Friday, February 5, 2016

Westview players and fans celebrate their Class 2A regional title at North Judson High School on Saturday, March 15. On Saturday, March 22, the Warriors (22-4) face Cass (22-2) for the first time ever in the 2A northern semistate at Huntington North. The schools have plenty in common. (Bill Beck / The Elkhart Truth)

While Westview boys basketball coach Rob Yoder said this week that there are "no ties, they're just the next opponent," as regards Class 2A semistate foe Cass, he might find he at least has plenty in common with Kings coach Jon Kitchel. (Larry Tebo/The Elkhart Truth)

Westview's Jordyn Bontrager (11) dribbles the ball up court during a game last season. Bontrager leads the Warriors in scoring (17.2), assists (4.3) and steals (1.6) heading into their Saturday, March 22, Class 2A northern semistate championship against Cass at Huntington North. (Delayna Earley/The Elkhart Truth, File)
Twine Line: Westview, Cass are from parallel hoop universes, and about to intersect
Posted on March 21, 2014 at 5:50 p.m.

Westview and Cass have never intersected on a boys basketball court.

A geometrician might theorize that it's because there are so many parallels between these two schools.

That's not really how it works, but the parallels are certainly real, and some of them are stunning, particularly among the two head coaches.

Westview's Rob Yoder and Cass' Jon Kitchel will send their teams into a 4 p.m. Class 2A northern semistate battle Saturday, March 22, at Huntington North High School. The winner gets to play next week in the 2A state title game at Indianapolis.

While there aren't many such boys basketball coaches around the state, Kitchel and Yoder are two that each work full-time outside the school systems in which they coach.

Yoder, in his 11th year guiding the Warriors, oversees rental properties and has operated a construction business.

Kitchel, in just his third year guiding the Kings, splits time between raising cattle and selling equipment for a John Deere dealership.

"That's why I didn't think I could take this job, but I was told about the 'Damon Bailey rule,'" Kitchel said earlier this week, making reference to the fact that a few schools statewide no longer require their football and boys basketball coaches to be employed full-time by the school.

"They came to me. They wanted to hire a Cass guy," Kitchel said.

Kitchel still wasn't sure he could take the job.

"If I had taken this 20 years ago, when I had a little more energy and a lot less on my plate, it would've been much easier," said Kitchel, who took the position at 51, "but when I told the owners (of the dealership) about it, they were all excited. They're all huge sports fans, would've been upset if I didn't do it, and they have given me the flexibility."

Cass, like Westview, has a passionate sports backing, and just as Kitchel is a self-described Cass guy, Yoder certainly is a Westview guy.

Both men are coaching at their alma maters, Kitchel a 1978 Cass grad, Yoder a 1988 Westview grad.

Kitchel, who has coached at an assortment of levels within the Cass program for more than 20 years, said this week he would never even entertain coaching anywhere else at this point. Yoder, though 10 years younger, reiterated this week that Westview "is the place for me."

"Kitchel" is possibly the biggest name in Cass sports history. "Yoder," of course, is the biggest name in Westview anything history.

Jon Kitchel and Rob Yoder were each high school standouts.

And each takes a backseat anyway, basketball fame-wise, to cousins.

While Kitchel went on to warm the bench for four years at Purdue, cousin Ted Kitchel, from that same Cass class, went on to a national title and later All-American honors at Indiana University.

Yoder toiled in relative anonymity at Hardin-Simmons in Texas, while cousin Ryan, two years younger, went on to a record-setting career at Colorado State. And cousin Rusty, six years younger, became the No. 2 scorer in Westview history, behind Uncle Gary.

For the record, still another of Kitchel's cousins, Tom, played baseball at IU, and his younger brother, Kelly, played football at Purdue and is now a sideline reporter for Purdue's radio sports network.

As for the schools, Cass, in Walton, and Westview, near Topeka, each appear as if they're roughly in the middle of nowhere, other than farms, but Cass is also just a handful of 3-pointers from U.S. 31, and Westview a handful of 3-pointers from U.S. 20.

Each school's beloved boys basketball team has 22 victories this season, against four losses for the Warriors and against just two losses for the Kings. Each recorded its biggest win so far this season in a regional semifinal, Westview beating 21-3, No. 5-rated Hammond Noll in overtime, and Cass nipping 22-1, No. 3 Wapahani 63-62.

And each program boasts major distinctions in 2A history. While Westview was the first to win back-to-back state titles, in 1999 and 2000, Cass remains the only school that's been an unbeaten state champion, in 2003.

Finally, with all their parallels, these two teams are about to intersect.


Who knows, probably not Twine after going an unprecedented 0-for-3 on regional champions last week.

To review those picks that involved area schools, in 4A, I did have Penn and Lake Central advancing to the final, but Lake Central nipped my pick of Penn 57-55 once they got there; in 3A, I had NorthWood winning, but warned that Fort Wayne Dwenger, which did win, had the most deceptive record of anybody in any of these regionals at 15-8; in 2A, I took Noll over Westview "by an eyelash," with the survivor adding the title game. Westview emerged from that eyelash contest in double overtime, and did, of course, add the title game.

This week, it's hard to go against any team that's won 20 straight games (and it would be 22 if Cass hadn't lost to Hamilton Heights in OT), but I like Westview's apparent inside edge (how often can you say that?) and will take the unranked Warriors over the No. 7 Kings in another eyelasher.