Created: Sunday, February 23, 2014 11:40 p.m. CDT
FONT SIZE:

Marengo gets better and better

Kyle Grillot - kgrillot@shawmedia.com

Harvard seniors Zach Martin (20) tries to get through the defense of Marengo senior Adam Rogutich (33), junior Koty Kissack (1) and Max Kunde (10) during the second quarter of the boys basketball game of the Castle Challenge Friday in Harvard. Marengo beat Harvard 54-45.
Kyle Grillot - kgrillot@shawmedia.com Harvard seniors Zach Martin (20) tries to get through the defense of Marengo senior Adam Rogutich (33), junior Koty Kissack (1) and Max Kunde (10) during the second quarter of the boys basketball game of the Castle Challenge Friday in Harvard. Marengo beat Harvard 54-45. (Kyle Grillot)

Marengo center Andrew Volkening didn’t fully appreciate how proficient the Indians had been playing until last Tuesday.

Marengo defeated Burlington Central, 56-50, for a sweep of their season series and the Indians’ 16th win.

“I just then realized how close we are to 20 wins,” Volkening said. “It’s just because coach [Will Benson] is not so focused on our record but how we’re playing as a team.”

Marengo, 18-10 after two more wins later in the week, could not be much better right now. Most teams dream about putting together their best ball just in time for the postseason tournament. The Indians, with eight victories in their past 10 games, are doing just that.

Marengo earned the top seed in the Class 3A Woodstock Regional and have a shot at its first 20-win season and first regional title since 2000.

“One of our goals was to play meaningful [Big Northern Conference] games in February, and we’ve done that,” said Benson, in his first year as Marengo’s coach. “We’ve put ourselves in position down the stretch to have a chance, and, fortunately, we’ve been able to finish games.”

Sophomore guard Zach Knobloch leads the team at 14.2 points a game and leads the area with 62 3-pointers. Forward Adam Rogutich averages 11.6 points and Volkening is at 9.3. The last of Knobloch’s 3s finished off Richmond-Burton, 54-51, on Friday night in Richmond. That win gives the Indians a shot at a three-way tie for the BNC East title if they beat Harvard and Burlington Central defeats R-B.

“It all started in practice; our coaches have gotten us to the point where we work together in practice and we’re continuing to get better every week,” said Rogutich, a 6-foot-3 senior and third-year starter along with Volkening. “[Benson] says, ‘There is no peaking to this team, we still have chances to improve.’ ”

Benson teaches physical education at Harvard, where he previously coached for three years. He left last year and coached Jacobs’ sophomore team. The main thing Benson has preached to his team is consistency.

“That consistency with our effort, our competitiveness and our intensity in practice and games has been there every day,” Benson said. “We know we’re going to battle and compete every day.”

Benson knew a little about Rogutich and Volkening from coaching against them two years ago, but after a year away from the BNC, he leaned on assistant coaches Nate Wright and Jeremy Burke to learn about his new team. The Indians have found leadership from Rogutich, Volkening and other seniors, such as Max Kunde, Dustin Rondorf and Justin Velasquez.

They get offensive boosts from Knobloch, Weston Shepard and Koty Kissack among the underclassmen.

“I always trusted my teammates and I knew we had potential,” Rogutich said. “We’re at the point where we’ve given ourselves the opportunity to achieve something great. It’s been an awesome season and we’ve taken nothing for granted.”

Those around the school and town have taken notice.

“It’s amazing to see how many more people come to the games and want to support the team,” Volkening said.

That’s what happens when your team keeps getting better and better in February.

“It’s been my dream since freshman year to do great things in basketball,” Volkening said. “It’d be special if we could pull together for a regional championship.”