team is prepared to give its all this year, says the coach.
Here are McClure's observations about this year's squad:
•Nathan Busse, guard. He averages more than eight points a game and more than two rebounds a game and is number one in steals (33) and number three in assists (32). His free throw percentage is 68%. McClure says Busse is "a really solid defender" who has improved his overall game very much and is a good ballhandler with a "nose for the ball."
•Kameron Fiechter, guard. He plays well off the bench and "has come on strongly in the last four or five games," including making some big threes. He understands the game well, says the coach, and makes very few mental errors. He averages more than two points and one rebound per game, with 21 assists.
•Blaze Brooks, forward. He also is a key substitute and, with his physical strength, can play inside or outside and be a good defensive stopper, says McClure. He averages 1.1 ppg and 1.3 rpg.
•Maverick Baumer, forward. The top scorer at 15.4 ppg, he has eight or nine dunks (the most in any season in AC history, including three in one game, and three on alley-oop plays), hits 58% of his two-point shots and 43.6% of his threes, is number one in foul shots at 87.3%. and leads in rebounds with 117 (six per game). McClure says the 6-5 Baumer "is a tremendous athlete" who has worked very hard to develop all his skills. He also leads the team in blocked shots, with 42.
•Keaton Fiechter, guard. He scores five points a game and, at five-feet-nine, grabs 2.2 rebounds per contest. He is the team leader in assists, with 58; has added 24 steals; and is the second-best freethrower at 78.5%. Fiechter, who is Kam's brother, "has had a great year and is really steady at point guard." He also is a "sneaky defender" who rebounds exceptionally well for his size.
•Ben Snider, forward. He had a slow start because of a foot injury in football, but has been playing much more like last year on the past several games. He had 41 blocks as a sophomore and has added 31 this season, while taking down 49 rebounds. McClure likes the fact that Snider is very active, yet does not pick up many fouls. He averages four points and 3.2 rebounds per game.
•Kyle Fawcett, forward. He is also "very athletic," says Coach M, and is the team's best defender because of his combination of height and quickness, so he can go up against an outside player or an inside one. His rebounding is a good factor, too, according to McClure. He averages six points and 3.3 rebounds a game and has collected 25 assists.
•Spencer Sharp, guard. He has played on the reserve team most of the year, but also started late because of a knee injury from football season. He has had solid JV stats and is best as a quick defender, according to McClure.
•Dalton Combs, forward. He's the second-best scorer at 10.6 points a game and averages more than four rebounds a game, with 28 assists and 13 steals. The coach praises Combs' overall athletic instincts, such as his footwork around the basket for shots and rebounds; his calm demeanor under pressure; and his offensive accuracy: 48% in twos, 41% in threes, and 74% in FTs.
•Isaac Luginbill, guard. He is "very good" off the bench to fill in for Busse and Keaton Fiechter and knows how to make plays, says McClure. He has made 79% of his foul shots, passed for 42 assists, stole 13 times, and averages 6.5 points and two rebounds a game. The coach says Luginbill "has a natural feel for the game" and will keep improving as a junior and senior.
•Pierce Harris, forward. He became the first B team Jet to dunk this year and has had several double-figure games for the Jet JVs. McClure says he is another tall and athletic youth who can jump, rebound, and block shots and is also aggressive, so he has lots of potential for the coming two years.
There's only one ninth grader: guard Alex Byerly, a very good ballhandler who has played almost every minute of each reserve game this year. He has had good JV stats, is a proficient shooter, and plays "hard-nosed defense," says the coach.
What Friday's game means for the Flying Jets can be boiled down to this acronym: TBTB, BTB. That means "To Be The Best, Beat The Best."
My pick: AC 77, BL 75.