If not for illness, Minutemen might've been shooting for boys basketball perfection come Friday, a feat that Steve Austin's barely missed twice before.
This could’ve been the game — Westview’s visit to Concord’s McCuen Gym on Friday, Feb. 22 — that the Minutemen could’ve been shooting to put a bow on boys basketball regular-season perfection, but then again, Steve Austin’s involved, so maybe it just wasn’t meant to be anyway.
“It’s always been my goal to have a team that won every game, but I’m getting to where I don’t know if I’m ever going to get it, and, one loss, I’ll take that any year,” the Concord coach said Wednesday of a career that’s had a couple other near-misses as well.
The Minutemen’s only blemish this season on their way to an 18-1 mark has been their 72-70 defeat on Jan. 8 at South Bend Clay, and that’s the same game that senior star Franko House was out ill.
House’s value was punctuated again Tuesday when he scored 24 points, including the decisive basket, grabbed 10 rebounds and stole Mishawaka’s final inbound try as the Minutemen escaped with a 44-42 road victory after trailing by 12 points in the third quarter.
Westview (18-2) will join Concord in aiming for a 19th win in a matchup that’s typically been each team’s regular-season finale.
Austin’s won each of the previous four meetings in his time with the Minutemen, and each by at least nine points, but just like Warrior coach Rob Yoder has been emphatic about saying, Austin agrees that the timing of the game has been beneficial.
“They’re always very well-disciplined,” Austin said of Westview. “I think it’ll be the same type of game we saw (Tuesday) and the type of game we’ll see in the sectional, a well-disciplined team. They shoot the ball pretty well, they take some time on offense when they need to, and they’re a real good defensive team.”
The Warriors’ lone losses are by nine early in the season at NorthWood and by six last week against Goshen.
Both Concord and Westview ran the table in winning Northern Lakes and Northeast Corner conference titles, respectively.
As for Austin and those previous near-misses at regular-season perfection during a 28-year head coaching career, it so happens that Concord also had a role in those.
“Yeah, I know,” Austin said. “Thanks (for the reminder).”
His 1987-88 South Bend St. Joseph club’s lone regular-season defeat came against the undefeated and eventual state runner-up Minutemen, 63-58, in a game that was moved to Notre Dame’s Joyce Center due to ticket demand.
The next year, Austin’s Indians were 16-0 and favored in the rematch at 10-3 Concord, but fell again, 55-54, in their only loss until the State Finals.
Now, the Minutemen are seeking to match their 19-1 of 2004-05 for their best regular season in the last 23 years.
Guess who the opposing coach was in their last near-miss?
None other than Austin, as he and Northridge beat visiting Concord 52-51 in an NLC Tournament contest.
“Yeah, I think I remember that, too,” Austin said. “I think we were down three and got a four-point play from our freshman (Brent Eaton).”
Except for Central and Marian, which concluded their regular seasons earlier this week, each IHSAA area team will be playing its regular-season finale Friday, and a few will be shooting for milestone wins.
Among the games:
Elkhart Christian (13-6) can secure both its best regular season and its best overall victory total in its nine years as an IHSAA program with a win at Fort Wayne Canterbury.
However, Canterbury (11-8) — a potential Hamilton Sectional championship foe for the Eagles — has played the second-toughest schedule of any Class 1A school in the state, according to the Sagarin ratings, and is 4-0 compared with ECA’s 3-2 against the teams’ four common opponents.
The Eagles finished 13-7 in the regular season and 13-8 overall both last year and in 2007-08.
Jimtown (7-12), in its first season under Ron Dietz, can double last year’s victory total with an upset win at LaVille (14-6), where ex-Jimmies coach Derrick DeShone is an assistant.
The Jims went 4-17 last winter, then lost the top three scorers from that club.
Northridge (9-10), Goshen (12-7) NorthWood (13-6) and Bethany Christian (3-16) all play their last home contests of 2012-13, taking on DeKalb (14-7), West Noble (15-4), Whitko (5-14) and Fremont (11-8), respectively.
Northridge, under rookie coach Ronnie Thomas, is seeking its seventh win in eight outings, while DeKalb, in its fifth year under Goshen grad Jon Everingham, has won five straight games.
The Redskins can reach their highest win total in the last 10 years with a victory over West Noble and have already assured their best win percentage during that time.