The Jennings County boys basketball players have been on sort of a celebrity tour this week.
The school held an autograph session with the players on Wednesday. This morning, players and coaches plan to visit possible future Panthers at all seven elementary schools in the county.
“It’s crazy,” seventh-year Jennings coach Josh Land said. “The community is so excited. Everybody is just proud to be a Panther.”
On Saturday, however, it will be all business. The Class 4A No. 9 Panthers (24-2) will play in the semistate for the first time in 25 years when they take on No. 8 Brownsburg (21-4) in the semifinals at 10 a.m. New Castle.
No. 1 Ben Davis (30-0) and Bloomington North (19-5) will meet in the second semifinal at around noon. The semistate championship is at 8 p.m. Saturday.
The focus for now is on Brownsburg, which routed New Palestine 66-39 in Saturday’s regional at Southport.
“They’re a pretty complete team,” Land said. “They have a lot of different pieces. The (Kanon) Catchings kid is really, really good. Then they have some good kids around him. They have some size inside, and they have a good, left-handed senior point guard. But they’re led by the Catchings kid. He’s one of the best kids in the state.”
Catchings, a 6-foot-6, leads the Bulldogs with 17.9 points a game. Senior Elhadj Diallo averages 15.7 points and 6.9 rebounds. Junior Grant Porath adds 10.7 points and shoots 47 percent from 3-point range.
“I think they want to get up and down,” Land said. “They want to play fast. They maybe play inside out a little bit more than we do. They’re definitely not afraid to get up and down the floor.”
Jennings is led by the backcourt trio of sophomore Carter Kent (14.6 ppg) and seniors Keegan Manowitz (14.4 ppg, 6.3 apg) and Owen Law (11.3 ppg). Senior Justin Ramey averages 7.7 points and 4.3 rebounds, while senior Lane Zohrlaut adds 7.4 points and a team-high 4.9 rebounds.
The Panthers played one of their best game of the seasons Saturday in a 64-40 regional rout of Evansville Reitz at Seymour.
“I thought Saturday was a really complete game for us,” Land said. “Defensively, we were able to trap and pressure the ball and speed them up. Offensively, we shot the ball well. We had multiple guys his 3s. It’s definitley the style we want to play. It felt good to kind of get back in rhythm.”
Jennings and Brownsburg have played only one common opponent. Center Grove beat the Panthers 68-66 on Jan. 7 and the Bulldogs 61-60 on Feb. 21.
“I think Center Grove and us are very similar in our style of play,” Land said. “We both shot a lot of 3s. That’s a game I’ve paid a lot of attention to.”
Land said if Brownsburg reminds him of any opponent on Jennings’ schedule, it might be Brownstown Central because of their balance and the similarities between Catchings and the Braves’ Jack Benter, both of which are Purdue recruits.
”We may have to defend Catchings the same way we defended Benter,” Land said.
If Jennings can get past Brownsburg, it likely would face Ben Davis, which is ranked No. 10 in the country by MaxPreps.com.
”I’m focused on Brownsburg now, but we’ll have a plan for them,” Land said. “Nobody else has figured out how to beat them this year. They’re big and physical and have a lot of depth. They’re a complete team. But it is March. I’ve seen crazier things happen.”