LINDEN — North Montgomery boys’ basketball has been in a free-fall since posting a 15-8 record in 2015-16.
The Chargers won just 20 combined games the last three seasons, and last May was headed toward their third coach in four years.
Newly hired coach Chad Arnold, and a group of six seniors were determined to return Charger basketball to relevancy.
“He’s (Coach Arnold) always talked about heart,” senior post-player Jack Thompson said. “And he’s made us realize that heart is what basketball is all about. He’s brought more heart to the program — more hear than any coach I’ve ever seen.”
After five of the six seniors helped North Montgomery to its first winning football season since 2015, the Chargers started the season by winning three of their first four games.
And a key to the Chargers’ success has been the addition of Alex Wallace, who played junior-varsity last season after transferring to North Montgomery for his junior year.
“I think the best part about being here is just the community,” he said. “The support we get here. When I first came here everyone was super nice and welcoming. Even when I was playing JV it seemed like everyone wanted me to do well.”
Wallace, who is averaging 10 points per game this season, played AAU basketball with fellow seniors Kade Kobel, Jaron Bradford, and Thompson, but they weren’t the only ones excited to have Wallace join the team.
“I think we were very open to the idea of Alex coming,” senior Preston Shaw said. “He’s a really good baller, and I think we’ve welcomed him with open arms, and he’s been a really good fit for us.”
The seniors all believe Arnold has made the biggest impact on their play.
“Coach Arnold has pushed us a lot more this year than any of our previous coaches have,” Keifer Carmean said. “Nothing against any of them, they were great guys, but he’s just been pushing us to a new level and that’s helped us succeed this season.”
Bradford, who leads the Chargers with 11 points per game, said the turning point in the season came with a pair of wins over Delphi and Rossville in the Kitchen Class Tournament just after Christmas.
“The Kitchen Classic,” he said. “There were spots and moments the first half of the season, and then we got to the Kitchen Classic and just won two games against very tough teams and it kind of snowballed from there. I think we are brining more effort, and that’s making us play better, and more people are watching us.”
Arnold appreciates how this group of seniors have stuck through the process of yet another new coach.
“They’re very coachable and great kids. It’s tough for kids going through their third coach, but they stuck through it,” he said. “And have listened to me the whole time. It’s been fun coaching them and will be tough seeing them graduate. It’s a process whenever a new coach comes in and you start over, and I think we are just starting to click.”
The Chargers enter the state tournament with a 12-10 record, and winners of four of their last five.
“I think there is three things that you ask a kid on your team that you want to see from them everyday,” Arnold said. “That’s excellent effort, excellent attitude, and excellent concentration, and I think we’ve done that. They’re role models in the school, the community, and for the younger guys. They practice so hard every day. They’ve started something for us, and hopefully we can build on it for years to come.”
As the Chargers enter sectional play at Greencastle looking for their first title since 2009, one thing is for certain.
Led by a new coach and an unlikely senior hero, the culture of North Montgomery basketball is changing.
“I hope we just leave it all out there,” Wallace said. “To step off the floor no matter if we win a state championship or lose in the first round, I just hope we lay everything out there and have no regrets.”