Washington Evening Journal
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New London seniors complete the dream
Tiger seniors Blaise Porter, Kade Benjamin and Rylan Martin go out on the biggest stage
NEW LONDON — For New London boys’ basketball’s senior class there was simply no other goal in mind than to make it to Iowa High School Basketball’s biggest stage, the state tournament.
For senior’s Blaise Porter, Kade Benjamin and Rylan Martin and that dream became a reality.
After three straight years of talented units that came up short, the script only seemed right this time around.
With a squad that relied heavily on the starting five and normally two off the bench, the seniors had to set the tone and they did.
After a series of tight knitted battles through the regional rounds, the Tigers earned the No. 8 seed and matchup with undefeated No. 1 Grand View Christian in the Class 1A quarterfinal round.
While the Tiger’s came up short to the eventual Class 1A state champions, 61-51, it was the “30 plus point underdogs” that gave GVC their closest game of the tournament.
Not many gave the Tigers a shot, but they knew their worth as they continually showed their willingness to win throughout the season despite all the ups and downs.
Much of the success and wins were propelled by the leadership and relentlessness of the seniors.
When it comes to Porter, there’s not much left to say other than the senior guard goes down as a New London all-time great.
Porter stands alone on the top of the New London basketball peak of outstanding players.
“He's been playing ball his whole life,” Blaise’s father and New London head coach Bryant Porter said. “He played for a high-level AAU team. He's just kind of been that guy. I really didn't do a whole lot of teaching him anything. He picked up the basic stuff that I gave him and then he just kind of married it to his game. Now he's going to play ball at a DII school in Truman State.”
Despite coming up short from another dream of a state title, Porter says the journey was all worth it in the end.
“All the hard work we put in was worth it at the end of the day,” Porter said following the quarterfinal loss. “We came up short the last three years, but we just kept our head down and kept working. It’s been one of my goals to get here and get the younger guys here as well to see what it was like so they can have that drive as well.”
During his four years as a starter for the Tigers, Porter has amassed numbers that will tough to match.
Porter ended his career with 1,943 points, the most in school history.
He has also amassed 499 rebounds, 472 assists and 220 steals in the 94 games he’s played in a Tiger uniform.
“It’s been one of my great accomplishments playing basketball and I wouldn’t trade it for anything or do with anyone else but my team,” Porter said.
Porter’s next basketball journey will take him to Truman State, where he will play for coach and former Iowa standout Jeff Horner.
For Kade Benjamin its been quite the basketball journey.
The forward came to New London back in eighth grade and he’s been an integral piece ever since. Benjamin could do it all, score while throwing down a monster dunk, rebound at will and block just about any shot in the paint.
In a season where the numbers were short and he had to deal with an injury in the final half of the season, Benjamin helped answer the call.
“This year we were definitely short in numbers,” Benjamin said. “Very very short. We had people leaving the team throughout the year and the beginning of the season. We just had to sit down and come together. That made it more of a family culture that I think we were missing in the past. That’s been the best part of this season. Having that culture around the team made all the difference.”
Benjamin, who’s sport journey has taken a turn over the past few years, has been nothing short of a force for the Tigers.
“I’ve been playing with him (Kade) since sixth grade so our chemistry is built up,” Porter said. “We know where each other is going to be at. We know how to talk through stuff. He’s a great player and I wish the best of luck to him in track, but playing together has been awesome.”
The senior, who is now committed to Oklahoma State to high jump for the Cowboys, posted 1,360 points as a four-year starter.
Benjamin also pulled down 644 rebounds, had 214 blocks, 160 steals and 130 assists in his four years at New London.
As for Martin, he did a little bit of everything for New London, whether it be hitting a big time three or hounding the opposition on the defensive end. Martin always brought energy and fire to the court.
The 2022-23 season was his first year in the starting role.
Prior, Martin started just three games in 2021-22 and wasn’t on the varsity squad as a freshman and sophomore.
Regardless, Martin made his mark this season.
“It felt amazing to finally break the barrier and get to state,” Martin said. “We saw what happened last year and that was big motivation and we all had a real family vibe. We wanted to see each other get there.”
On the season Martin finished with 155 points, 55 rebounds, 37 steals, 36 assists and nine blocks.
His career totals sit at 202 total points, 78 rebounds, 55 assists, 53 steals and 11 blocks.
Martin and Porter have had a long history with one another, dating back to elementary school.
The pair are the sole two to end their careers with one another.
“Blaise and I have been great friends since elementary,” Martin said. “We have been playing together since kindergarten and making it to state was more than I could have ever asked for. I wish more of the guys could have been with us, but I think we will always have a bond from basketball. That’s the craziest part, that it’s all over and we won’t play together anymore.”
Martin says that Kade only made the team better when he came to New London.
“Having Kade added to the team is obviously great,” Martin said. “He came into our team in eighth grade and we were already really good. We just kept getting better. Blaise and Kade have been great leaders for this team.”
For coach Porter, he’s glad the senior’s were able to go out together at the state tournament.
“It’s crazy because I coach Rylan and Blaise in first grade,” Porter said. “We had 14 kids when they were in first grade. We lost all those kids and those are the only ones that stayed. Kade came in eight grade and they just embraced him. I just told those guys I was proud of them for sticking it out. They really did end their career the best way you could end it without winning a title. I said no one can ever take this away from you.”
Along with the state tournament appearance, the 2022-23 Tiger basketball team will be remembered as the embodiment of perverseness and the willingness to never give up on a dream.