By GREG MENGELT
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
The boys’ basketball season in young, but there are already signs of hope for several local teams.
New Albany, Silver Creek, Clarksville, Rock Creek and Borden all earned impressive wins — albeit in different ways — over the past seven days.
Here’s a look back at last week’s hardwood action:
• The pessimist can look at New Albany’s 64-60 win over Bloomington South and point to the fact that the Bulldogs beat South a year ago, only to go on to a 15-8 campaign.
There’s no comparison. Last year’s victory was on the road. This year’s win was against a far superior Panther squad that many believe is a regional contender in 2014. While Jeffersonville is still the Hoosier Hills Conference and sectional frontrunner, there’s no longer any doubt the Devils’ rival should be mentioned in the conversation. The Bulldogs are probably the only other team in that category, in fact.
• Rock Creek went to Loogootee and handed the host and ninth-ranked Lions their first Loogootee Tournament loss ever.
That’s right. Ever.
In fact, the Rock Creek Lions beat two ranked teams in the tournament. Before beating the Loogootee by double-figures, they thrashed then-No. Attica 66-41.
“Everybody wanted to know where we stand [last Tuesday’s loss to Clarksville],” Rock Creek coach Chris Brown said. “To come out and beat two ranked teams is a nice way to rebound.”
Junior Gedeon Nzombi was the MVP after an 11-10 double-double in the opener and a game-high 17 points in the championship game win.
• In the preseason, everyone tabbed Rock Creek as the favorite in the local Class A sectional, even against defending state champion Borden.
While Rock Creek may be athletically superior and will have a huge size advantage, it would be foolish to count out the Braves.
Even after losing four starters from last year’s team, the Braves haven’t appeared to skip a beat in two wins — by a 67-47 average — to open the season.
Doc Nash is an incredible coach and 2014 may turn out to be one of his better coaching jobs.
• OK, Henryville hasn’t won in over a year and Charlestown is in a rebuilding process, but Silver Creek fans have to be excited about the Dragons’ 2-0 start.
Last year’s finish with a strong group of sophomores showed potential for a program that has spent most of the past half-decade mired in mediocrity. Victories by 51 and 28 points to open the season shows that the Dragons appear to be closer to fulfilling their promise.
However, a road game at Clarksville on Friday and a home game against Floyd Central on Saturday will tell more of a story than wins over Henryville and Charlestown did.
• Similarly, going to Rock Creek and beating the Lions 68-59 after digging an early hole is a good sign for Clarksville.
Whether the Generals have sufficiently filled the hole left by Aidan McEwen still haven’t been answered. Friday’s tilt with Creek will tell more.
Read more about that matchup in Thursday’s News and Tribune sports section.
• New Washington appears to have pulled out of its mini-funk.
After a somewhat surprising loss to Austin, the Mustangs were stunned by Henryville on Nov. 22.
Since, however, New Wash beat Madison Shawe by 27 points and earned an impressive 18-point win over Charlestown.
The Mustangs have a big one tonight when they travel to Borden with their SAC lives on the line.
• Borden was expected to have a good season in 2013-14, but the Braves’ start is probably even better than predicted.
They beat Crothersville and Christian Academy by a combined 63 points and got a nice win over rival Eastern, 48-40 on Nov. 22.
New Wash entered the season as the SAC and sectional favorites, but Borden may have something to say about that.
• It’s hard to tell what to make of the local Hoosier Hills Conference teams.
Jeffersonville is 4-1 and has four wins over four teams it probably should have beaten and have a loss to defending state champion and top-ranked Bedford North Lawrence. New Albany has only played once in a close win over Providence, and, after opening the season with an impressive win at Evansville Harrison, Floyd Central dropped back-to-back 60-51 decisions at Scottsburg and Seymour.
All three teams hope to be in contention for second place in the conference, and so far, there’s no reason to believe any of them can’t.
One thing’s certain, Floyd Central probably can’t wait to play a game at home. The Highlanders play their home opener tonight against Madison.
• Charlestown improved to 2-1 with a 58-39 bounce-back win over Henryville on Saturday. With juniors Kaitlynn Henning and Justice Burden, the Pirates a lot of fun to watch. However, they’re going to have to get contributions from other players — particularly their frontcourt seniors — to have a special season.
• Eastern is 4-1 after Saturday’s 51-38 win at Salem. The Musketeers were 4-1 at this point a year ago. A win at Brownstown Central on Saturday could prove the they’re a legitimate Mid-Southern Conference threat.
• After a 5-0 start, Providence fell back to Earth with losses to New Albany and Eastern. However, the Pioneers got back on track with a nice 69-48 home win over South Central on Friday.
Without serious injury, the Pioneers’ streak of 10 straight non-winning seasons will almost certainly come to an end.
• At 3-3, Clarksville is one win from last year’s total. The Generals could tie last season’s four-win mark on Saturday when they host Crawford County. The Generals are averaging 58.8 points per game after reaching the 58-point mark only once a year ago.
BOYS’ PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Dre McBirth, New Albany
McBirth had a career-high 30 points before fouling out of New Albany’s 64-60 victory over Bloomington South. The senior guard was 11 of 21 from the field, knocked down five 3-pointers and grabbed five boards in the Bulldogs’ season opener.
GIRLS’ PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Claire Rauck, Providence
In Providence’s 69-48 win over South Central on Friday, the Pioneer freshman scored 21 points and grabbed 11 boards to lead the team in both categories. She knocked down three of her six 3-point attempts as Class 2A No. 11 Providence improved to 6-2.