A tradition of success: Morgan's Krieger becomes only second PCC coach to win boys, girls tourneys
HEBRON -- With Saturday's 55-38 win over Westville in the Porter County Conference boys tournament championship, Kevin Krieger became a part of history in the event's centennial season.
The Morgan Township coach joined Denny Foster as the only other coach to accomplish the feat of guiding boys and girls teams to titles.
"It just means I've had both great girls and boys to coach and they came through in crunch time," Krieger said during the awards celebration.
In 2017, Krieger steered the Cherokees to the girls championship with a dominant team that finished 22-4, losing in a Class A sectional final to Marquette Catholic. That group was led by Kia Holder, the school's No. 4 all-time scorer with 1,122 points. The current team is also led by a Holder, Morgan junior Keagen, who is charting his own path to the Cherokees' 1,000-point club.
"Growing up, (Kia's) been someone I looked at and admired," Keagen said. "When I saw her win, it's always been something I dreamed about, running around as a little kid up there."
Kia went on to play volleyball at Ball State, where she'll earn her graduate school degree this spring.
"Oh yeah, I taught him everything," she joked. "It's really cool to see him in this atmosphere. That was the biggest thing for me, just seeing everybody here, the support that goes through the whole season. You don't see a lot of this, even at the college level. I'm very proud of him. It's nice to see how humble he is in what he does and what he can provide for the team."
A tough post player, Kia got things done differently than her slightly taller brother, whose game excels across the floor
"It's his overall versatility," Krieger said. "He has a variety of ways that he can score and help the team. What you didn't see is he's one of our best passers. I think he leads us in assists, too. His unselfish attitude as the best player just filters down to the rest of the team."
Holder, who had to finish the game wearing No. 23 after his 21 jersey got some blood on it, did most of his damage against the Blackhawks on the inside, providing the exclamation point with a breakaway dunk in the last seconds, and at the free throw line, where he made 11-of-15. He filled out the stat sheet with 24 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists.
"Practices aren't easy," Holder said. "We're working hard every day. We've got the mentality that practice should be harder than the games. We're pushing ourselves every day and that's how we can come out here and compete."
Keagen Holder of Morgan Township battles for possession with Westville's Ishmael Kane during Saturday's Porter County Conference tournament championship at Hebron.
Photo by Mike Kellems
Fellow junior Jack Wheeler backed Holder with 19 points, making 8-of-11 shots.
"(Wheeler) is the heartbeat of our team," Krieger said. "He brings tremendous energy and does everything we ask him to do; kind of a floor general. He sat out most of the second quarter in foul trouble and answered the bell in the second half. We have an emphasis of playing possession by possession to keep the kids focused. I thought they did that. None of them were trying to win on their own. It was a full team effort."
Westville briefly assumed a 33-30 edge late in the third quarter, but Holder touched off an 18-0 Morgan run over a span of eight-plus minutes to knock out the Blackhawks.
"The past three games, we've taken their best shots during the game," Holder said. "It really comes down to the details at that point. In this environment, you can't hear much. The intensity's high. Taking charges, diving on the court, it's fun. We've grown up always playing in the back yard, in the Courts leagues. The culture of last year was awesome. I think the big thing was through the end of last year, through the summer, someone was texting almost every day, where are we going to play? Playing every day, we found that link. We've been tight since then. It's been fun."
Krieger took over in 2020, when Holder's class was freshmen, and at 13-3, is on pace to continue a progression from 10-9 and 16-6. With just one senior on the squad, bigger things could be yet to come.
"They have developed this chemistry about them over the course of the season that they believe in everything we're doing," Krieger said. "It's been fun to watch them grow through the process. They have an inner confidence about them that they're going to get it done. It's been a joy to watch as a coach. the seniors last year started it and these guys continue to take it to another level. They make me look good."
Westville's Brian Jackson and Bryant DeBoard of Morgan Township hit the floor in pursuit of a loose ball during Saturday's Porter County Conference tournament championship at Hebron. The Cherokees won 55-38.
Photo by Mike Kellems