HOPE — Ten years ago, a deep, balanced, veteran-laden Hauser boys basketball team went on a magical run to the Class A state championship.
Zach Fugate was the team’s top scorer that season, averaging nearly 19 points.
In 2016, Jets head coach Bob Nobbe once again has a deep, balanced, veteran-laden group — one that hopes to replicate the title charge many of them witnessed as second-graders.
This time, though, Nobbe has double the Zachs.
Zach Gearhart and Zach Johnson have been two of the most vital cogs in the Hauser machine this season, helping lead a group of seven seniors that has the Jets thinking big things.
Making their return from a two-week layoff tonight at North Decatur, those Jets (6-3) hope to continue establishing themselves as one of the top small-school teams in Indiana. Hauser has beaten all four of the Class A teams it has faced by an average margin of 22.5 points, and it has knocked off a couple of Goliaths as well, edging Class 3A Greensburg on Dec. 7 and pulling out a 55-54 comeback victory at Columbus North on Nov. 28.
The two Zachs combined for 35 points against the Bull Dogs, with Gearhart in particular clicking both inside and out. He knocked down four 3-pointers that night en route to a 19-point, 10-rebound scoreline.
Gearhart has been a model of consistency for the Jets, scoring in double figures in each of the team’s first nine games — but he’s had plenty of help. In addition to Johnson, center Quindon Shipley, Aaron Sweet and junior Connor Wilson have all turned in big scoring nights during the early part of the season.
“(Johnson and Gearhart) have been strong for us here at the beginning of the year,” Nobbe said. “But hopefully we’re also maintaining that balance that, if somebody tries to take them away, we’ve got some other opportunities, some other weapons for guys to step up and get the job done.”
The Hauser seniors are a cohesive unit now, but they originally became familiar with one another as opponents. In junior high, Johnson was playing for North Decatur, where he got to see his future teammates from a different point of view.
“Everybody around here has played AAU against each other quite a bit, and I’m familiar with their AAU team,” said Johnson, who came to Hauser as a sophomore. “I’ve played against Zach (Gearhart) and Quindon, and Aaron Sweet was at South Decatur when I was there — so we were from different schools, but we respected each other as far as the game, so we kind of had that bond already established when I came here.”
That bond has been strengthened in the past couple of years. The Jets played together at a team camp this past summer, and the improved chemistry has been evident in the team’s play thus far this winter.
And while there’s a long road still ahead, the Hauser players who were around to see the 2006 team go all the way are using that group as both motivation and as a blueprint.
“We’d love to replicate that,” Gearhart said. “That was a good team, and we always look back at what made that team great. They had leadership and they played together, so that’s what we’re trying to do over here.”
Nobbe certainly sees similar potential in this year’s group.
“They’ve played together for a long time and grown up with each other,” he said, “and I think they aspire to accomplish big things. They had some strong success when they were in junior high and their freshman, JV years, and so now I think they feel like, here’s an opportunity for themselves.”
Now all that’s left to do over the next two months or so is seize it.
Hauser at North Decatur, 7:30 p.m. Friday
Columbus Christian at Hauser, 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Hauser at Lawrenceburg, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 15
Milan at Hauser, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 16
Ïf somebody tries to take them (Zach Johnson and Zach Gearhart) away, we’ve got some other opportunities, some other weapons for guys to step up and get the job done.”
— Hauser boys basketball coach Bob Nobbe