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High Schools

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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Woodlan’s Jaylin Bennett, left, and Bluffton’s Michael Pearson will both return for their senior seasons.

Bluffton builds on past success

– The Bluffton boys team has had only one losing season since 2000. With that sort of success comes expectations that, even if they lose a lot to graduation, the Tigers won’t falter.

Bluffton returns only three players who played significant minutes last season – Michael Pearson, Kevin Moser and Jake Garrett.

“I feel very confident that our kids will live up to the tradition we’ve had,” said coach Kevin Leising, whose Tigers were 15-8 last season and tied for the ACAC title with Leo at 6-1.

“One thing that’s important in a successful program is that the younger kids look toward their opportunity to compete, and we’re looking forward to them getting that opportunity.”

There’s an art to keeping the team good year after year, and Leising makes it sound as if it’s mental as much as anything. The players have to understand there’s an incredible amount of work involved, especially as players get more responsibility.

“When you win year after year after year, the only thing you have to worry about is the kids thinking that you automatically do that. Because you don’t,” he said. “Those things don’t just happen by happenstance.”

Leo is in a similar position to Bluffton.

The Lions lost seven players to graduation, including Sam Waters (16.6 points per game) and and A.J. Busche (13.9).

David Hardin (14.1 points per game) and Adam Davison (11.2) will be counted on score more.

“I really like this group,” said coach Cary Cogdell, whose Lions were 10-11 last season.

“They’ve worked hard. We graduated a lot of seniors, but this group in the offseason came together. There’s really good chemistry. We obviously have big shoes to fill but we can do it.”

Leo will be tested by a tough nonconference schedule, which includes games against DeKalb, New Haven, Homestead, Angola, Concordia, Bishop Dwenger and East Noble.

“Our schedule outside the conference is difficult, but as long as we’re competitive, it’s good for us,” said Cogdell, whose team lost to Concordia in the first round of the sectional last season.

Because Bluffton and Leo lost so much, the conference could be up for grabs this year.

Adams Central should be a factor, led by Alex Byerly; Woodlan has Kadin Gerig (12.6 points); and Southern Wells is paced by sophomore Keaton Coleman (9.9).