Play your heart out.
With only three regular season games, all on the road for the Class A No. 3 Barr-Reeve Vikings, senior forward Jacob Bledsoe wants to cherish the games he has left in his high school career.
Bledsoe, a two-time letter winner for the 17-1 Vikings and co-anchor of the Barr-Reeve front court with sophomore Addison Wagler has already played his last home game at Kavanaugh Kourt. With the sectional draw to be released Sunday afternoon, which will be played at Loogootee, Bledsoe doesn't know how to handle that reality.
"It's an odd feeling to know that you're never going to play there again, and you may never wear that white uniform again," Bledsoe said. "You may never get to play in front of a crowd like you do at Kavanaugh Kourt that you can see on a consistent basis. It's just an odd feeling knowing that you won't be able to play here again." While Bledsoe and the three other seniors (Brandon Wagler, Myron Stoll and Heath Graber) realize that they won't play another game in Montgomery, that doesn¹t mean they will be without support from their home fans. As any independent observer can attest to, the Viking faithful travel very well.
"It's like having a home game everywhere we go," Bledsoe said. "Last night (Feb. 12) at Springs Valley, I think we brought more fans than they did, it was really impressive in my opinion. It's not just our parents that come out, it's other fans coming out of the woodwork, and it's amazing to see all those people." On the court, Addison Wagler is the unquestioned best player night in and night out for Barr-Reeve, but everyone has a role, and Bledsoe is no different. While Bledsoe can go for 12-14 points on any night, Barr-Reeve coach Bryan Hughes looks for Bledsoe to fill up the stat sheet outside of scoring points.
"His (Bledsoe) goal for us this year has been at the defensive end, and hitting the glass," Hughes said. "He needs to pick up points when he can pick up points. We're a set oriented offense, and when we set up our offense to go to certain players on certain spots on the floor, and he has a few that we go to him. But, it's not like we set everything up to him. The points he gets on the offensive end, hopefully are off of rebounds." Last season, Barr-Reeve's season ended prematurely by its standards when they lost the Class A Sectional 63 semi-final's to arch rival and eventual state champion Loogootee. This season, the only blemish on the Vikings 17-1 record is a 50-47 home loss to the Lions, where Barr-Reeve just played one bad quarter.
"This year's team as compared to last year is a lot better defensively," Bledsoe said. "We're a lot tougher minded than last year. I think we share the ball a lot better than last year. We were more talented last year, but not necessarily better." Hughes has seen the cohesion of the entire team that Bledsoe mentioned.
Everyone has bought into their roles and played unselfish basketball. With two of the four seniors coming off the bench this season, something they hadn't dealt with in the past, the Vikings have flourished this season.
"This is one of those years, and I've had a few of them over 28 years of coaching where it's a pleasure to come to practice," Hughes said. "Just to watch these guys and how hard they work together, and everybody is out here for the same purpose, and that¹s for us to get better and our team to win. "They check in their individual stuff before they even walk in the gym." Bledsoe knows that at most he may only have 10 games left to win the elusive state championship, and he has one message for himself and his teammates in their final run together.
"Play your heart out, that¹s really all I can say," Bledsoe said. "Leave it all out on the court with no regrets. I don't want to regret how I played. I just don't want to have any regrets whenever I leave the court for the final time."