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Hamilton Southeastern rolls on despite significant departures

Second-ranked Royals face pair of MIC powers this weekend

With the graduation of a senior class led by current Ball State freshman Zach Gunn, Hamilton Southeastern lost loads of experience and more than 40 points per game from last season. You wouldn’t know it by how the Class 4A No. 2 Royals have looked this year.

HSE notched four wins in two days last week while winning the Holiday Hoops Tournament at Huntington North, to up its record to 11-0. Impressive wins include dual overtime victories over No. 12 Fort Wayne North and No. 8 Center Grove.

“We thought we’d have some ups and downs, but the leadership’s been great and they’re coming together, finding ways to win,” HSE coach Brian Satterfield said. “When we’ve gotten down, we’ve stepped up our defense to create some offense.”

Six-six junior forward Aaron Etherington (13.6 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game) has blossomed this season.

“I think last year he deferred to Zach a little bit, and it probably helped his overall game,” Satterfield said. “He tried to get him the ball, was efficient at doing that and it helped his passing. This year he’s stepped up at the defensive end and has developed overall balance in his game.”

The team’s sixth-man a year ago, 6-4 senior forward Chaz Birchfield (10.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg) has embraced his starting role.

“He wasn’t always consistent before, but he’s given us tremendous upside this year,” Satterfield said. “His athleticism is unbelievable, what he’s able to do on the boards, attacking the rim, it’s been great.”

Six-one point guard Noah Smith (10.7 ppg, 4.1 assists per game) leads the Royals in minutes played.

“He’s the guy who makes us go,” Satterfield said. “He’s our best defender, takes care of the basketball. He always takes the challenge of guarding a team’s best player.”

South Sudan-native and 7-2, 220-pound sophomore center Mabor Majak (8.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg) continues to evolve his game and frame.

“He’s made tremendous strides,” Satterfield said. “The biggest thing for him is the physicality. He’s probably gained 70 pounds since he’s been here. He loves the game and wants to work and work - in the weight room, outside of practice. He sees the floor well, and can really alter shots at the defensive end. Once he gets better with his lateral quickness, it’ll be something to see.”

Six-one senior guard Nick Bowman (9.8 ppg) and 6-4 sophomore forward Chris Grubbs (6.3 ppg) also play sizable minutes for the Royals, who have a big weekend coming up, with a trip to Lawrence Central (6-3) on Friday and a home contest versus No. 4 Warren Central (8-0) on Saturday.

“Both are well coached and we’ll be in for a battle,” Satterfield said. “They both get after you defensively, so we’ll have to take care of the ball. Shots won’t come as easily as they normally do, so we need patience, and that’s something we’ve harped on all year long."

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