Before the Elkhart Christian Academy Eagles laid some of the groundwork for what's been an extraordinary boys basketball season, they ripped up some of the old groundwork — literally.
ECA has a new court this season.
Prior to it being placed, though, most of the players, accompanied by other students, participated in tearing out the old court as a way to save money on the total cost of the project.
The transition wound up being far from routine.
ANTHONY'S TWINE 12
1. Penn (1) 15-1
2. Northridge (2) 16-2
3. NorthWood (3) 16-1
4. SB Washington (4) 10-4
5. Concord (7) 11-5
6. SB Adams (5) 11-6
7. SB St. Joseph (6) 12-5
8. Elkhart Christian (9) 14-3
9. Westview (8) 12-4
10. Prairie Heights (11) 11-5
11. Marian (—) 9-6
12. Glenn (12) 9-5
Last week's ranking in parentheses. Dropped out: West Noble (10). Teams chosen from among the 38 making up the NLC, NIC, NSC, NECC and independents Bethany and Elkhart Christian.
Among other things, it included a sentimental discovery for ECA's superintendent, Sue Alberts, and a scare for the program when star player Ryan Kupferschhmid was injured in the process of taking out the old court.
That old court, a used one to begin with, had been obtained from an Indianapolis school, installed in 1992 and later refinished.
Last year, ECA had multiple companies look at whether the weathered floor could be refinished one more time, but each recommended replacing it.
While the court was being torn out last May, it was discovered that Steve Alberts, who had a lead role in the 1992 installation, had signed his name on the sub-flooring as a dedication to the old project.
Steve, Sue's husband of 38 years, died in 2011 at age 58.
"When they found that inscription and showed it to her, obviously it was pretty emotional," ECA athletic director Craig Coffman said.
Then there's Kupferschmid, injured during the three solid days of tearing out the old floor with hammers, crow bars and the like.
"It was going well, and all of a sudden a piece of wood went right through my glove and about halfway up my hand," Kupferschmid recalled of a jagged piece, about the thickness of a pencil, that entered near the base of the middle finger on his right hand.
Kuperschmid says there was virtually no blood, that it was easily treated, and that he wasn't worried at any point that there would be long-term damage, but others were concerned enough for him.
"I did say to him, 'If this impacts your basketball career, I'll be so angry with you,'" said ECA assistant coach Jed Long. "It was a little scary at the time."
Long, besides being an assistant coach, is ECA's advancement director and spearheaded the floor project.
The original price was $70,000, which included materials and labor. ECA raised $63,000.
"That came from people who believe in Christian education, some of them with kids on the team, and some that don't have kids on the team," Long said. "Without that belief, we don't make it to as close as we did."
Upon the $63,000 being raised, the contractors agreed to waive the remaining $7,000 in exchange for ECA providing labor to remove the old floor.
"It makes it that much more special," Kupferschmid said of the players having an actual hand in the project — none, of course, being more actual than Kupferschmid's right hand. "It makes it more exciting that we're able to play on that court."
The quality of the court has drawn favorable reviews from officials and players alike, and the Eagles, 14-3 overall, are 6-1 on the floor heading into their home finale Saturday, Feb. 22, against Argos.
"I think it's real special that our players were involved, and it wasn't just the players, either," ECA head coach Ryan Culp said. "All kinds of students wanted to be a part of it. I remember it was really neat walking through there and hearing the clanking of the hammers and the picks, and the wood flying. It was quite a scene."
Fairfield didn't get a new court last fall. It just looks that good.
The Falcons' floor was refinished at a cost of about $12,000, according to athletic director Mark Hofer.
The last such project at Fairfield was about seven years ago, and the court has "maybe one more sanding and finishing still in it," Hofer said.
The cost was covered through "a combination of parent contributions and school funds," Hofer said.
A handful of team and individual milestones could be achieved Tuesday, Feb. 18, including multiple players reaching 1,000 career points.
When ECA makes its first-ever visit to storied Warsaw (9-8), the Eagles will be shooting for their 15th victory, which would break last year's school mark for most as a full-fledged IHSAA program. ECA is in its 10th such season.
ECA senior Cory Waycaster enters the game needing 11 points for 1,000. Kupferschmid, meanwhile, is 38 points short of tying Drew Ryall's school record of 1,202, established in 2000.
As NorthWood (16-1) heads to Glenn (9-5), the Panthers' Zach Zurcher needs 18 points for 1,000, while teammate Jonathan Wilkinson needs 40 to crack the four-digit mark (Feb. 18 update: the NorthWood at Glenn game is ppd.).
The pairs of Kupferschmid/Waycaster and Zurcher/Wilkinson are trying to become the first Elkhart County boys classmates to score 1,000 career points since Fairfield's Jeff Miller and Jerrold Kauffman 33 years ago.
The draw for the 104th annual IHSAA boys state tournament will be conducted Sunday, Feb. 23.
A live stream of the IHSAA's 90-minute show revealing the draw and beginning at 3:30 p.m. is slated to be available in the Elkhart area on IHSAAtv.org. Pairings will be posted later on IHSAA.org and at elkharttruth.com.
IHSAA BOYS AREA RECORDS
Team W-L Off. Def.
NorthWood 16-1 61.4 47.6
Penn 15-1 69.5 52.9
Northridge 15-2 63.1 55.6
Elkhart Christian 14-3 70.1 47.9
Westview 12-4 59.8 48.9
Concord 11-5 57.1 49.4
Fairfield 10-6 59.1 53.4
Marian 9-6 58.5 54.5
Goshen 9-8 46.6 47.9
Elkhart Memorial 7-10 54.7 58.8
Jimtown 6-10 46.5 46.8
Elkhart Central 5-12 56.5 57.8
Wawasee 4-12 46.1 53.6
Bethany Christian 3-13 46.3 61.1
Player, school G Pts Avg
Nate Ritchie, Northridge 17 412 24.2
Devin Cannady, Marian 15 334 22.3
Zach Zurcher, NWood 17 353 20.8
Ramon Johnson, Concord 16 328 20.5
Jordyn Bontrager, Wview 16 308 19.3
Joe Line, Fairfield 16 295 18.4
Jon Wilkinson, NWood 17 293 17.2
Cory Waycaster, ECA 17 284 16.7
Ryan Kupferschmid, ECA 17 283 16.6
Jordan Geist, Penn 16 257 16.1
Filip Serwatka, Concord 16 249 15.6
Dimitri Giger, Memorial 17 264 15.5
Chandler Aspy, Wview 15 225 15.0
Treyton Harris, Central 17 229 13.5
Alex Clark, Wawasee 16 212 13.3
Sol Brenneman, Bethany 16 203 12.7
Pete Smith, Northridge 17 204 12.0
Tray Qualls, Memorial 3 36 12.0
Abe Thorne, Bethany 16 190 11.9
Nick Floyd, Jimtown 16 186 11.6
Deric Haynes, Goshen 17 196 11.5
Cam Maxwell, Memorial 17 194 11.4
Billy Doslak, Penn 16 180 11.3
Gage Reinhard, Wawasee 16 175 10.9
Will Stueve, NWood 17 178 10.5
Brady Bechtel, Goshen 7 70 10.0
Austin Woolett, Goshen 17 161 9.5
A.J. Gary, Memorial 17 160 9.4
Ryan Lutz, Penn 16 150 9.4
Adam DeShone, Jimtown 16 148 9.3
Kenny Bearss, ECA 17 157 9.2
Judah Zickafoose, Wview 16 146 9.1
Taylor Brooks, Penn 16 145 9.1
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
Tuesday, Feb. 18
• Elkhart Memorial at SB St. Joseph (12-5)
• Concord at SB Riley (9-6)
• Bethany Christian at Jimtown
• NorthWood at Glenn (9-5), postponed
• Elkhart Christian at Warsaw (9-8)
• LaVille (7-8) at Marian, postponed
• Wawasee at Westview
Thursday, Feb. 20
• Penn at SB Riley, 7 p.m., varsity only
Friday, Feb. 21
• SB St. Joseph vs. Elkhart Central at North Side Gym
• Concord at Jimtown
• Westview at Goshen
• Lakeland (7-9) at Northridge
• Bremen (2-13 before Tippecanoe Valley Feb. 18) at NorthWood
• Fairfield at Churubusco (4-14)
• Wawasee at FW South (4-10 before Marion Feb. 18)
• Penn at Marian
Saturday, Feb. 22
• Columbia City (8-10 before Marion Feb. 17 and Manchester Feb. 21) at Northridge
• Westview at Fairfield
• Argos (11-5 before S. Central of Union Mills Feb. 18) at Elkhart Christian
• LaVille (7-8 before Marian Feb. 18 and Oregon-Davis Feb. 21) at Bethany Christian