Months before the basketball season started, there was a buzz that the Harrison boy’s basketball team could win their first sectional title since 1999.
Now, no one is talking about them, but they are poised to surprise some people.
The Raiders returned four starters from last year's squad that finished 13-11.
Unfortunately, two of the starters got injured before the season started.
Senior Jakub Hall has been dealing with a back injury since winning the state soccer title and leading the team in goals.
Hall finally returned to the court in January, coming off the bench scoring nine points in his debut.
The impact the 6-foot-3 Hall had on the floor could be seen immediately, as the Raiders are 8-1 when Hall plays.
Also in his senior year, Bobby Dearing has been dealing with a wrist injury since the season started.
Throughout the season, it was unsure if Dearing would be able to return to the court this season.
Dearing returned for the final two games of the regular season, where had 16 points against a 17-6 Marion team and added 12 more against Hamilton Heights on Senior Night.
“Those guys certainly help us overall because they are talented and give us added size and athleticism,” said head coach Mark Rinehart.
With these two players, that buzz of doing some damage in sectionals is coming back.
“There is definitely a new wave of excitement with our team, knowing that we have everyone ready to play,” said senior guard Austin Dunwoody. “Obviously with sectionals this week the energy is already high, but this increases it even more.”
With the loss of Dearing and Hall, it proved that this Harrison team will have some depth as many role players have had to step up.
“The one thing that can get overlooked a little bit in our situation is how well our other role players have played as we have been able to get Bobby and Kubi healthy,” said Rinehart. “Guys like Miguel Munoz and Jordan Walters have been very consistent the second half of the year, and it has played a big role in our success as a team.”
Along with Munoz and Walters, perhaps the biggest surprise of Harrison’s season has been the emergence of Jordan Walters’ older brother, senior Calvin Walters.
Walters played in 18 games last season but only scored 17 points.
This season, Walters was thrown into a starting spot and is now averaging 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 45 percent from the field and 39 percent from the 3-point line.
The consistency of senior Alex Bauer can also be overlooked as Bauer averages almost 8 points a game, is second in total rebounds and is tied for first in assists on the team.
Offense has not been that large of a problem for the Raiders this season especially when you have Benito Munoz on your team.
The senior eclipsed the 1,000 career points mark this season to go along with averaging 20.1 points and shooting 40 percent from the field.
Defense has been a focal point this week as the Raiders take on seventh-ranked Zionsville, led by Purdue commit, Isaiah Thompson, brother of current Purdue senior point guard, P.J. Thompson, tonight.
“Zionsville is really long and athletic so rebounding will be huge,” said Dunwoody. “On defense, we have to contain Thompson and not the big guys get easy looks inside. On offense we have to constantly be moving the ball and find the gaps in the zone.”
As the tournament brings a lot of pressure to teams, Rinehart believes his team is capable of not cracking under pressure as the continue the same approach as they have all season.
“We have talked all season about a simple approach to the process,” said Rinehart. “Our continuing goal has been to ‘Win the next game.’ I believe that approach works very well in the postseason because nothing else really matters. If we don't accomplish that goal, the season will end. The challenge is to be prepared but at the same times keep things pretty simple so our guys can just play.”
Although Harrison is not the favorite to win this sectional, anything can happen in March.