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Back from the Abyss

by SYDNEY CLIFFORD - Despite a disappointing Sectional loss, the Westfield Boys’ Basketball Program looks ahead to a promising future.

WESTFIELD, Ind. (Feb. 26, 2019) - Boys’ Basketball Sectional 2019. A night no one will forget. Whether the feelings towards that night are positive or negative, Westfield Boys’ Basketball made history that night. The Rocks went into double overtime against Hamilton Southeastern, and although the Rocks ended up losing 62-57, they finished one of the best seasons the team has had in the past few years.

Caleb Welch (12) takes an offensive lead and drives the ball down the court. photo by SYDNEY CLIFFORD

Many players attribute this change in team performance to a change in team atmosphere. For Benji Welch (10), he always felt positive energy from the team, especially when playing with his older brother Caleb Welch (12).

“I think there was a lot of excitement and joy from all the players because we had a pretty good season compared to the last four or five years,” Welch said. “It was really fun for everybody.”

Beyond this excitement, upperclassmen felt a dramatic shift in the camaraderie of their team in comparison with the teams in the past. For Eli Patchett (11), he felt division turn into unity for his junior year.

“I think that we’re more gelled as a team,” Patchett said. “As a freshman, I got here, and our team was very divided. But we became friends very quickly. Throughout the three years I’ve been here, we have gelled together, which brought chemistry on the court.”

This change in team atmosphere has been a primary focus since Coach Shane Sumpter became the head coach of the program. Once this happened, he took dramatic strides towards completely changing the program.

(Left to right) Benji Welch (10), Zach Byrer (11), Mason Brooks (10), Cam Simons (11), Chris Chin (11) and Coach Brengle link arms during overtime at the Sectional.

“I think that before Coach Sumpter took over, there was really a long stretch of time where the basketball team here was not necessarily successful in terms of overall record,” Assistant Coach Austin Brengle said. “Since Coach Sumpter took over, there’s been a culture change. We’re really working on building a family atmosphere and everything’s about the team and working hard every day and focusing on the process of getting better and not the end result.”

This culture shift has not been exclusive to the high school basketball program. Coach Sumpter has made reforming Boys’ Basketball a priority, especially youth programs. Coaches from the high school coached the youth programs, third to sixth grade, in addition to coaching the high school team. Assistant Coach Brengle anticipates the full impact of this culture change once these boys reach the high school level. “[This] helps build culture in our basketball program,” Brengle said, referring to his youth program.

Zach Banks (12) takes a free throw shot at the Sectional game. photo by SYDNEY CLIFFORD

Despite the season ending with a disappointing loss at the Sectional level, all eyes are towards the future potential of this program. Patchett himself has big goals for his senior year.

“For my senior year, I hope to see us win a Sectional game because we really haven’t gotten over that hump yet,” Patchett said. “We were close, but we need a little extra push to the top. I think that we will be motivated to do that next year.”

In the next year, the team will lose two senior starters, Zach Banks (12) and Caleb Welch (12), and some anxiety comes with the thought of losing these valuable seniors. Despite this, the coaching staff is confident with the future of their players and their team.

“We’re certainly losing three great seniors that contributed a lot to the team,” Coach Brengle said. “But we have great young players. The Freshman Class is strong. The Sophomore Class is strong. We’ve got a lot of juniors. So despite the fact that we’re losing two of our starters this year, we’re going to have great guys coming up. We’re really just looking for those guys to make a jump in their performance. It’s tricky with Varsity basketball because that doesn’t necessarily mean we need everyone to score a billion points. With their contributions to the team, whether that’s rebounding or it’s scoring or it’s being a defensive stopper, we’ve got different guys that will contribute in different ways. I’m looking to build off of what we did this year and improve our record. And I think that we’ve got the right mindset now and the right kids coming up to make that happen.”

Eyes are especially set on the Junior Varsity (JV) team. With an 18-4 record, the potential future of this program looks bright. Coach Brengle believes that these next coming years will bring a selfless group of talented players to the Westfield Boys’ Basketball program.

“I just can’t express how proud I am of my JV players,” Coach Brengle said. “And how they played this year, playing so unselfishly. We didn’t have a single kid average double digits in points per game, which is a big deal. We had 9 different kids that averaged between 3 and 9.5 points per game. To an average fan, that doesn’t mean a lot. But if you understand basketball, that’s the best stat that I can give you about our team because that tells you that I have a bunch of unselfish kids on the JV team. They shared the ball. They didn’t care who scored. All they wanted to do was win. And that’s what we did. We played as a team every game and we won. Game after game. We finished on a 9-game winning streak. A lot of things to be proud of with the JV season.”

Westfield Boys’ Basketball has grown dramatically in recent years. Most presently, the program has helped to create an excitement in the school community towards basketball, something lost in previous years. While Westfield has not been known for its Boys’ Basketball program, many believe that this is only the beginning of what Westfield is going to offer. Coach Brengle summed it up with the bigger picture:

“But in terms of varsity, having that winning record for the first time in like seven, eight years, that's a huge accomplishment because we’re trying to bring Westfield Basketball back from the abyss.”

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