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Players recognized at Trojan boys basketball banquet

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Memebers of the New Castle High School boys basketball team enjoys a tasty meal during Monday night’s banquet and recognition program at the old Armory on Grand Ave.
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Sophomore Cole McDaniel received the Heart & Hustle Award at Monday night’s New Castle High School boys basketball banquet and recognition program at the old Armory on Grand Ave.
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Members of the New Castle High School boys basketball team are in line selecting tasty food to eat during Monday night’s recognition banquet at the old Armory on Grand Ave.
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New Castle High School boys basketball varsity Head Coach Daniel Cox talks about the 2018-19 season and his team during Monday night’s banquet and recognition program at the old Armory on Grand Ave.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

It seemed appropriate that the New Castle High School boys basketball team held its annual end-of-season banquet on the evening of the NCAA men’s basketball championship game, as two of its seniors will be playing next season at universities whose goals are to arrive at that final destination.

That being stated, Head Coach Daniel Cox welcomed those in attendance to the old Armory on Grand Ave. and said the blessing before everyone enjoyed a tasty meal of chicken strips, other dishes, and various desserts.

Once everyone had had their fill, the program started with C-Team Coach Zach Lee talking about the team in general, saying a few words about each player, and handing them a certificate, letter, chevron, or something else.

The C-Team finished with a winning record of 8-7 and did even better in the Hoosier Heritage Conference, where it was 5-2. Lee thanked the team for its hard work and finishing strongly, as the squad was under .500 at times during the season.

Junior Varsity Coach Cory Criswell then took the microphone to talk about his team, which finished the season with a record of 14-7 and 5-2 in the HHC. Criswell introduced each player individually, said a few nice words about each, and handed them a certificate, letter, chevron, or something else.

The junior varsity will be the squad from which many of the 2019-20 varsity team members will come, and Criswell told his team to continue to work hard and improve over the summer and into the fall so they’ll have a chance at a spot on the varsity team. Criswell thanked his players for the hard work and effort they put in to make the 2018-19 JV season a success.

Head Coach Cox then took the floor and thanked a number of people he felt were a big part of the program, including his assistant coaches, school administrators, members of the media, scorebook keeper, scoreboard operator, PA announcer, April Swim for filming the team’s games, and several others. He also introduced and thanked the team’s managers.

Each new season has a different team, Cox noted, but a large number of players were expected back from a 2017-18 team that finished 27-3 and as a member of the Final Four in Class 3A. Cox mentioned that not having Mason Gillis out on the floor for games (due to recovering from an injury) made it more difficult, as Gillis had been a big reason for the team’s success his freshman, sophomore, and junior years, and that the team had to adjust to his absence, which it did eventually.

Cox told the crowd that the Trojans struggled for an identity during their games in late November and December and had trouble defending against certain teams. The two-week break from Dec. 21 until early January allowed the team time to get back to practice in the Fieldhouse and work out some issues.

Gillis getting back out on the floor to help some in practice during that time was a big morale boost to the team. Cox remarked that the Trojans were a much better team and were really ready to play when the game at Richmond rolled around on Jan. 4.

New Castle played much better the second half of the season, both home and away, and finished 13-11 overall and 4-3 in the HHC. All conference losses were on the road and the Trojans were competitive in each one (except for the second half of the game at New Palestine in December).

Cox then brought up the non-seniors on the team (junior Collin Blessinger and sophomores Brandon Matney, William Grieser, and Cole McDaniel), said words about each one, thanked them for their contributions, and stated they would be the foundation for the varsity team next season.

Seniors Nolan Beam, Wes Chamberlin, Blake Burris, Luke Bumbalough, Nicholas Grieser, and Mason Gillis were brought to the front, and their achievements as Trojan players over their varsity careers were made known to the crowd.

Cox had kind words to say about each of them, relayed a few anecdotes about some things that had happened while they were on the team, and wished them well as they moved on to college or other pursuits.

Another senior, Mason Hardwick, was not present at the banquet, and Cox took time to talk about Hardwick’s contributions to the team and thanked him for his work ethic and improvement as a player. Each player was given a certificate, letter, chevron, or something else.

Cox said that this senior class was unique and one of the best that had played basketball at New Castle High School. He said he hoped the seniors would remain close to each other and stay in contact over the years.

Cox said that since basketball is a team sport, he doesn’t issue many individual team awards. He did announce the winners of awards that the HHC and the IBCA had issued to Trojan players, and these were announced earlier in The Courier-Times.

Cox had one team award that he presented, and that was to Cole McDaniel for the Heart & Hustle Award.

Everyone present viewed the team video honoring the seniors, the seniors were presented with framed jerseys mounted behind glass, and then those present were dismissed in the warm evening to go watch the NCAA basketball game or do something else.