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Top-ranked Tri-West has outright conference crown in its sights

Class 3A No. 1 Bruins unbeaten in Sagamore with two to play

Early in the new year, coming off a disappointing loss to Beech Grove, Tri-West’s bid to defend its Hendricks County tourney title ended quickly, with an opening loss to 1-8 Avon.

The next day, in front of a sparse consolation-game crowd, the Bruins trailed by 10 against Plainfield entering the fourth quarter, where they exploded for a 62-52 victory. Now 14-2, they’ve been on a tear ever since.

“I think that’s really spurred the second half of our season,” Tri-West coach Adam Bontreger said. “Our backs were against the wall, and it showed our resolve as a group.”

It’s a group that had just two varsity players back from last year’s squad that went 23-4 and won the program’s fourth straight sectional, in seniors Tyler Watson and Logan Blake.

Watson, a four-year starter in basketball and football, set the Tri-West career tackles record at linebacker, and earlier this season, broke Trevor Waite’s boys hoops scoring record (set three years ago), which now sits just a few points shy of 1,800.

How will Watson – who’s averaging 25.4 points in his final season – be remembered at Tri-West?

“As one of the all-time greatest – if not the greatest – athletes to come through here,” Bontreger said. “He’s had an unbelievable career in both sports.”

Along with scoring 13.3 points per contest, Blake - also a standout on the gridiron - leads the team in rebounds (8.3) and assists (6.0).

“He does it all. We as a coaching staff certainly know his value,” Bontreger said. “He’s second in points for us every night and takes the other team’s best player on defense. He’s one heck of an athlete.”

Jared Kiefer (10.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg) leads a group of fellow seniors that also includes Bryce Miller (3.8 ppg) and Lucas Goodin (2.6 ppg), who collectively worked and waited to finally get their shot at the varsity level.

“They’ve really done a nice job buying into the roles that we’ve given them,” Bontreger said. “Last year people wondered why we’d keep so many juniors around on the JV team, and this year is showing why. Those guys were solid players but had solid guys in front of them. Now they’re enjoying the benefits of sticking it out. Not every high school kid would do that.”

Also figuring into the primary seven-man rotation are juniors Sam Fulton (6.4 ppg) and Brayden VanSlyke (4.4 ppg).

After two years of sharing the Sagamore Conference title, Tri-West is a spotless 5-0 in league play with games versus Crawfordsville and North Montgomery remaining. The Bruins also have a good measuring stick contest against Brebeuf on Saturday.

While the sectional draw is still a little over a week away, Tri-West knows it’ll have to navigate a tough one, with No. 7 and rival Danville (12-4), No. 12 Beech Grove (13-4), Indian Creek (11-6) and Manual (10-7) in the mix.

“It’s about as brutal a sectional as it gets in 3A, along with the Attucks, Brebeuf, Guerin Catholic, Ritter one that feeds into our regional,” Bontreger said. “We’ll have five double-digit winners that feel like they have a chance to win it, and all present challenges. We won’t take anyone for granted, that’s for sure.”

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