Westview returns their core, including a pair of three year starters as they look to get back to the state title game for a fourth time. Last year, they finished one game away from a Class 2A title with a 70-64 loss to Oak Hill in the semi state round, just their second loss of the season.
One of those three year starters is senior guard Elijah Hales (14.3 point per game, 159 total assists) had a tremendous semi state game scoring 31 points in 32 minutes and never coming out of the game. His pace changing style opened eyes to his ability and he earned a spot as an Indiana Junior All-Star.
“He is an excellent passer and has good size for a point guard,” Westview coach Rob Yoder said of Hales. “He has worked really hard to get where he is at and he is obviously very gifted.”
The other three year starter, Nick Rensberger will be back in the lineup after suffering a knee injury late last season. Although Yoder says they taped him up to keep playing, including in the semi state round, Rensberger was never fully himself. When Rensberger will be back and 100 percent is still a question after a procedure to clean up some of the scar tissue from last year’s injury. He is practicing with the team. When he was fully healthy, the 6-foot-5, 250 pound post was a force inside and averaged 11.2 points and 5.6 rebounds on the season.
Junior Charlie Yoder is one of the most diverse players in the area and is likely the top pure scorer in the NECC. He averaged 16.6 points a year ago while shooting 45 percent from the field and led the Warriors in every other statistical category outside of assists, where he was second. Yoder averaged 5.7 rebounds, while tallying 59 steals and 84 assists.
“Maybe some of the other stuff he does well sometimes gets overlooked a little bit,” Rob Yoder said of his son Charlie’s scoring being at the forefront.
This summer at the Indy Top 80 event, Yoder registered the best single game scoring total with 44 points in a contest.
“He is the highest scoring sophomore we’ve ever had at our school,” Rob Yoder said. “He just kind of naturally puts the ball in the basket, some guys are just like that.”
Senior Josh Hostetler is back after also playing in all 29 games last year and all 32 minutes of the semi state loss. He was a 57.5 percent shooter worth 8.3 points per game. Another senior, Dennis Wingard was not a major offensive force, but played in 28 games last year and has plenty of experience. Junior Blake Egli will also be looked to contribute. Sophomores Drew Litwiller and Luke and Lyndon Miller all were on the postseason roster last year as freshmen.
“Whenever you know what you are supposed to do and know how the thing works, you are naturally more confident,” Rob Yoder said. “You aren’t coming in to your first practice guessing. You’ve experienced it, you know it and what is expected.”
Westview’s schedule will be similar to last year, testing themselves with at least six games in Class 4A including a trip to the coveted Hall of Fame Classic in New Castle on December 29, also playing Northridge and at East Noble and Warsaw.
“People are going to give us their best shot, we realize that, we like it that way,” Rob Yoder said. “I don’t know if the class matters as much as the quality of opponent.”
In the Hall of Fame Classic, Westview will play the 11 a.m. game against Center Grove and Mr. Basketball frontrunner Trayce Jackson-Davis. Valparaiso and Warren Central will play in the following game with the winners and losers being paired up for games that evening starting at 6 p.m. All games are played at New Castle High School in the nation’s biggest high school fieldhouse. Westview appeared at the Hall of Fame Classic in 1999, losing to Marion in the championship game. That Warrior team went on to win the 2000 Class 2A state title, their second straight.
“Right away, you get to play two really good teams and that is good for your team. That just prepares you, makes you better,” Rob Yoder said. “It is just a great experience for our kids. They are young kids and those moments, they are going to remember that forever.”
This team was a hair away from a state title game last year and bring back almost every piece. They went 14-1 against classes 4A and 3A, so they are more than capable of beating anyone on their schedule.
“The way we approach things, we don’t set a bunch of long term goals. We just try to prepare the best we can for the next opponent on the schedule and we try to play as hard as we can every day in practice and form a habit that will carry over into game situations,” Rob Yoder said.
“Reality is practice. For fans, they live in the games but that is 30 times a year. Every day, five or six times a week is practice and that is reality.”
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Being in Class 2A, the Warriors never garner the respect they may deserve. The talent on this team makes that hard to be the case. Westview will need to prove they can play deep and will need a fully healthy Rensberger to do so. Knocking off a couple of non conference teams will make big noise.
January 3 at East Noble
Westview’s win over Class 4A East Noble was a big deal last season. It was a good battle of unbeaten teams and really was the biggest indicator that Westview could make waves in Class 2A.
While the aforementioned Hall of Fame Classic will make it difficult for Westview to come into this one unbeaten, there is a high likelihood that East Noble could be playing perfect basketball. A win here would again bolster this team and put their class further on notice.