We officially wrap up the 2021-2022 boys basketball season with the naming of 4th annual Outside the Huddle All-Area team.
For our selections, we narrowed down candidates to the top 17 players as we see them in the area. No second teams, no honorable mentions, just one group of who the editors of OTH felt to be the best of the best this year.
In order alphabetically and by grade, here are this year’s honorees:
CAEDMON BONTRAGER, LEO
Bontrager scored 508 points during his senior season to help lead a partially rebuilt Leo team to one win away from returning to the state finals. Those Sectional and Regional titles were led by Bontrager’s inside aggression. Consistently one of the area’s top big men during his high school career, Bontrager had his biggest stage as a senior and used it to shine more than he had at any other time. He was the go to guy for Leo on their return to semi state and really diversified his game to stand out.
Bontrager averaged 19.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, pushing himself to be one of the best players in the Northeast 8 Conference. He was named IBCA Senior Large School All-State and All-NE8 First Team.
Bontrager will continue his basketball career at Indiana Wesleyan.
LOGAN BRACE, FREMONT
In helping Fremont to their second straight Sectional title in school history, Brace solidified himself as arguably the best workhorse player in the area. He averaged 13.8 points and 8.6 rebounds for Fremont in the ever tough NECC. He did so while being a model for consistency, hitting 66.4 percent of his shots during his senior season, the best shooting season by percentage in Fremont history. He also averaged 2.5 steals and 1.6 assists during the 2021-22 season.
Brace will leave Fremont as the school’s all-time leading rebounder and the all-time leader in field goal percentage as well. Brace was consistently one of the area’s scrappiest players and developed the reputation of being a pure hustler to secure those rebounds as his scoring IQ seemed to grow throughout the season.
He was named All-NECC.
CONNOR ESSEGIAN, CENTRAL NOBLE
From missing out on Junior All-Stars to a blockbuster senior season, Essegian led Central Noble to the Class 2A state finals along with the trophies that got the Cougars there: Sectional, Regional and Semi State. The fourth place finished in the Mr. Basketball voting for Indiana also helped Central Noble to a third straight NECC Tournament title.
Everything scoring wise that Essegian could do, he did. He became the leading scorer in program history, in school history, in Noble County history and broke into a highly illustrious top 10 of all-time scorers in Indiana, a spot he shares with a who’s who of the state’s best ever. Essegian finished with 2,526 points and is the first Northeast Indiana player to surpass 2,500 career points since Deshaun Thomas in 2010.
During his senior season, Essegian averaged a team best 26.5 points per game. He shot 67 percent from the field, 42 percent from three point range (116/274) and 84 percent from the free throw line. He also averaged 6 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.1 assists per contest.
He was named IBCA Senior Supreme 15 and All-NECC while also being named IBCA Academic All-State First Team. Essegian is a three time Outside the Huddle All-Area player and twice has been part of the ‘First Five,’ our highest preseason honor.
Essegian will continue his basketball career at Wisconsin.
LOGAN GARD, CENTRAL NOBLE
Gard’s senior season was a bigger breakout than any other before it and it helped propel Central Noble to NECC Tournament, Sectional, Regional and Semi State titles. He averaged 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while being the clear number two option for the heavy firing Cougar offense.
Gard also saw his star rise on the defensive end where he was the dominant post player in the NECC and a strong rim protector. He averaged 2.8 blocks per game and even when he wasn’t sending shots back, he was altering them inside and forcing most teams to try and figure out how to score away from the rim.
He was named IBCA Senior Small School All-State and All-NECC while also being named IBCA Academic All-State Honorable Mention.
Gard will continue his basketball career at Trine.
JALEN JACKSON, NORTHROP
Jackson can add Indiana All-Star to his crazy resume after a senior season spent at a whole new school. Jackson made Northrop a contender nightly with his high offensive output, registering an area best 27.6 points per game. Jackson also put up 9.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Jackson was ranked second in the state in points per game among those schools reporting to MaxPreps.
He was named IBCA Senior Supreme 15 and All-SAC First Team. Jackson is a two time Outside the Huddle All-Area player and this season was part of the ‘First Five,’ our highest preseason honor.
Jackson will continue his basketball career at Illinois-Chicago.
KARSON JENKINS, SNIDER
Jenkins broke two important Snider program records with the most points in a season (659) and the best scoring average, going for 26.4 points per game as a senior to surpass a record set by Terry Collins in 1998. Jenkins’ upstep in scoring over his time at Snider placed him sixth all-time in points for the program with 1,325.
As a senior, Jenkins averaged 5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2 steals per contest. He shot 51 percent from the field and 39 percent from three point range.
He was named IBCA Senior Supreme 15 and All-SAC First Team. Jenkins is a two time Outside the Huddle All-Area player and this season was part of the ‘First Five,’ our highest preseason honor.
Jenkins will continue his basketball career at Barry University.
ASHTON JOHNSON, SOUTH SIDE
Johnson had a memorable senior season, taking the heavy handed reigns for a South Side team that was a nightly contender and led the Archers to 14-11 record and berth in the Sectional finals. Johnson put out some big games, helping South to a five game midseason winning streak including quality wins over Huntington North and Central Noble. Johnson averaged 16.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game.
He was named IBCA Senior All-State Honorable Mention and All-SAC First Team.
Johnson will continue his basketball career at St. Francis.
AIDAN LAMBERT, SNIDER
His 533 points as a senior became the second best scoring season in Snider history behind classmate Karson Jenkins. Lambert was a one man show on a team with depth and so many strengths. Droves of people showed up to Snider games purely to see how many dunks and what kind of dunks Lambert would throw down. But his game was far from one dimensional as he averaged 20.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while shooting 51 percent from the field.
On December 18 against Merrillville, Lambert broke Snider’s single game scoring record with 51 points in the dominant win.
He was named IBCA Senior All-State Honorable Mention and All-SAC First Team.
FLETCHER LOYER, HOMESTEAD
Loyer led the Sectional and SAC champion Spartans with 26.9 points per game, which is a program record for points per game. In fact, Loyer now holds 10 program records and in March, he added to his all-time Spartan status by becoming the all-time single season leader in points and made free throws for the program in the same game.
Outside of his scoring, Loyer averaged 4.5 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game as a senior, shooting 53 percent from the field, 45 percent from three point range and 90 percent from the free throw line. He scored 1,360 points in his two year Homestead career but surpassed 2,000 for his high school career this season too. Loyer also won the three point contest for high school players in New Orleans at the end of March.
Loyer was named the Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year, IBCA Senior Supreme 15 and All-SAC First Team while also being named IBCA Academic All-State First Team. He is a two-time Outside the Huddle All-Area Player and was part of the ‘First Five,’ our highest preseason honor, twice.
Loyer was the first runner up for Mr. Basketball in the state of Indiana, but ultimately declined the opportunity to be an Indiana All-Star. Loyer will continue his basketball career at Purdue.
JOE REIDY, WOODLAN
Reidy’s 1,809 career points saw him finish at the top of Woodlan’s all-time scoring list by over 400 points, passing then-D1 prospect Lloy Ball who had the top spot for 32 years. His point total also makes him the 5th best career scorer in Allen County history. Reidy finished his senior season averaging 25.1 points per game, hitting 54.1 percent from the field and 78 percent from the free throw line.
Reidy also posted that rare season long double double by averaging 11.1 rebounds per game including 8.3 per game on the defensive end. In addition to those two categories, Reidy posted team best averages with 2.2 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.5 steals per game in 2021-22.
He was named IBCA Senior Large School All-State and All-ACAC First Team while also being named IBCA Academic All-State First Team. Reidy is a two time Outside the Huddle All-Area player and this season was part of the ‘First Five,’ our highest preseason honor.
Reidy will continue his basketball career at St. Francis.
GABE TREVINO, EASTSIDE
It was a banner season for the Blazers, who won the NECC regular season title with perfect conference record and finished the season ranked in the state in Class 2A led by a balanced group. They broke the school record for wins in a season while only losing twice, both times to conference foe Central Noble whom they themselves beat in the reagulr eason.
While it was a balanced effort, Trevino’s play and push was a big part of the Blazers’ run. Trevino averaged team bests 13.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He also averaged 1.5 steals per game while shooting 48.6 percent from the field and 72.9 percent from the foul line. He was named IBCA Small School All-State and All-NECC.
Trevino will continue his playing career at Earlham College.
JAKAR WILLIAMS, NEW HAVEN
The big games of Williams were electric, win or lose for the Bulldogs as they were playing NE8 spoiler on occasions and pushing some of the SAC’s elite. Williams averaged 18.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per game during his season season. Williams was able to break New Haven’s single game scoring record when he put up 43 points against Canterbury on February 15 topping a 16 year old record. He also surpassed the 1,000 career point mark in a win over Bishop Luers.
He was named IBCA Senior All-State Honorable Mention and All-NE8 First Team.
Williams will attend college at Findlay University to play football.
AUSTIN CRIPE, WEST NOBLE
If you aren’t paying attention to the area as a whole, you may not have noticed how loudly that Cripe continued his rise to being one of the best players in the NECC and the area. As one of just three Chargers to play in all 23 of the team’s games, Cripe averaged 22.9 points per game as one of the area’s top pure scorers. He did so while shooting 52.8 percent from the field including 31.3 percent from three point range.
Cripe also averaged 6.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 3.1 steals and just under a block per game. His totals in all of those categories, other than blocks, were team best numbers for the Chargers. He also had 59 of those often forgotten, always impactful deflections.
He was named IBCA Underclass All-State Honorable Mention and All-NECC.
JAXSON GOULD, WARSAW
With the area’s big four conferences taking center stage in the 260, an outlier like Warsaw may not garner a lot of attention locally, but they should. Reason number one: Jaxson Gould became one of the most consistent prolific scorers in the area. The junior averaged 19.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.9 steals while pushing every NLC opponent ran across.
Gould shot 51 percent from inside the arc and 79 percent from the free throw line as he inches towards the 1,000 point mark of his career, something he should hit early in his senior season. In January, Gould showcased just how easily he could take over a game in a win over Northridge; he scored all 10 of Warsaw’s points in the first 1:40 of the game
He was named IBCA Underclass Large School All-State and All-NLC First Team.
LUKE MCBRIDE, NORWELL
The resurgence of Norwell didn’t have to wait too long with the capable hands of McBride leading the way. The Knights returned to the top of the NE8 by winning the conference title and they also captured another Sectional title as well with the talented junior diversifying his game. McBride lead Norwell scoring with 19.8 points per game, also averaging 5.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 3.4 assists per contest.
Remarkably, McBride wasn’t even the team’s leader in three pointers as he continued to learn to attack from different spots on the floor, but he did lead the team in three point percentage at a 46.5 percent success rate. He also shot 52 percent inside the arc and 89.9 percent from the free throw line.
He was named IBCA Underclass Large School All-State and All-NE8 First Team.
GAGE SEFTON, BLACKHAWK CHRISTIAN
When Blackhawk Christian was looking for a new star to work around following another season of heavy graduation loss, Sefton was quick to step up to the plate. Coming off a solid sophomore season, Sefton became one of the area’s best breakout players during his junior season while leading the Braves to another Sectional title and the Regional finals round. Sefton shot 51.6 percent from inside the arc with a stellar 42.3 percent from three point range and 83.8 percent from the free throw line.
He averaged a team high 18.5 points per game and gave the Braves some level footing during an off balance season. He averaged 5.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and had a team second best 26 total steals during the season.
He was named IBCA Underclass Small School All-State.
AJANI WASHINGTON, CONCORDIA LUTHERAN
The hype surrounding Washington heading into his sophomore year was high and he delivered immediately, putting up big scoring to start the season including against then defending Class 3A state runner up Leo. Washington went on to hold strong in the scoring category, averaging 19.7 points per game on 51.6 percent shooting from inside the arc.
Washington averaged 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.7 steals per game, leading the Cadets in all three of those categories, alsong with his team best scoring numbers.
He was named IBCA Underclass All-State Honorable Mention and All-SAC First Team.