Outside the Huddle is profiling which 10 area basketball gyms it feels are the best around as we spend some time this off-season looking at unique aspects of these facilities.
Each facility is rated on four factors – game night atmosphere, design, amenities and team success, as well as testimonials from the home team, the opposition and Bounce himself.
NOTE: While success does play a factor in these rankings, it certainly isn’t the biggest factor. That seemed to be a sticking point in the football field countdown from our readers.
No. 5 The Cougar Den aka The Jungle
Location: Central Noble High School
First season: 1985
Named for: Named after the school’s mascot
SCORE BREAKDOWN (1 – lowest; 5 – highest)
Game night atmosphere: 4
During the midst of their recent girls state championship run in 2018, this was about the hottest ticket in northeast Indiana. Don’t expect for that to go away over the next couple of years with the program that the boys side has put together.
This is a far cry from what nights used to be at Central Noble. While they have had a solid longtime fan base, basketball games now certainly capture the full attention of Albion. The home side, which is a traditional high bleacher, is almost always full to capacity and the student section is one of the best. Push-ups and general clean fun craziness make them as much a part of the game as any other student section in the area. They are an active student section that spill out to the floor (legally) and are always busy.
When the visiting side, behind the team benches is full, this place is loud.
The starkness of the court, as noted with No. 7 Snider, is something nice. The walls are a bright white, not off color and that really lightens up the entire gym. That allows for the contrast of the light and dark wood on the floor and the maroon text and logo to really make the actual gym floor pop. The open space along the baseline is more than you see in most places, but also allows for fans to cut under the basket to get from one side of the gym to the other without being a distraction to the flow of a game. The bench side bleachers are unique as they are raised away from the player chairs and scorekeeper table; that helps minimize some distraction for teams and workers without fans directly in their ears. It is the kind of separation that you really don’t get many places.
Like No. 6 South Adams, the ability to have a commons area of sorts outside the gym and around the concession stand makes this more fan friendly if people want to escape the sometimes rowdy confines of the home bleachers that can get very packed on big game nights.
Concessions are quality at Central Noble, fairly priced and prepared hotter than a lot of places (if they are supposed to be hot that is). The biggest knock when it comes to something visitor friendly is that if you haven’t been to Central Noble before, the entrance to the gym can be confusing. It is a bit of a walk to get to the gym and the ticket taking being past the concessions and commons and into the actual gym is a bit perplexing. Most places, you’d expect to pay earlier in the entry hallway, but at least this way allows those workers to still take in the action on the court.
Team success: 3.5
The girls have won just three sectional titles but they have come in the past four seasons, including 2018’s Class 2A state title team that helped push the ladies up to Class 3A because of success factor. Along the way, they had the top two scorers in program history playing at the same time. So while the history isn’t as rich on the girls side, they have had one of the most successful girls programs in the area in recent years, something that they are likely to continue.
The boys team is headed there; though falling short of a sectional title this past season, they did win the NECC Tournament and score the most wins in program history. The Cougar boys have five sectional champions ever, most recently in 2017, but are certainly trending up success wise.
Central Noble boys basketball coach John Bodey: “During my time at Central Noble the community support has created a great environment for our teams. It is enjoyable for the kids to play in a packed gym.”
Central Noble girls basketball coach Josh Treesh: “I think what makes our situation unique is obviously we have had that success but I think the fans truly appreciate the effort that our athletes give. We are very fortunate at Central Noble that our boys program and our girls program are good and when you put those two teams together on the same night, it makes it like a Sectional championship type atmosphere, it makes it a Regional type atmosphere. I don’t think you can say that every gym you travel to…I just think its tough to play in that gym. I think teams have always struggled to play against us in that gym. I think it is just because our fans just come in and are very supportive.”
Angola boys basketball coach Brandon Appleton (former Angola girls coach): “One of those places you can feel it when we walk in…as soon as we take the court you can sense the kids looking down the court at each other because they know it’s about to be a battle. It starts during warm-ups, you can hear the noise increase with each passing minute as the stands fill. By the time we tip the crowd is in full force and the chants from their fans begin and never stop…the student section is almost on the court at times which helps create a fun atmosphere.”
With a score that equals our No. 6 spot, Bounce went ahead and broke the tie here. Central Noble feels fresh and that is saying a lot for a gym that didn’t feel fresh even 10 years ago when it was newer. The ambiance is upbeat, the arena is bright and it is one of those places that you are in a good mood just being in. I really like the separation for the players/coaches from the fans which gives them space without sucking the energy away from the game’s participants. Central Noble is also home to one of the better bands in the area, especially of a school that size, staying boisterous and making themselves part of the game night even beyond the music.
Coming Monday: No. 4