Before we get to the Outside the Huddle All-Area Team and our end-of-year awards, Bounce wanted to take some time and take a last glance at area conferences and hand out some league-specific hardware.
Next up is the NECC.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Austin Cripe, West Noble
Cripe did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. And he did it with quite a bit of grit and flair at the same time. Scoring 20 points per game while shooting 52 percent from the field isn’t easy and yet almost every night, Cripe got his and then some. He was the best scorer in the NECC but he also flexed the depth in his game all season, leading his team in rebounding (8.1 per game), assists (4.6) and steals (2). Cripe was the perfect all around player to lead the Chargers to championship status in the NECC.
HONORABLE MENTION: Bradyn Barth, West Noble; Brady Yoder, Westview; Chase Bachelor, Prairie Heights; Ben Keil, Lakeland
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Chase Bachelor, Prairie Heights
If you know Outside the Huddle, you know the drill. Who is the “best player” and who is the “most valuable” to their team are two different things in our eyes.
Bachelor went above and beyond this season to become one of the very best players in the area. Yes, he had some help at Prairie Heights but there was little you could do to try and replicate the maturity and experience of Bachelor. He shined through some tough times and became a vital leader and veteran to keep the Panthers contenders in a more than interesting NECC.
HONORABLE MENTION: Conner Slee, Fremont; Ethan Bontrager, Fremont; Isaiah Gard, Central Noble; Drew Pliett, Central Noble; Austin Cripe, West Noble
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Bradyn Barth, West Noble
While Cripe shined brightly, Barth’s performances this season were also very clearly what made West Noble the dominant force in the NECC. Cripe was due to face some of the craziest matchups and defenses he had in his career and when the Chargers needed Barth to step in and step up, he did so very successfully. He averaged 16.5 points and 6.3 rebounds, trailing only Cripe in those categories on his team.
HONORABLE MENTION: Conner Slee, Fremont; Wiley Minix, Westview; Isaiah Gard, Central Noble; Alex Hofer, Fairfield
COACH OF THE YEAR: John Bodey, Central Noble
Imagine replacing (arguably) the best player in the history of your conference. Imagine replacing the best senior class in the history of your program. Now go contend for conference and postseason titles. It was not an easy path for Bodey in what ended up being his final season at the helm of Central Noble, but he passed with flying colors. Under Bodey, the Cougars made it back to the NECC tournament finals and the Sectional final while going 18-7.
HONORABLE MENTION: Ethan Marsh, West Noble; Chandler Prible, Westview
EARLY 2024 NECC CHAMPION PREDICTION: Central Noble
The question here will be who will lead the Cougars because there is a chance that this could change of course. But even with a new head coach due, you have to look at the Cougars’ 2024 class as something very good and maybe even borderlining on special. Drew Pliett’s addition this year proved fruitful as he has become a more physical guard. Next to him in the backcourt is the possibly still improving talent of Jackson Andrews who is a major threat up and down the court. They will also bring back a still emerging Sam Essegian, Spencer Adams, Redick Zolman and Isaiah Gard, who was one of the best breakout players in Northeast Indiana all season.
There is a lot to replace with Bodey leaving the sidelines, but the cupboard is far from empty for a Cougar team who arguably has the best returning core in the NECC.