FUTURE WILDCATS
Cubs and Bulldogs Compete in Close Matchup.

Wildcat Basketball


PIERCETON, IN — Last night the Pierceton Cubs hosted the South Whitley Bulldogs for the boys 5th/6th grade matchup. The Bulldogs are coached by 5th grade teacher Bill Rhodes of Pierceton Elementary. The PES Cubs are led by principal and coach, Mike McClain. Both schools feed into the Whitko Jr/Sr High School following the students’ 6th grade year. But an overarching theme is clear: from the fans to the coaches to the players, everyone is pitching in. Because in the end, everyone is on the same team.

Traditionally, the game has been a unifying moment for both communities. It’s a night filled with school pride while giving everyone a brief glimpse of the future of the Whitko basketball program. Both teams compete and strive toward victory, but they also understand that they are ultimately brothers. One day they’ll get to play on the same side, wearing the same colors with the same mascot. Beginning in the 7th grade, they will cease to compete against one another and instead engage their competitors head on, together.

You know, tonight we’re seeing the future of Whitko Basketball.

- Principal Bryan Emmert

In the audience, Principal Bryan Emmert was watching his Bulldogs. Two or three of the boys playing in the game had approached him earlier in the day at school. They wanted to confirm he would be in attendance to cheer for them. “You know, tonight we’re seeing the future of Whitko Basketball, for boys,” Emmert said. He continued to explain that the Bulldogs had been working hard on their fundamentals in practices and he was very proud of Coach Rhodes, adding “Hat’s off to Coach Rhodes who has really helped them out. And I wish both Pierceton and South Whitley good luck.”

In the locker room, Coach Rhodes gave his team a quick pep talk, “Go out there looking for your man! Get in your defensive stance. Get your palms up, ok? No reaching and be moving your feet. Alright? Let’s get out there! You guys know the drill, let’s go!” The Bulldogs wrapped up a victory over Milford earlier in the week on Monday evening.

Jaylen Gibson stands with Coach Bill Rhodes before the game during warm ups.

Jaylen Gibson stands with Coach Bill Rhodes before the game during warm ups.

Meanwhile, a similar atmosphere had fallen over the Cubs who were looking for their first win of the season. Coach McClain stood near a whiteboard and told his team, “A game is never about who you’re playing, a game is about how great you can be. You’re like playing your ghost in Super Mario Cart, right? Playing against the best version of yourself.” The pop-culture reference was not lost on the young boys in the room. McClain’s words motivated the boys toward a literal desire to be better than their best had ever been. If there is a way to describe doing your best, McClain inspired his boys to look at their personal best as the standard and then try to go out and beat that.

The Bulldogs’ Kanyon Michael won the tip off with a quick swat over to Ethan Yates. From there the game was a steady back and forth battle seeing the Bulldogs pulling ahead at the end of the first quarter 5-8. Powerhouse in the paint, #33 Yates and outstanding ball handling and a quick pace set by by #23 Jaylen Gibson kept the Bulldogs on the offensive early on. PES regrouped in the 2nd quarter, shuffling Riley Harman from forward to point guard. Harman led his team in scoring with clean textbook layups. The PES offense began to capitalize with rebounds on failed shot attempts and free throws.

PES Cub, Riley Harman (#3) pairs up with Bulldog (#41) Kohen Schipper before setting a screen.

PES Cub, Riley Harman (#3) pairs up with Bulldog (#41) Kohen Schipper before setting a screen.

Tom Harman, a grandfather of number 3 Riley Harman, came out to support his grandson, but also was excited for the future of Whitko Basketball. Harman shared his excitement about Riley’s ball handling abilities and how he is progressing and maturing as a player, saying, “He’s getting so much better at handling and dribbling. And his layups, I mean, his defense was awesome!” Harman finished saying, “He’s a good leader. He helps out, plus he’s always encouraging the rest of the team, and that’s a big plus too.”

The night ended with a victory by the Cubs over the Bulldogs. The matchup had been a tight race right up until the game neared the end of the fourth quarter which saw Pierceton pulling away with a couple of fast breaks and free throws. The final score showed 24-18. Game 2 allowed both teams play an additional 2 quarters. The Bulldog’s Noah Rutherford and Takoda Taylor showed everyone what teamwork was all about., while great hustle on the court by PES’ Dakota Stoddard and Cale Bennett helped lead to a Cub victory over the Bulldogs 6-4.

“Hey guys, keep your chins up, ok? It’s a loss in the books, but it’s a win because we learned something. Right? We learned something. Our offense looked really good. So it’s not really a loss if you can build on it,” Coach Rhodes shared with his team in the locker room after the game. Then he asked, “Are we gonna get better?” followed by a rousing, “Yeah!” by his team who all put their hands in the middle and cried out “1, 2, 3, team!”

I am really proud of how hard the guys have been working in practice. The best part is that all of those things that we have been working on - they did them during the game today and it paid off with a big win!

- Coach McClain

Thursday night Pierceton heads to West Noble looking for another victory. “Fellas, wonderful job getting that first W of the season. Wonderful job being fundamental. Wonderful job being good sports and playing hard. Ok? You guys played a good basketball game tonight. Nicely done. We’re going to build on this and we’re going to go up and try to get West Noble tomorrow, alright?” Victory for the Cubs was fresh on their mind, but the next game looms in the near future.

Coach Mike McClain rallies the PES Cubs with hands in the middle after a quick team time-out.

Coach Mike McClain rallies the PES Cubs with hands in the middle after a quick team time-out.

"I am really proud of how hard the guys have been working in practice. The best part is that all of those things that we have been working on - they did them during the game today and it paid off with a big win! Now, we need to keep on building, focusing on getting better at every practice & consistently transferring that to the games. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season!" said McClain. Focusing on the game’s fundamentals along with a couple of key team secret strategies McClain has yet up his sleeves, the Cubs keep their spirits high as they continue to pursue more wins this season.

South Whitley Bulldogs Roster: 
#10 Andrew French
#11 Alan Baldridge
#12 Bryce Patrick
#13 Cliff Hawkins
#14 Landon Bean
#22 Hunter Bean
#23 Jalyen Gibson
#30 Noah Rutherford
#31 Kanyon Michael
#32 Nickoli Radu
#33 Ethan Yates
#40 Takoda Taylor
#41 Kohen Schipper
#42 Austin Wilcox

Coached by Bill Rhodes

The Bulldogs hang out on the bench ready to go into the big game.

Pierceton Cubs Roster: 
#1 Carter Bradley
#2 Dokota Stoddard
#3 Riley Harman
#4 Dylan Cassidy
#5 Randy Romine
#10 Cale Bennett
#11 Matthew Graf
#20 Easton Grable
#21 Xaivor Dennis
#23 Lucas Wagner
#24 David Brace
#25 Bryson Shepherd

Coached by Mike McClain and Asst. Coach Nick Alles