Edinburgh boys basketball ready for county tournament

After winning nine straight games to open the season, members of Edinburgh’s boys basketball team looked down to see their high-tops on unfamiliar ground.

The Lancers weren’t merely guilty of a sluggish start in the championship game of the recent eight-team Edinburgh holiday tournament — they trailed Indianapolis Lutheran by 10 points after the first quarter.

Lancers coach Keith Witty noticed something.

Reading his players’ mannerisms and listening to them talk in the huddle prior to the start of the second stanza conveyed the message: We’ve got this.

And they did. The Lancers remained poised, rallied and won, 60-48.

“We had to make a lot of in-game adjustments, and the guys did a great job of adjusting to changing the game plan a little bit,” said Witty, whose squad, now 11-0 and ranked second in Class A, carries a full head of steam and absolutely no lack of confidence into this week’s Johnson County tournament.

The Lancers host Greenwood in a first-round game on Tuesday night.

“Our thing was, the speed of the game we hadn’t seen yet, and the athleticism they had we hadn’t seen yet. We just told them we’ve got to grind it out. We’ve got to play our game, and we just slowly dug away.”

As a result, these Lancers find themselves in conversations comparing them to the 2010-11 and 2011-12 teams. Those Edinburgh squads teamed to post a 43-7 record, with the latter group making it to the final of the county tournament and then to a Class A semistate before losing to eventual state champion Loogootee.

As a young kid, Travis Jones doubled as a mascot and water boy for those Lancers. Jarrett Turner also served as a water boy. The rest of the current Edinburgh team watched and admired from the stands, hoping that one day they could replicate that magical sliver of time.

So far, so good. The Lancers, who narrowly escaped a double-overtime affair at West Washington on Saturday, 46-45, are 29-6 since the beginning of last season.

“This is definitely that team,” said Jones, now a 6-foot-4 senior center and the team’s second-leading scorer (12.3) and top rebounder (8.8). “Off the court, a lot of our guys are best friends. It’s kind of hard to break a bond like that. I feel like (county) is our chance to show different schools around here what we’ve got.”

The 5-10 Turner, a junior point guard who was utilized primarily during junior varsity games last winter and scored a total of 20 varsity points, has stepped up to give the Lancers another dimension.

“It’s been easier than I thought because in JV games, I didn’t come out of the game at all,” Turner said. “On varsity, I have teammates I know I can give the ball to under pressure, and they can handle it.”

Equipped with loads of experience — and wingspan, particularly for a small school — Edinburgh is led by versatile 6-3 junior wing Caleb Dewey, who is as loud statistically (23.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.5 apg) as he is quiet off the court. The other starters are Turner and seniors Landen Burton and Riley Palmeter; each of them averages eight points or more.

Edinburgh confidently goes eight deep, according to Witty, the main backups being senior forward Travis Vidal, junior guard Braylon Bryant and freshman guard Connor Ramey.

In an era of revolving door transfer policies and, at times, questionable levels of loyalty, Edinburgh is as refreshingly throwback and homegrown as it gets.

“We’re always with each other. We’re always talking about basketball,” Palmeter said. “Last year, we started 6-0 and got upset (at Monrovia, 63-53). We totally expected to be 8-0 or 9-0 last year. This year’s not much of a surprise.

“A lot of us have been playing football together since bantam league. Basketball is a little more broken up between grades, but we’ve always lived near each other, so it goes back to our elementary school days.”

In the more than a century of Edinburgh boys basketball, the highest a team had climbed in the weekly polls was third in the latter stages of the 2011-12 regular season.

Witty’s team eclipsed that by a notch at the beginning of last week, moving up to No. 2 behind only North Daviess, a team Edinburgh is scheduled to host on Feb. 19.

Perhaps more history awaits this week.