When it comes to playing a sport, Josh Thomas said nothing beats basketball.
“The game of basketball is just so special,” the Crothersville senior said. “You learn you have to work hard, become a good person and to become a leader. There are also a lot of other things, as well. Basketball just means a lot to me. I can’t explain how I enjoy it.”
Crothersville won its first boys sectional in school history by defeating West Washington 57-51 in the Class A Sectional 62 title game March 7 in Edinburgh.
The Tigers were supposed to play top-ranked Barr-Reeve in the Loogootee Regional on March 14, but the Indiana High School Athletic Association wound up canceling the boys basketball state tournament series because of the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic. Crothersville finished the season with a record of 14-10.
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Thomas said winning sectional meant a lot to him.
"It was pretty exciting," he said. "It’s something no one has ever done before at Crothersville. It was just one of those things that everyone dreamed about doing, and we did it. Winning means a lot to me just because I’m so competitive, but I was just looking to become better as I walked on the court and make my teammates better, as well.”
Thomas was a four-year varsity starter, finished as Crothersville’s all-time scoring leader with 1,496 points and was named to the all-Southern Athletic Conference team four straight years.
For all of his accomplishments, he has been named The Tribune’s Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“I’ve had the pleasure of watching Josh grow as a person and a basketball player since he was in his early elementary years," said Bobby Riley, Crothersville’s junior varsity coach. "Josh has always had what you would say is an unrelenting motor, meaning he’s never going to be outworked on the court."
Riley cited Thomas’ hustle.
“I’ve seen the young man give up his body on so many basketball plays through the years," Riley said. "Somehow, he always managed to get up off the floor and keep playing. Having that unnatural energy on the court is not only an important attribute but is also a skill that separates good players from elite players.”
This season, Thomas averaged 14 points per game with high-point games of 25 against Edinburgh, 21 against South Central and 20 against Orleans, Trinity Lutheran and West Washington.
His career high was 29 against South Decatur his sophomore year, and he scored 27 against Borden his junior year.
“The offense was more of everyone working together to try and create shots and how we all worked together in the offense," Thomas said.
Thomas also is the school’s all-time leader in 3-point baskets, and he averaged 6.2 rebounds this season.
When asked about a highlight or memorable game, Thomas said, “Probably my freshman year when we played Trinity at home and we were down probably four or five points. I made some passes and scored some points and sank my final two free throws to put it away."
Thomas said he liked the home games because of the support the team received from the elementary kids.
“I just loved how there was always so many little kids waiting for us to run out and come through," he said. "Giving them high-fives, that was the best feeling in the world because they looked up to us. They want to be like us one day, and that’s just awesome.”
Riley said Thomas set a good example for others.
“Josh is not only a great basketball player, he is an unbelievable teammate," Riley said. "He cares more about his teammates than getting credit himself. Josh scored almost 1,500 points at Crothersville, and I never once saw him be selfish with the ball. He was always more concerned about his rebounds and assists than points. When you play that way, you get the respect from the players you’re on the floor with. Anyone who has ever played will tell you that means everything.”
Thomas said he was always looking for his teammates.
"My favorite thing to do is share the ball and make my teammates better when I’m on the court," he said. "They got me the ball by setting screens, running the offense and when there was fast break.”
Riley said it will be tough next season seeing a Crothersville team without Thomas.
"He has been such a huge piece to building respect for this program and helping lead us to the first boys basketball sectional title ever," Riley said. "He has left his imprint on this program, and this town couldn’t be more proud of him and his teammates’ accomplishments.”
Thomas said he is undecided what college he is going to play at next season.
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Joining Crothersville senior Josh Thomas on the all-Jackson County team for boys basketball are:
Clay Chastain, Brownstown Central (senior)
Second on the team in scoring with 282 points for an average of 10.8 per game. Scored a season-high 27 points in the sectional win against Brown County and scored 23 against Orleans. Also had 22 assists, 20 steals and 51 rebounds.
Eric McCoy, Seymour (senior)
Led the Owls in scoring (13 points per game), free throws attempted and made (48 of 65), 3-pointers made (37), steals (34) and minutes played (714). High-point game was 30 vs. Madison. Named all-Hoosier Hills Conference. “Eric was asked to do just about everything for us. His motor never stops. He will be sorely missed,” coach Kirk Manns said.
Isaiah Myers, Medora (senior)
Led team in scoring with 198 points for an average of 9.4 points per game. High-point games were 24 against Trinity Lutheran and 17 against Washington Catholic. Second on the team in rebounds with 4 per game and averaged 1.4 assists.
Isaiah Wineinger, Brownstown Central (senior)
Scored a team-high 322 points for an average of 12.4 points per game. High-poing games were 28 against Rushville and 24 against Trinity Lutheran. Topped Braves in 3-pointers with 27, assists with 128, free throw percentage (63 of 84, 75%) and steals with 37.
Tyler Goecker, Trinity Lutheran (junior)
Topped Cougars in scoring with 343 points for an average of 14.3 points per game. High-point games were 29 against South Decatur and 22 against Christian Academy and Edinburgh. Shot 48% from the floor. Topped team in rebounds with 7 per game and assists with 3.3 per game.
Jack Marksberry, Trinity Lutheran (junior)
Second on the team in scoring with 339 points for 14.1 per game. High-point games were 24 against South Ripley and 21 against Shawe Memorial. Scored 20 points three times. Second on the team in rebounds with 4.9 per game.
Cable Spall, Crothersville (junior)
Averaged 13.3 points per game. High-point games were 24 against South Decatur and 22 against Orleans, Providence Cristo Rey and Edinburgh. Averaged 5.5 rebounds. Shot 84% from the free throw lined. Named all-Southern Athletic Conference.
Drew Vehslage, Seymour (junior)
Team leader in field goal shooting percentage (53.5) and averaged 7.5 points per game. High-point game was 20 against Salem. Averaged 3.1 rebounds with 8 against Salem. “Offensively, he is very good at finding angles and getting to the basket,” Manns said.
Marcus Brooks, Seymour (sophomore)
Topped Owls in rebounds wtih 3.8 per game with highs of 7 vs. Scottsburg and Franklin. Averaged 5.9 points per game. High-point game was 12 vs. Columbus North. Shot 51.4% from the field. “Marcus is a long and athletic basketball player. Guards at a very high level and plays hard,” Manns said.
Mitchell Hackman, Trinity Lutheran (sophomore)
Scored 254 points for an average of 10.6 points per game. High-point games were 19 against Greenwood Christian and 18 against Austin and Switzerland County. Shot 49% from the floor. Averaged 3.9 rebounds per game.
Aidan Schroer, Brownstown Central (sophomore)
Led Braves in rebounds with 103 defensive and 43 offensive for a total of 146. Averaged 7.3 points per game. High-point games were 16 vs. Clarksville and 14 against South Vermillion and Edgewood in the sectional and during the season against Charlestown. Had 22 blocked shots.