Friday, February 24, 2017

Manual H.S. caps successful regular season with home win on Senior Night

In the fall of 2012, Manual High School of Indianapolis revived its football team after the Indianapolis Public Schools system, citing a lack of participation and, therefore, interest, suspended the program following a winless 2009 season in which the roster was so thin that every player had to play both offense and defense.

Manual re-emerged into football with an abbreviated schedule that 2012 season; it had only three official varsity games on the slate. When I swung by the school's football field to photograph the third and final game, a homecoming contest, both teams -- Manual and Arlington -- were winless for the year. Manual pulled out a win that night, 24-18, bringing some joy to a school that needed any kind of good news to boost morale.

I'm not sure whom to credit, but the school's academics and athletics have enjoyed a gradual recovery since then, and I took interest when I saw how well the school's 2015-16 boys basketball team was doing last season. It finished with a win-loss record of 15-9, and made it into the second round of the annual Class 3 post-season tournament. I noticed the team was led by a high-scoring junior with one of the coolest first names I'd ever heard of -- Courvoisier McCauley (left) -- and made a mental note to see if I could swing by one of the team's games the following year.

I became even more motivated a few weeks ago when I read a feature on him by prep basketball writer Kyle Neddenriep in The Indianapolis Star. You really should read the story; it's a wonderful profile ... and it explains the origin of McCauley's distinctive first name. The Star article also mentions that McCauley goes by the nickname "Voss."

This week, I made it to Manual and photographed the school's win Tuesday over Liberty Christian of Anderson, 71-61 on Senior Night. It was the last regular-season home game for Manual in 2016-17 (the school hosted a multi-team tournament the next weekend. Manual won the tournament, beating Indiana Elite Academy on Saturday morning, advancing to the afternoon final in which it defeated Bowman Academy). The win over Liberty Christian raised Manual's season record to 16-6.

In the aforementioned IndyStar story about McCauley, Manual boys basketball coach Donnie Bowling (right) admitted that he has trouble spelling his star player's first name. And after I re-read that story today to refresh my memory, I wondered whether Bowling is in charge of submitting the team roster to whomever prints the school's home-game programs, because "Courvoisier" was misspelled in the program I picked up Tuesday.

McCauley has had another fantastic season; according to the most recent statistics issued by the Indiana High School Athletic Association, his 27.6 points per game average is tied for second best in the state, only 0.4 of a point behind the leader, Butler University commit Cooper Neese of Cloverdale. The 26 points McCauley dropped in the win over Liberty Christian, a team that beat Manual the previous season, shouldn't affect his average much.

The interesting thing about the Redskins, though, is that three other players -- T.J. Waldon (11.9), Cameron Sembly (11.7) and Jalen Johnson (10.7) -- average in double figures. Waldon and Sembly, like McCauley, are seniors. Three other seniors -- Jaron Glenn (8.2), Amari Evans (6.8) and Nathan Meriwether (6.5) -- are the next highest scorers on the team.

The school held its senior recognition before Tuesday's game, so I finally got a chance to put faces to not only McCauley's name, but the team's other formidable seniors. Each is a spirited contributor to the Redskins' offense and defense. I think I most enjoyed observing Glenn, a brawny 6-foot-7 center whom you can often find smiling when he's not focusing on business on the court while the clock is ticking. That's Glenn gritting it out along the baseline in the photo leading off the post.

Photo geek stuff: This shoot proved to be both a refresher and an enlightenment one for me. It had been more than four years since I shot a basketball game. Back then, in December 2012, my primary camera was a Canon 7D. While the 7D is excellent for sports and other fast-moving activities because of its exceptional burst rate (8 frames per second), its ISO sensitivity is not as good as my newer Canon 6D (more on this in a bit). But the 6D's maximum burst rate is almost half (4.5 fps) that of the 7D. So I had a dilemma -- which was more important, maximum images or less noise? I brought both cameras, and started by equipping the 7D with my EF 70-200mm f/2.8L lens, and the 6D with my EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens, thinking I'd use the 7D and its faster burst as the primary game camera and lens. As the game unfolded, I quickly remembered that the 7D's buffer (i.e., when the shutter momentarily stops firing to allow the memory-card writing process to catch up) was kicking in far sooner than I wanted. I was missing key shots at the ends of plays. So I put the 70-200 lens on the 6D and decided to use that combo for the primary shots. It gave me fewer shots per play, but it also kept me in the plays much longer. Luckily, I stuck with that the remainder of the game. It wasn't until I got home and began processing the images that I realized that my decision to go almost exclusively with the 6D proved very wise for yet another reason -- the ISO sensitivity. I had set both cameras at ISO 2000 because Manual High School's lighting conditions dictated I push it that high if I wanted to shoot at shutter speeds of 1/320 or higher. At that ISO, all of my 7D shots required filtering through a noise-reduction software program (I use Noiseware), but my 6D shots did not. Therefore, almost all of the photos in this post (the band shots being the exception) were taken with the 6D. I used the 7D for the Senior Night ceremony, but I didn't use any of those in this post. You can find them in the full gallery, however (see link below).

As usual, to view a larger, sharper version of an image, click on the image. This is particularly crucial if you access the blog and post from a mobile device. To view a gallery of all my images from the shoot, visit my site at

Courvoisier McCauley begins a drive (above) against Lions' defender Ronny Williams (4) as teammate Jalen Johnson slides toward the basket. When Lions junior Isaiah Brees (3) approaches to his left (below), McCauley dished a pass to Johnson, who went up for a bank shot near the basket. 

Above: Tuesday's game was recorded by WHMB-TV (local Channel 40) and broadcast on three hours' delay.

Above: 6-7 junior Jalen Johnson elevates for this bank shot near the basket. 

Above: Senior Nathan Meriwether apparently found something amiss in the offensive setup, gesturing to rectify the situation.

Senior guard Cameron Sembly, in the right baseline corner of the offense, looks for a pass outlet (above). Later in the game, from the same corner, he gets off a jump shot (below). 

Above: Jaron Glenn uses his size advantage to get close enough to the basket to get off this field goal for two points.   

Above: The Redskins employed a full-court press frequently during the game, and the strategy on this Liberty Christian possession had the Lions' Dallas Burko (25) surrounded at mid-court by half of Manual's seniors (from left), Evans, Glenn and McCauley. 

Manual's players periodically display elements of dazzle in their offense, like this no-look pass (above) by McCauley to Evans in the first half. Later, on a breakaway inbound play, Sembly streaked toward basket from the right side and in mid-stride floated an under-handed lob to an also-streaking Evans on the left side. Evans jumped near the basket as he saw the pass come his way, caught it and stuck it. 

Above: On one of his more aggressive drives to the basket, McCauley collided with the Lions' Burko, and both landed on the floor. McCauley was called for a charging foul. 

Above: It was difficult to find a moment when all-business coach Donnie Bowling broke a smile, but I finally got one here. 

Above and next two below: A breaking Amari Evans caught a long, inbound pass from a teammate at the opposite end of the court and strode to the basket for this easy put down.

Above: The Lions called time out after the Evans score (two photos above), and as Manual's pep band performed during the break, one spectator danced to the music. 

Above: Jaron Glenn fights through another double team to get to the basket and score.

Above and next three below: Senior T.J. Waldron wiggles through a defensive gantlet on a drive for this field goal in the second half. 

Above: Meriwether (in the corner) and McCauley (from near the top of the key) fire open shots, but neither hit the mark.

Above: McCauley slithers through a triple team to get off a pass in the lane.  

 Above: Sembly lifts a short shot from the baseline that missed. 

Liberty Christian's Ronny Williams snagged a rebound (above) in front of Manual's Evans. Later in the game, with only 21 seconds remaining, Williams suffered a right leg injury of some kind under the Redskins' basket. As teammate Peyton Quinn (5) observes, Williams is helped off the court (below) by fellow senior Trajan Dixon (44) and his coach, Jason Chappell.  

Above: Waldon releases a pass after recognizing an approaching defender just as he entered the lane on a drive late in the game.

A perspective shot (above) of the Manual High School gym during pregame warmups. While I was perched on the top row of the grandstands behind the basket, I turned to my right and got a shot of the Manual cheerleaders going through a routine (below).

Above and next two below: Members of the Manual High School pep band livened things up during halftime and timeout breaks.

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