FOUNTAIN CITY, Ind.
Brent Ross attributes much of the success of his Class 2A No. 10-ranked Northeastern High School boys basketball team this winter to its unselfishness.
But on Thursday night, it was all about being selfish.
It was about not wanting to share, and the Knights won’t have to.
Northeastern completed a 7-0 Tri-Eastern Conference schedule with a 64-41 victory over Union City, claiming the TEC title outright for the first time in 30 years.
“I want to go back to all the kids that graduated the last two, three years as well and put in all the time and has helped make this program better and built this for these kids to be able to celebrate,” Ross said. “Thirty years, it’s a long time. I think it’s been a long time coming. I thought doing it on Senior Night, doing it at home makes it special as well.”
The Knights last won a TEC title in 1984 when Ross was a freshman on the team. They shared the title with Union County in 1983, and the Patriots (17-3, 6-1) had hopes of a share if Union City could upset the Knights.
But not with the way Northeastern came out.
The Knights (19-2, 7-0) forced eight first-quarter turnovers and made 10 of 15 field-goal attempts, unofficially, in sprinting to a 22-9 lead.
Craig Dingwerth got the Knights on the board with a layup and Kyle Whitesel tied the game at 2 for Union City.
Then, Northeastern pulled away.
Union City tried to slow the game down, but a 10-3 run helped the Knights build a 12-5 lead, and they closed the frame on a 10-4 run.
Union City trimmed the deficit to 26-18 as the Indians (8-11, 3-4) started the second quarter with a 10-4 run, but Tyler Smith nailed a 3-pointer, Grant Esposito scored four straight points and the lead was 37-21 at halftime.
“I felt like our kids came out and really, the first quarter, played pretty well,” Ross said. “I thought we had a lull there, give Union City credit. (UC head coach) Dustin (Baldwin)’s done a great job there. He keeps their kids ready, keeps them in the ballgame, and they just hang around.”
Northeastern seniors Corey Dingwerth, Alex Smith, Harley Cook and Shane Stiner were honored prior to tip-off.
“It’s big, because it was the last chance of the seniors to get it and it was a great feeling,” Smith said.
Freshman Tyler Smith had a game-high 14 points while dishing out five assists and he, Corey Dingwerth and Craig Dingwerth each finished with five rebounds.
Corey Dingwerth had 13 points, Robert Smith 10, Craig Dingwerth eight, Alex Smith and Esposito each had six, Joey Claypoole five and Tucker Shepherd two. Corey Dingwerth had a pair of blocks, while Tyler Smith, Alex Smith and Esposito each had three steals.
Corey Dingwerth, Craig Dingwerth, Esposito and Stiner helped Northeastern win the TEC tennis title. Claypoole was quarterback for the football team that shared the program’s first TEC title this past fall.
“It’s big for the school,” Corey Dingwerth said. “… It’s big for us. It’s my last game, all of our seniors’ last game on our home court, it’s big to be able to go out on our Senior Night and clinch a TEC victory for the school.”
Union City was led by Kyle Whitesel’s 12 points, while Tre Burton had 11, Seth Fowler eight, Dylan Doppler five and Isaac Davison three.
The Indians finish 3-4 in TEC play and 8-11 after going 0-7, 2-18 last year, Baldwin’s first as head coach.