SAC boys tournament
No. 8 Northrop vs. No. 9 Concordia, 10:45 a.m.
No. 7 Dwenger vs. No. 10 Luers, 4 p.m.
No. 4 Carroll vs. No. 5 Homestead, 7:30 p.m.
No. 1 North Side vs. Northrop/Concordia, 10:45 a.m.
No. 2 Wayne vs. No. 7 Dwenger/No. 10 Luers winner, 5:45 p.m.
No. 3 South Side vs. No. 6 Snider
Semifinals, 6:30 p.m., 8:15 p.m.
Championship, 8 p.m.
It has been a positive progression for the seniors on Wayne's boys basketball team.
The class of 2018 went 3-19 as freshmen, 7-15 as sophomores and 11-12 as juniors, falling to Homestead 60-54 in the sectional.
The road hasn't been easy, but the journey has been worth it as the Generals earned the No. 2 seed behind North Side in the SAC tournament, which starts Wednesday at Wayne.
Last year's regular-season finale, a 70-68 win at Richmond, and the sectional loss provided coach Aaron Rehrer with the perfect example heading into this season.
“The intensity that we played with, the focus we played with, it was through the roof,” Rehrer said. “We've referred to that quite a bit this year, because if we can approach that, if we can have that mentality – that if you lose, your season's over every night – that's what we've adopted.
“We didn't win that game (against Homestead). It was right there and they hit some big shots – and Homestead is Homestead – but that game, and the game before that – we beat Richmond on a buzzer-beater at Richmond – our kids started clicking at the end. That last game, even though we didn't win it, they learned a lot.”
The Generals (3-1, 2-0 SAC) fell in this season's opener, 75-58 at Jeffersonville on Dec. 2, but they have since defeated Snider (73-60), New Haven (65-63) and Carroll 52-50 on a late basket.
“Before our first game, I showed them the first quarter of that (sectional loss to Homestead) to show them the intensity they played with – diving on the floor, doing things like that – and it's carried over,” Rehrer said.
It's the close wins and clutch plays down the stretch of those games that has shown this year's team it has learned from past experiences.
“(Against New Haven) one of our best free-throw shooters misses two clutch free throws to keep the game within distance to where we could have closed it out,” senior Anthony Phillips said. “We didn't panic, and we were able to get the stop that we needed because of what we've been through in the past, when we folded in those situations. Now we know what we need to do.”
The adversity of previous seasons and the learning experience along the way has increased the buy-in and brought the team closer together.
“We've all been through the fire,” Phillips said. “We've all been through the good times and bad times. We've been able to have our good scoring nights, bad scoring nights; we can lean on each other. Any given night, any man can step up, and since we're so close, we can all trust each other.”
For the SAC tournament, seedings are drawn up early in the season, which leaves little room for scouting. To be able to earn the No. 2 seed means the respect is there, and the Generals have shifted from being the hunters to the hunted, and to do it with this particular group makes it even more meaningful for the senior class.
“We feel like we have been getting better and improving, and to finally get that recognition, it does feel good,” Kylon Jarreau said. “I know we're a target because some other teams like South Side feel like they should have been there before us. But we've been picked at the bottom before, so we know what it feels like. To be picked near the top feels good. We're just trying to stay humble about it.
“When you go through everything with the same people, at some point, you're going to conquer it. Going through it, we stuck together, and now we're stringing a few wins together.”