NAPPANEE – Ben Vincent isn’t “the one” on either of his teams at NorthWood. And he doesn’t have to be. But the junior sniper played huge roles for his clubs in times of need this season, which land him on our list of top athletes.
Going back just two months, Vincent took it upon himself to be the VIP on the biggest stage his team would have. Watching their superstar, Trent Edwards, get helped off the floor with a concussion in the sectional final against Wawasee, Vincent went, ahem, unconscious.
Vincent stepped up for the Panthers and drilled three three-pointers in the first quarter, then after Edwards left the game, hit another bomb to open the second half. His 16 points led the Panthers to its sixth sectional championship since 2010, but it was also his defense against Wawasee’s leading scorer, Austin Miller, that may have been more valuable. Miller was held by Vincent to just five points and to eight points total in the game after scoring an elite 28 points the night before against Lakeland.
It was the intangibles all season that had NorthWood head coach Aaron Wolfe singing Vincent’s praises.
“I was most impressed that he impacted winning in multiple ways,” Wolfe said. “Ben is a tremendous competitor with a high basketball IQ. He continued to figure out how to help our team win on and off the court. Great guard play is making your teammates better and he was able to do this for us this past season.”
Vincent’s role with the Panthers played more like a Ron Harper to the mid-90s Bulls or a Klay Thompson to the mid-10s Warriors. He provided 8.8 points per game and just under two assists and two rebounds per night, but the work away from the fantasy stats was key.
“I would say the constant encouragement and belief my teammates, coaches, and the people around me were giving throughout the year really helped me persevere through that difficult stretch,” Vincent said of his basketball season, which had the Panthers finish 18-6 overall. “As far as being able to get back into a rhythm, coach Wolfe always talks about trusting the work you have put in and not being focused on the results, so I just kept working hard hoping that it would eventually pay off.”
The fall, however, had Vincent become very blatant in his importance to a very solid NorthWood tennis team.
Vincent did his job every night, going 25-0 for the season which had him win all 25 matches in straight sets. Often the first one off the court, Vincent was very mechanical in his approach and rather than trying to overpower an opponent, play to his strengths based off what the opponent was exposing.
Noted Vincent, “The most important thing for me going into each match was being mentally prepared and focusing on how to effectively counter the different styles I played against while still playing to my strengths during the match.”
Vincent won his second consecutive Northern Lakes Conference title at No. 2 singles for the Panthers, which punctuated the team’s 7-0 run through the conference and not losing a court in the process. NorthWood would go on to win the NLC tournament title for the first time. Vincent later swept his two opponents from Goshen and Jimtown at the NorthWood Sectional to help the team win its first sectional title in over a decade.
Vincent was one of the two court wins by the team in its eventual 3-2 loss to Westview in the regional championship.
“Ben really is just an incredible athlete,” said NorthWood tennis head coach Tif Schwartz. “I think he flies under the radar because most people think of him as a basketball player. He is always out shooting baskets and playing basketball during the summer. Even after matches and/or practices, he would go into the gym and shoot for a little bit, especially if he thought he had a bad match or didn’t play his best. I think it is therapeutic for him. Don’t get me wrong, he goes out and puts in the extra time in tennis as well. Ben hates to lose, period!”