Evan Kleiber was scoring 10 points and adding five rebounds a game through Indy's first three games before he got sick.
Evan Kleiber was scoring 10 points and adding five rebounds a game through Indy's first three games before he got sick.

It's been a bittersweet year for Evan Kleiber.

Coming into the season the senior was the starting post for the Independence Bulldogs and started off playing great from the very beginning.

In the season opener he had 11 points and 13 rebounds and through the first three games of the season he was averaging 10 points and nearly five rebounds.

He had had a couple of rough moments in the first few games, but overall, the senior was a revelation for the Bulldogs this season after scoring 36 points all of last year.

Then he got sick. He missed two games on the schedule but nearly a month of practice. He was lucky that he got sick during the winter break so he didn't miss many games, but unlucky that he missed so much practice and kind of got out of the rotation for a little while.

He was even more unlucky with the emergence of freshman Davion Lewis. Lewis didn't play in the first game for the Bulldogs and played sparingly in their second, but after three games for the Bulldogs he worked his way into the starting line-up, and since then he is averaging 17.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

As tough as it is to lose a spot simply due to getting sick, it's really hard to put that kind of production on the bench.

Kleiber had a couple of tough weeks and it would be understandable for him to be a little bit frustrated. And while he certainly was frustrated he never stopped working to get back.

"Those first two games I was ready to play and excited the season started and then when I got sick I started losing it and things aren't as easy as they are early in the season when you're healthy," he said. "So then I had to work hard, and practice, which gave these guys an opportunity to work harder, so then it made me push myself even harder to work."

Those weeks were tough though because he didn't get to play much, but it was good at the same time because the Bulldogs were winning. Indy is now 6-1 in their last seven games and a lot of that has to do with Lewis emerging like he has.

But a lot of that too has to do with the production Indy is now getting off of the bench from Kleiber and other players such as Trayvon Kendrex who we wrote a story about online yesterday.

Wednesday night the Bulldogs probably don't win without Kleiber doing what he does. Lewis was great for the Bulldogs but he went through big stints in the second and fourth quarters where he was guarded better, and in the second half he really had trouble on the boards.

But in that second quarter Kleiber stepped up and picked up the slack. He had six points in the second quarter. Then in the fourth when Lewis was having some trouble rebounding it was Kleiber that was there for the biggest boards of the night.

In Fort Scott's final two possessions in the last 10 seconds they got one chance each time. They only got one chance because Indy grabbed the rebound on both missed shots. Kleiber had just two rebounds on the night, but both of those rebounds came on those final two possessions.

"I just knew that we were only up by one and they were going to shoot a quick three," the senior post said. "So I just knew that I needed to get to the hoop right by the basket and I saw a guy, boxed him out, and the ball just (came) to me."

Kleiber didn't overload the stat sheet Tuesday night. He really hasn't done that since the season opener.

But what he has done for the Bulldogs off the bench in recent games has made them a much tougher team to beat.

Actually in general Indy's play off of the bench has made them much tougher to beat in their last seven games. But more specifically through three of their last four games.

Through those games Indy scored 41 points off of the bench, all of which were wins.

And with Kleiber scoring 10 points of the bench Tuesday night in addition to Lewis' 20 points out of the starting line-up, teams get no breaks now when Lewis comes off the court to get a breather.

Or when both of them are on the court, it's a lot tougher to double team Lewis with Kleiber scoring like he can.

"When you've got a focal point on somebody (like) before, Evan was our post people would focus on, now with him being sick and being out a couple games, the focal point has been on (Lewis)," head coach Marcus Lanning said. "And now (Evan)'s going to have open shots all night, and tonight he played defense well, he's had a good week of practice… he did a good job, we knew our roles…and he's figured out what he needs to do to get back in that line-up and be in there more and he did a great job down the stretch."