Concordia Lutheran High School's boys basketball team took a road trip to Muncie on Monday night. It was equal parts scouting and bonding.
The Class 3A Muncie Central Sectional was played Monday because Hamilton Heights was in the girls state finals. So, Concordia's Cadets were able to watch upcoming regional opponent Hamilton Heights in person with the pressure on.
For Concordia coach Josh Eggold, the benefit of a live scouting trip was twofold:
* Real-time observations: “You go away from that game knowing we can beat these guys, but you also say, 'They just beat a good team, so they're capable of beating us,' ” Eggold said. “You get that healthy respect when you see a team playing on the floor.”
* More time together as a team: “It was another one of those moments you have with your team," Eggold said. "As many seniors as we have and as great as the kids' personalities are, you know those moments are going to be over soon and you want to make the most of them.”
Concordia (20-4) hopes to use its all-for-one, one-for-all mentality when it plays in the Class 3A Blackford Regional on Saturday. The Cadets play Hamilton Heights (15-8) at 10 a.m., followed by Norwell (17-6) vs. Tippecanoe Valley (20-3) at noon. The winners meet at 7:30 p.m. Saturday for the title.
Concordia has been one of the area's best teams all season, losing only to Class 4A schools Northrop, North Side, Snider and Columbia City.
Eggold said the team learned some more about themselves in winning the school's sixth sectional title, and first since 2006.
“We went through as sectional where we beat three zones in a row, and we had faced a zone in Columbia City (the game prior),” Eggold said. “One of the knocks against us is that we struggle against the zone, and at times we did. We faced those demons and played pretty well against it. That's something that gave us confidence going forward.”
Concordia's strengths center on the Cadets' team concept. They have some outstanding individual players in D.J. McCall (16.5 ppg), Thomas Starks (12.6 ppg), Brian Gremaux (11 ppg) and Marq Rogers (8.8 ppg), but they display a knack for finding the open man on offense and not worrying about who gets the glory.
Concordia is seeking only its third regional title. They Cadets won in 1989 and 2000.
“They have their own aspirations that are team-focused that are not individual-minded,” Eggold said. “When you can get your mind off of yourself, which is a temptation for all us to be self-focused, you become a better team.
“They do a great job working hard and sharing the ball offensively,” Eggold said. “They get excited when each other scores, and that's not always the case. Sometimes there are threads of jealousy that weaves through some teams.”
Much of the team's offensive success has come out of the transition game, Eggold said. The key to that has been his players' ability to get out and run, regardless of who is handling the ball and leading the break. That speaks to his team's overall depth of talent.
The Cadets' defense has been strong, too. They've held four of their last eight opponents to fewer than 50 points.
Concordia's seven seniors are on a mission to extend the season.
“It's really unusual to have that many, and it takes a toll on your program a little bit in terms of the class above and below it,” Eggold said. “We have only two juniors, and last year we had only one senior. When you have such a talented class, there's some challenge in that. But it's been great to see them succeed. They've been looking forward to this since the fifth grade.”