Despite a temporary change on the sideline, the Jennings County boys basketball team is sprinting toward success this season because of its effort on both ends of the floor.
“Last Wednesday, coach Mike Broughton announced he was stepping back for about a month,” interim head coach Joe Hartwell said of Broughton’s health problems. “After he told them, they went out and had one of their best practices.
“They knew that something was going to happen.”
Broughton’s role to a supervisor.
“He’s still at practice as an assistant coach,” Hartwell said. “Everything we’re doing is still his program. He knows I’m not going to take credit for things, and our relationship works because we’re both so humble. One of the reasons I became an assistant this year was the opportunity to work with him. How often do you get the chance to work with a Hall of Fame coach?”
The Panthers have improved their intensity. Brad Hunt, at 6-8, has helped the team win the rebounding battle in each of its first four games. He and 6-5, 265-pound forward Tommy Taylor patrol the paint, which allows senior point guard Bailey Sanders to jump-start the offense.
“I’m impressed with Bailey’s ability to run the team and be a leader,” Hartwell said. “If I want something done, all I have to do is tell Bailey and he takes care of it.”
The communication between player and coach pays dividends during games.
“During our game against South Ripley, they were playing zone against us, and we were having trouble reading it,” Hartwell said. “We took a timeout, and I told Bailey we needed to push the tempo.
“He’s the point guard, so he controls our offense. We ran so quickly that they got out of their zone and started playing some man-to-man because they couldn’t set up their zone.”
It led to a humorous moment in a huddle during a subsequent timeout.
“I asked the players during the next timeout if South Ripley was playing man-to-man or zone,” Hartwell said. “They said they couldn’t tell me because we were playing so fast. I told them it was good that we didn’t know. I told them to keep pushing the tempo.”
The shift in strategy helped the Panthers win the game decisively.
“We were forcing them to take quick shots on defense when they weren’t turning the ball over,” Hartwell said. “They struggled to guard Hunt and Taylor inside, which gave our guards open shots.”
Broughton has been pleased with the team’s collective effort in practice.
“Coach Broughton has told me this team, more than any other he’s coached, has bought into his philosophy of all-out effort,” Hartwell said. “The players are intrinsically hungry and self-motivated. We want to win the sectional this year, but we need to keep playing hard and smart.”