Expectations have gotten a lot loftier for the Twin Lakes Indians this season as they step into the J&C Classic as one of the favorites.
That’s what comes with a team that returns all five starters and three of its top reserves from last season’s Class 3A regional participant and has 34 victories the past two seasons.
Twin Lakes coach Kent Adams is taking a more cautious approach to the excitement surrounding the Indians, who are getting votes in the Associated Press Top 10 poll.
“Anytime you have success it’s nice, and you don’t want anything less,” Adams said. “But just because something happened in the past doesn’t mean it’s going to happen in the future. In fact, it gets harder. Our goal is to play hard every night, play smart and play together.”
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Senior forward Dane Holmes and senior guard Bailey Rothrock, along with juniors Justin Crabb and twins Blake and Bryce Bennington, played key parts in the run that sent Twin Lakes to the regional for the second time.
“Well, we have experience,” Adams said. “Our kids have been in a lot of situations before and we should be aware of how to handle those things. That’s up to us to follow through.”
Adams said that he has tried to address with his veteran squad the changing dynamic of how other teams will view the Indians this year. In short, Twin Lakes will be viewed not as the hunter, but the hunted.
“We’re going to get a great game from everybody and they’re going to give us their best shot,” Adams said. “We expect guys to rise up to that and be very competitive.”
Twin Lakes will be blessed not only with experienced starters but an experienced bench, too. Juniors Matt Conrad and Kris Goodlow clocked significant minutes during critical times for the Indians a year ago. Adams said playing as a team will be vital for the Indians’ success.
“Mentally, we have to play hard every time out,” Adams said. “Physically, we’re there. It’s just the mental aspect and how we react to adversity and how we handle mistakes.”
Adams said the biggest concern for his squad is its lack of size, with Holmes being the only true forward among the starters. He said the Indians must improve defensively and pressure opponents into turnovers more this season than in the past.
“We’ve got to get more out of our full-court defense,” Adams said. “We need it to be more effective this season. Besides Dane, we don’t have a lot of size, and we’re going to have to overcome a lot of mismatches in that area. That means we’re going to have to apply pressure more successfully.”
While the Indians proved to be an efficient 3-point shooting team toward the end of last season, Adams said that part of the game that needs tweaking.
“It’s one thing being a shooter, another thing being a maker,” Adams said. “It’s one of the areas we want to improve on.”
Twin Lakes Indians
Coach: Kent Adams (243-187 in 20th year at Twin Lakes, 313-292 in 28th year overall)
2014-15 results: 18-9, lost to Griffith in regional opener
Best J&C Hoops Classic finish: Third (2004, 2011)
Key returnees: Blake Bennington, junior (12.9 ppg.); Bryce Bennington, junior (9.3 ppg); Justin Crabb, junior (6.4 ppg.); Dane Holmes, senior (5.3 ppg., 7.7 reb.); Bailey Rothrock, senior (6.1 ppg); Matt Conrad, junior (4.5 ppg); Kris Goodlow, junior (4.4 ppg.), Evan Luzader, senior (0.7 ppg.).
Others to watch: Connor Payne, senior.