Getting to know undefeated Indian Creek

It’s time for high school basketball fans to start paying attention to Indian Creek. The Timberwolves are 24-0 and one of only two undefeated teams in the state.

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Indian Creek defeats Newark for the Little Ten Conference Championship.

Indian Creek defeats Newark for the Little Ten Conference Championship.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Don’t feel too bad if you’ve never heard of Indian Creek High School. It doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page.

But it’s probably time for high school basketball fans to start paying attention. The Timberwolves are 24-0 and one of only two undefeated teams in the state.

They won the 101st Little Ten Conference tournament Friday by knocking off Newark, which is a major feat. The Norsemen had won the last five tournaments and had beaten Indian Creek in the last four title games.

Indian Creek was created when Shabbona and Waterman consolidated in 1993. The Timberwolves lost their first playoff game last season and focused on the summer, just like hundreds of teams around the state.

Junior point guard Drew Gaston said that loss changed something.

‘‘This all started there,’’ Gaston said. ‘‘We put in the work over the summer, and it is paying off now.’’

Indian Creek coach Joe Piekarz agreed the summer is when he started to realize something special was happening.

‘‘In the summer, we always go to big shootouts and play big schools,’’ Piekarz said. ‘‘Usually we go and get a good experience, but we lose by 40. This was the first time we started beating those schools. I knew we had something.’’

The team is built around 6-4 senior post player Cooper Larsen, who has a soft touch around the basket. Piekarz said Larsen’s attitude and leadership are the keys and help set an example for the four other starters: juniors Gaston, Michael Lampson, Cam Russell and Brennen McNally.

‘‘Cooper is focused on us being the best basketball team,’’ Piekarz said. ‘‘He couldn’t be less selfish. That is where it starts.’’

The Timberwolves started slowly in the conference championship game against Newark. The score was tied 12-12 with 6:16 left in the second quarter.

And then it happened. Indian Creek cranked everything up a notch and showed why it is the only undefeated team in the area.

The Timberwolves ripped off a 33-0 run, holding Newark scoreless for nearly 13 minutes.

‘‘In the locker room, we were hyped up and just ready to play defense,’’ Larsen said. ‘‘That’s the first thing we were thinking of was playing really hard defense, outhustling them and trying to just last longer than them. Once we tired them out, that is when we really started to ramp it up. We were getting fast-break layups, and it was going for us.’’

The Indian Creek fans went wild and didn’t stop until Larsen was holding the trophy at center court.

‘‘[Winning the championship] feels amazing,’’ Larsen said. ‘‘It feels unreal after two years are losing it. The crowd really helped, too. They deserve so much love for all of their support.’’

Piekarz and the players said being undefeated isn’t important to them, but Gaston conceded the town doesn’t feel the same way.

‘‘The town really does care about that,’’ Gaston said. ‘‘They’ve been getting into it.’’

The Timberwolves, a Class 1A team, have a tough week ahead, including games against Class 3A Plano, a rematch against Newark and a game against Class 1A power Hope Academy.

‘‘We have four good games this week,’’ Piekarz said. ‘‘We stacked that on purpose to get us ready for the postseason.’’

Whether Indian Creek makes it to the playoffs unbeaten, the undefeated run and its first Little Ten Conference tournament title have planted seeds in the town. It’s the kind of success that excites middle school kids about high school basketball and gets a program moving permanently in the right direction.

‘‘It is great for this entire community to be able to experience this,’’ Piekarz said. ‘‘Not only for our players, but we have a lot of very excited alumni. In this small town, they are basketball-crazy, so I love the fact that everyone gets to experience this [championship].’’

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