Emerick photo

Southwestern senior guard Grant Emerick goes for a steal in a game last season. 

Last season, Southwestern was just three points away from clinching its first regional title since making the state championship game in 2003. Unfortunately, the Spartans fell to Indianapolis Tindley, 50-48, ending their impressive season. 

Southwestern finished the season 14-11 and knocked off county rival Morristown, 68-67, in double overtime for the Sectional 60 title. 

Fast forward eight months and the Spartans have several fresh faces looking to make an impact on the court for Brady Days, who is heading into his 16th season as head coach.

“This group has been a fun group to coach,” Days said. “It has been some of the best practices right from the start, and I have been very impressed with how hard the boys have been working."

Despite losing four starters in 2021 seniors Anick Hartsell, Ethan Wendling, Christian DeArmitt and Riley Snepp, who totaled 39.1 of the team's 56.6 points per game, the Spartans return senior guard Aiden Hartsell, who was named The Shelbyville News' Preseason Boys Basketball Player of the Year. 

Hartsell, a quick lefty, led the Spartans in scoring last season (14.3 ppg). He had 38 points in two regional games at Martinsville.

Alongside Hartsell, the Spartans will feature senior guards Grant Emerick, Jordan Jones and Jonny Joy, as well as senior forward Caleb Pappano and junior forwards Matthew Clements and Jonah DeArmitt. Jones, a capable outside shooter, was the team's sixth man last season.

Hartsell said that the entire team is extremely close. Team chemistry will not be an issue. 

“We are just coming off another sectional title in soccer,” Hartsell said. “I feel like our (seniors) leadership skills improved immensely during the soccer season. Last year, we leaned on our senior class for leadership. So during soccer season, we gained that experience, especially with how tight our group is.

"We are ready to chase another (sectional title). We know that we are capable of doing it this year. We are all on the same page from the start.”

The Spartans open their season Nov. 23 against Edinburgh. Southwestern will play Morristown Nov. 27 and Triton Central Dec. 4.

“We are excited to show what we have,” Days said. “It is always a battle when we play our rival schools, especially Edinburgh, who is the conference favorite. So we will have a tough test (Nov. 23). We are just excited to get on the court and get the season underway.”

Southwestern will play Waldron twice — Dec. 18 and Jan. 28. The team will compete in the Monrovia Holiday Tournament Dec. 28-29 before the Shelby County Tournament, which is set for Jan. 7 (boys semifinals). 

Although it may take time for the new group to gel, Days has plenty of confidence in the players he has on his roster. 

“If you work hard and listen, then that is more than half of the battle,” Days said. “Our players are wanting to learn. We may have to take a few bumps to get where we want to go. Our players are going to put in the effort, so we will eventually see the results pay off down the road.”

Justin Powell is a sports correspondent for The Shelbyville News. Follow Justin on Twitter @Justin_Powell24.