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Members of the 2021-22 Winchester Golden Falcons are (front row, left to right) Drew Loyd, Luke Miller, Gage Patterson, Brooks Burelison, Jamison Beshears, Connor Shockley (no longer playing); (Middle) Lorann Miller, mgr.; Cooper McCoy, Adam Moore, Kamden Preston, Mason Barker, Cali Baldwin, mgr.; (Back row) Aven Goforth, mgr.; Coach Kyle Deboy, Coach Tony Overton and Head Coach Dustin Baldwin.

Winchester Basketball Preview

Two seniors have graduated from last year’s 16-7 boys’ basketball team at Winchester Community High School. Normally just losing two players might not be that difficult, but in the case of the Falcons, the two players were pretty special – Payton Sparks and Wayde Sickels.

The 6-foot-9 Sparks led the team with an impressive stat line – 19.4 points, 13.8 rebounds, a 63 percent shooting percentage. Sparks is now the starting center at Ball State University as a freshman, averaging in double figures. You probably could count the number of players from Randolph County who went on to play Division 1 basketball on one hand.

Sickels is a big loss as well, averaging 12.1 points and 5.6 assists a game. He’s taking his skill to Olivet Nazarene University, an NAIA member that is located in east central Illinois.

A couple of other key players elected not to return, so there are certainly some shoes to fill. But fifth year coach Dustin Baldwin cites the overall depth on this year’s squad and the return of a couple of starters as a reason to be optimistic.

“Those definitely are a couple of big shoes to fill, and we don’t have one guy that’s gong to be able to fill them,” Baldwin says. “But this is probably one of the deepest teams we’ve had since I’ve been here. When we bring in guys off the bench, we’re not losing much. We have a well-rounded team.”

Three seniors figure to play big roles this season for the Falcons.

The top scorer returning from last year is  streak shooting senior Brooks Burelison (10.6 ppg). Burelison can get hot real quick – last year making at least four treys in a game eight different times, including knocking down seven bombs in a 54-38 win over Jay County in late February.

Expect opposing defenses to key even more on Burelison this year.

“Yeah, he will probably be the focal point of a lot of the defenses we face,” asserts Baldwin. “We’re going to have to find new ways for him to score and be a threat.”

Another key returnee who is primed for perhaps a big year is 6’3” senior Gage Patterson (6.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg), a consistent performer last year who scored in every game and hit double figures six times. Patterson had a high of 18 points against Union County in mid-December and had a double-double of 12 points and 11 boards in late January against Tri. Expect Patterson to be a dual threat for the Falcons.

“Gage is bigger and stronger and has worked very hard in the offseason to improve his game,” Baldwin notes. “He’s got a good motor as well.”

Senior Cooper McCoy (4.9 ppg), at 6’4,” gets an opportunity to step in a bigger role this season. A defensive stopper, McCoy has excellent all-around skills.

“He’s a defensive guy,” Baldwin says. “He has a lot of length and athleticism and can get a lot of offensive rebounds and score on a lot of offensive putbacks.”

Juniors are Drew Loyd, Kamden Preston, Luke Miller, Jamison Beshears and Mason Barker, with 6’4” sophomore Adam Moore figuring into the mix.

All of the juniors are quite capable and can expect to get minutes. Beshears (4.9 ppg) got the most varsity minutes a year ago and is capable of knocking down shots from beyond the arc. The other juniors were part of a successful junior varsity team.

“I feel like all the guys who were on the JV last year will be able to offer some things for us this year on the varsity,” Baldwin says. “We have a well-rounded team – guys who can shoot threes, guys who can defend, a couple of guys who can handle the ball and guys who can rebound.”

Winchester is coming off a couple of banner seasons, going 16-7 last year and 17-7 in 2019-20. But the Falcons haven’t won a sectional since 2011, so the ultimate goal will be snapping the long streak.

“We want to get one of those banners to hang in the Fieldhouse at the end of the season,” says Baldwin.

The Falcons face a brutal first part of the season, They opened with New Castle on Tuesday, followed by a home game with Randolph Southern, then at Delta, at Wapahani and at South Adams.

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