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Quietly, West Noble boys perfect

– Jim Best knows what he has in his undefeated West Noble boys basketball team, but the second-year coach doesn’t think anybody else does.

“I think we have gotten in under the radar,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I have kept my mouth shut. I am not sure a lot of people knew or thought we have what we got.

“We walk onto the floor and have a pretty formidable-sized team, and we look athletic, but I don’t think a lot of people give (the record) much thought.”

After going 13-11 a year ago, the Chargers are 10-0 this season and are one of the top contenders in the NECC, which is in the semifinal round of its conference tournament.

West Noble, 5-0 in NECC regular-season games, is for real whether people have noticed for not. Maybe that’s because talk of being perfect or undefeated never makes it way onto West Noble’s side.

“I knew we had a pretty solid ball team,” Best said. “I didn’t expect (to be undefeated), absolutely not. I knew we would battle with everybody. We have had some games where we have faltered along the way, but they were strong enough to pull them out. I probably wouldn’t have seen it coming. I knew they were capable, but they are also kids.

“We don’t talk about it at all. It never comes up. People talk to me about it, and I am sure other people bring it up to them but you never hear it talked about in the locker room or on the court.”

The Chargers play in the NECC semifinals tonight, with hopes of advancing to Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. finals at Westview.

“We traveled this summer, and we sat in a hotel room and we talked about goals and levels of commitment for this year,” Best said.

“We had a couple of hour meetings about these things, and we would come back and talk about them, and the conference tournament was one of those things. They really want this conference tournament. That’s not an easy task.

“These kids look forward to challenges. It is not something they shy away from. That’s a little bit different. We enjoy this time of the year.”

Best credits camaraderie, forged during those summer team-building sessions, and depth as key components for the team’s success.

The Chargers have eight players averaging at least 3.7 points per game and five of those are at 7.1 or more.

And having height helps, too. The Chargers pose one of the biggest matchup problems around northeast Indiana with a roster of a half-dozen players standing 6-foot-2 or taller.

Drew Schermerhorn, a 6-2 junior guard, leads the team with 12.4 points per game, while 6-4 junior forward Keith Gibson averages 10 points. Senior 6-5 forward Nick Noe averages 9.1, 6-5 junior forward Phil Miller 7.7 and 5-7 senior guard Nick Thomas 7.1.

“It is their workmanlike attitude,” Best said.

“They have the desire, and there are three or four of them that have stepped up to be leaders, and they push each other in practice. They don’t put up with a bunch of whining. It has made for a real good practice situation.”

West Noble beat Prairie Heights in the regular season by 20 points, 85-65, with two starters and a couple of other players suspended because of curfew violations.

“I think we have become a very hard team to defend because you never know where it is coming from,” Best said.

Greg Jones is the high school sports editor for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in the Fort Wayne area since 1998. He can be reached by email gjones@jg.net; phone, 461-8224; or fax 461-8648.

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